Previously, when a person wanted to buy a product, they would head to a local store, consider the options available in-store based on their budget and needs, and make a purchase on the spot. There was limited ability to comparison shop on a larger scale, but the growth of the internet has caused a significant shift in consumer purchasing habits.
Today’s consumers aren’t just looking to purchase an item. The things we buy have become a part of who we are, our identity. It’s not enough to have quality materials or a fair price – especially since with so many products available online, consumers have a glut of options to choose from.
Instead, modern consumers prioritize authenticity when making purchasing decisions. They want to buy from companies that align with their values and lifestyle, and more than anything, consumers want to feel heard by their favorite brands.
If a brand is able to make a connection with a consumer and create a relationship, they can earn a fan for life. This new wave of consumers tends to be loyal and vocal about their support; showing their enthusiasm across social media, wearing branded swag, and sharing word-of-mouth experiences with their family and friends.
The future of successful brands lies within the strength of these communities. Brands that can find ways to cultivate and nurture relationships with superfans will come out on top as the way consumers interact with brands continues to evolve in our hyperconnected digital age. In order to tap into the power of these communities, brand managers must seek out ways to proactively engage with their fans in order to foster these relationships.
Read on to learn how global brands including Starbucks, Glossier, and Harley Davidson have leveraged the power of relationships with fans to build enduring brand loyalty and create strong, engaged fan communities – and how Sesame3’s community engagement platform can help create and implement your own impactful community engagement initiatives.
Connect with Your Community
Ask Customers What They Want
One powerful way to create connections with your superfans and make them feel like their voice matters is quite simple: ask them what they want to see from your brand! This seems like a no-brainer, but in fact, can be tricky to execute in a meaningful way.
Let’s take a look at Starbucks’ cake pops. Don’t let the bite-size nature of these sweet treats fool you – they pack a powerful punch for the brand’s bottom line, with over 5.8 million sold each year.
With a company as large as Starbucks, you might think this popular menu item came about as a result of copious focus groups or as the brainchild of a corporate R&D team.
However, the decision to introduce cake pops to the menu was actually inspired by a suggestion from “My Starbucks Idea,” a platform the company launched in 2008 to collect customer feedback. On MSI, customers could log on and submit ideas for new products or improvements to the stores or customer experience directly to the company.
Sounds like a standard suggestion box gone virtual, right? Not quite.
Instead of just collecting feedback, Starbucks took things a step further to engage customers by asking other customers to vote on their favorite ideas and answer daily polls. They also created a leaderboard designed to track and recognize top engagement. This allowed the company to source inspiration and tap into the desires of its community in real-time while rewarding top fan participation and feedback.
Cake pops were idea #128. In the years since their introduction, they’ve sold millions each year, spawning dozens of flavors and variations for holidays and special occasions.
Other winning suggestions included the free birthday treat (idea #19), complimentary wifi (idea #3), and the ubiquitous Pumpkin Spice Latte flavor (idea #233). ‘Nuff said.
Starbucks’ customer-centric approach allowed them to capitalize on new trends, thanks in large part to their prescience to tap into their community in a unique, collaborative way.
Amplify Fan Presence
Fans often report feeling like they have a voice is essential in fostering loyalty toward a brand. If they feel heard and seen, they tend to stick around. While social media sites aren’t usually a comprehensive platform to build community, they can be a great tool in a brand’s strategic plan to amplify fan voices.
Beauty brand Glossier is a great example of how a company can leverage the power of super fans via social media to build an engaged audience.
Thanks to their origin as a beauty blog turned cosmetics company, by the time they were ready for their first product launch, they had a ready-made community of readers they were able to utilize to generate momentum, testimonials, and even crowdsource new product ideas – more on that in a moment.
Their social media strategy prioritized partnering with smaller influencers with followings ranging from 300 to 5,000 people, who were provided discount codes that incentivized them to promote the brand. While these micro-influencers might not have the same reach of larger accounts, they were thrilled to spread the word about their favorite products and had an approachable vibe, in line with Glossier’s girl-next-door brand persona.
The brand also frequently reposted user-generated content (UGC) on its social media pages, allowing fans to feel recognized and spotlighted for their enthusiasm.
Fans were even incorporated into national ad campaigns, where they were able to share what beauty meant to them and how Glossier played a part in helping them achieve their beauty goals.
Founder Emily Weiss credits 90% of Glossier’s success to these passionate “fangirls,” who helped spread the message in the early days of its launch.
Gather and Implement Product Feedback
It’s clear that Glossier was able to successfully build a strong following of support early in their brand journey, so when they were ready to introduce a new heavy-duty moisturizer, they went straight to their community to help develop the product.
A blog post on Into the Gloss, the company’s blog, asking about what readers would want to see in a new moisturizer received over 1,000 comments from readers who quickly chimed in with their ideal components, from the feel of the compound and the fragrance all the way down to the type of container the product should come in (yes to pump bottles, no to jars).
This input allowed the company to develop a product they knew would sell well from the start, instead of spending time and resources creating a product their community wouldn’t want. Investing in their community early on paid off in a big way, and to this day, a key rule of the company’s ethos is to “Make the Consumer Feel Seen.”
Reward Brand Ambassadors
Across the board, people are more likely to trust the recommendation of someone they know or can relate to when making a purchase. Dating app Bumble was able to leverage this tendency with its Queen Bee and Honey Bee (college student) programs; ambassador programs designed to help spread the word about the app.
Dating apps historically have been an unfriendly place for women, and Bumble was created by women and for women to empower them to take back agency in the world of online dating.
Given that most women were wary about online dating after experiences with other apps like Tinder or Match.com, Bumble’s Queen Bees and Honey Bees were tasked with marketing the events in their communities, providing a human element to an otherwise unknown company.
In addition to being able to market a company whose mission and values aligned with their own, ambassadors also received perks, including swag, festival tickets, and gift cards.
Plus, being a part of this new dating movement focused on women’s empowerment was a powerful motivator. It allowed the ambassadors to feel like they were a part of something greater than just promoting a dating app – even more so with the introduction of the Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz programs, designed to foster friendships and business connections.
The app became a success, drawing in over 26 million users over its first three years, thanks in part to the efforts of their ambassador squads on college campuses and in cities across the country.
Use Experiences to Increase Loyalty
While some people are thrilled to take the time to promote their favorite products in exchange for monetary compensation or rewards, others are looking to feel part of a larger community or lifestyle when they make a purchase.
When people purchase a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, they aren’t just buying a bike. Owning a Harley is an integral part of their identity, and this is reflected in the clothing they wear, the friends they have, and the activities they partake in, like group rides.
By the time someone purchases a Harley – whether it's their first or fifth – it’s likely they have a strong understanding of the brand identity and have made a conscious choice to purchase a Harley in order to gain access to the community and the associated lifestyle.
To facilitate this and reward that dedication, Harley has curated its own Harley Owners Group, known as H.O.G., which is an exclusive membership group just for Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners.
Members must pay a small fee and more importantly, provide their VIN number in order to validate their membership and gain entry. Once they’re in, they receive perks like access to rallies, ride challenges, patches and pins, sweepstakes, roadside assistance, and complimentary entry to the Harley-Davidson museum.
With over one million members in the program, the H.O.G. program is clearly a success, because it zeros in on the desires of the community and rewards loyal customers with experiences most meaningful to them.
It’s easy to see how strategies like amplifying customer voices, tapping loyal fans to serve as brand ambassadors, and creating opportunities to participate in exclusive experiences can create positive feelings amongst customers and increase the sense of community.
But, these strategies and tools are typically scattered across various social media platforms and company websites. It can be quite an undertaking for busy brand managers to manage these moving pieces in a way that’s effective and impactful.
Instead, what if you could combine them all into one innovative platform?
Leverage Sesame3 to Build Community
With our powerful suite of community engagement tools, Sesame3’s community platform for brands allows you to create a one-stop shop for connecting with and empowering your fan base.
With Sesame3, you can co-create and get feedback in real-time via easy-to-use message boards and polling functions, engage the community in contests and giveaways, and reward fans with access to exclusive events, product announcements, drops, and more!
Sesame3 accomplishes this by utilizing NFT technology to gate access to various communities and initiatives. This structure allows brands to control who is a part of their community, which creates exclusivity and intimacy and allows for deeper, more productive conversations and connections to take place. Limiting access in this way also allows you to shut out the noise that’s often part and parcel with interactions on public platforms, reducing trolling or toxicity.
The tradeable aspect of NFTs and the ease of trading on Sesame3 also enables memberships to evolve and keeps participation in the community fresh, as people are able to seamlessly transfer or trade access to various experiences to other people using brand NFTs. And with hundreds of other top brands loved by fans joining the Sesame3 platform, you’re in great company.
If you are interested in taking your brand’s community strategy to the next level, contact Sesame3 today to learn how you can leverage our technology to engage, reward, and mobilize your fan community. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and get started.