Category Archives: community

For Brands, Community Members Trump Loyalists – Really?

Brands should be more concerned about building a community than building loyalists. The rationalization for this is that brands are better off having emotionally connected customers as opposed to repeat customers.


Let’s break this down a bit. Loyalists believe in the product or service that a brand provides. They see value in the product/service compared to other offerings in the market and reward the brand by being a repeat customer.

A brand community member is not necessarily a loyalist that is a repeat customer. BUT, a community member has a vested interest in the brand. They have a genuine interest in what the brand offers and/or what they stand for.

The distinction that I make here is that you get more out of a community member. The community member will help you better shape product/service success by providing continuous feedback (good and bad) and they will also advocate on your brand’s behalf when you deliver excellence. Your community will help you stay on top of the competition. That is if you listen to them. And when you do listen to them, the community members as well as their audience reward you. The added value of a community member is that they will market and advocate on your behalf because they are an emotional bond connection and customer.

While putting together thoughts for this article, I came across an absolutely fabulous article, “The New Science of Customer Emotions.” The premise of the article and supporting study is that if “companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge.” The article states, “’emotional motivators’ provide a better gauge of customers’ future value … including brand awareness and customer satisfaction, and can be an important new source of growth and profitability.” There is no better way to create an emotional connection with an audience than to make them feel like they are a part of the brand. A community where their comments and opinions are listened to. A community where they can engage with others that share common interest. People just like them.

As a brand’s community builds, there is no better place to understand your target audiences’ needs. You learn from your audience AND you create emotionally connected customers. These customers have greater lifetime value than loyalists, because they provide further word-of-mouth about your brand and help you win new customers.

Two points I will make in closing, hopefully to make you contemplate about my position that a community member is far more valuable than a loyalist.

First, I recognize that it is often difficult to build a community around certain products/services. Could there be a community around soap? The answer is yes. Just look at Dove (both men and women products) and look at the social movements and communities they look to build. This is more about brand imaging than brand features. There are many takeaways to learn from their approaches. Examples you can see are here and here. There are many others as well.

Communities come in many forms. I do not mean a Facebook page or a forum per say. Yes, these are examples of platforms that help to build a community that may or may not be part of the execution strategy. What is important is to create a social movement that aligns to both your audience and your brand values. Then determine the strategy and execution channels.

When I talk about building a brand community, I define this as platforms and vehicles for engagement between brand representatives and the target audience. A community must also allow communication among the target audience without the brand necessarily being engaged in the conversation. BUT, the brand needs to be able to listen to these conversations. Having this audience engage in a platform that is a brand asset is most imperative for a couple of reasons. 1) It allows the brand to listen, and 2) The fact that the conversation is enabled by the brand creates reinforcement and emotional commitment to what the brand stands for.

I have worked on building brand communities for the past 10 years. I confess – it is difficult. It is definitely a new methodology of marketing for winning over an audience. But unequivocally, it pays long-term brand value and financial reward.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand marketing, brands, community, loyalty, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Successful Marketing – Here It is in a Nutshell

successful marketing in a nutshell

At the end of the year, many bloggers and/or self accredited experts put out their end of the year lists. These lists most often start with titles that entice readers to click through. Titles like, “8 Best Ways to Make Viral Content,” or “5 Biggest Marketing Trends for 2016.” As we have learned from digital marketing data collection, starting a title with a number provokes user behavior. And furthermore, the promise of unveiling information in a list is very compelling to users.

While I question the validity of the content in so many of these articles, I am guilty of producing similar titles (not here but certainly have in the past). But hopefully, you trust that the information I provide you leads to well thought out and proper marketing strategies and implementations. (Trust – we will revisit that issue shortly.)

I’ve looked at the 60 plus articles I have published (here on this blog and elsewhere) and I find particular themes for winning marketing solutions for the new consumer/client –driven world. There are 2 paramount evolutionary characteristics that have caused the need for marketers to morph their approach and tactical executions. 1) The consumers/clients control your brand reputation more so than you do. Brand position is reinforced and rejected by your target audience in full force and outcome. 2) Technology has changed allowing customers/clients to have a dominant role in brand marketing AND allow brands to market to consumer/client behaviors in a most accurate way.

Early in the year, I penned an article “5 Characteristics That Define The Future of Successful Marketing.” Successful marketing lies in a brand’s ability and commitment to

• Listen (to the target audience)
• Understand (their needs)
• Engage (on a personal and broad scale level)
• Deliver a great user experience
• Build trust

Listen, Understand, Engage

The key to marketing success is to truly know your audience. What turns them on, turns them off, and motivates them to take action. Think about it – your audience’s behavior literally says “Marketers – Be There When I Need You.” If you are there when your audience needs you, there is a very strong likelihood that the audience will support your brand with both purchase decisions and advocacy. You can only be there for your audience when they need you if you listen to them (by monitoring what they say about your brand and topics important to your brand), understanding their wants, needs, desires, and then engaging with them.

It is extremely important that your marketing communications are not old school broadcasting. You need to engage with people directly. Consider the recommendations defined in the article “Mastering and Scaling Personalized Marketing.”

Great User Experience

One aspect that truly makes a brand standout and win audience, customers, and advocacy is a great user experience. We look to create an emotional attachment between brand and target audience. The best way to accomplish this is to create an awesome user experience. Think about extending your product/service differentiation by providing an absolute stellar user experience. The user experience should consider every aspect of consumer/client – brand interaction. Interactions online, offline, experiential. Digital and experiential marketing should intersect. This is touched upon in the article “Here is Why Social Marketing is such a Vital Part of Experiential Marketing.”

If you are not convinced of the importance of a great user experience checkout “ROI (Return on Investment) of a Great User Experience and Social Marketing.”


Marketers can no longer make bogus claims. The general public is now the judge and jury via their communication proliferation using reviews and social conversation. In this past year, I really emphasized “Successful Marketing is a Matter of Trust.” In the referenced article, I highlighted ten ways to build trust. The end result becomes “In Brands We Trust, Or Maybe Not.” If you want to increase trust:

• Review regularly
• Show empathy
• Talk naturally
• Act fast
• Become the hub of the issue

Learn more about this.

Ultimately, you want “Magnifying Business Integrity to Market Brand Trust.”

Building an Audience

Remember, there is a slight nuance between sales and marketing. Marketing is really about building an audience. An audience that is queued up for sales conversion. An audience that continues to value your brand. An audience that becomes an advocate for your brand. There are “5 Keys to Audience Development” :

1) Monitor and listen
2) Engage
3) Find influencers
4) Have a content strategy
5) Use paid media

Social marketing is a key to audience development and “Understanding Social Marketing Means Understanding Audience Development.” But if you implement social marketing to build your audience, “Digital Marketers Should Start to Build Relationships Off of Their Home Court.” In this referenced article, I highlight the importance of engagement and audience development on social channels, forums, and blogs that are not your brands digital assets. Go where the conversation is happening and engage. Do not expect to have all conversations on your brand’s digital assets.

But marketing should go beyond audience development. Audience development is step one. Step two means developing something a bit deeper than an audience. Work to build a community. Community is a deeper connection than an audience. If you want to learn more about this see “In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience.” Here are some suggestions on “Building a Strong Community.”

Two other points I think you should consider to up your marketing game. The first deals with connecting with influencers to strengthen your marketing reach, perception, and overall reputation. Many think they can just find subject matter experts with a large audience to get them to push their brand. Wrong. My recommendation – “Stop Looking for Influencers, Find Great Partners.”

The second key point I want to make is that “Great Marketers are Perpetual Students.” Are you doing what is required to stay on top of changing audience behaviors and new technology? If you want to be successful, this is a must.

So there you have it – The Social Steve yearly summary. A summary that should help you to be most successful in the coming year. Not a list of unfounded trends. Recommendations you need to consider and implement. Make it a great year. Make it a successful year.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under audience development, behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brand trust, brands, community, experiential marketing, influence marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve, user experience, Word of Mouth Marketing

Can Marketers Learn Something from The Pope?

The Pope

Yes. I actually asked that question with sincerity. This might be my most bizarre blog article yet. I am not a Catholic or Christian. Heck, I am not even religious. I am a non-practicing Jew that is more spiritual than religious. And with that preamble, I have to tell you that I found some statements from The Pope this week, truly amazing.

In his weekly gathering in Rome, The Pope said that The Church need to embrace people who are divorced as well as their children. “No closed doors!” This is truly remarkable given that The Church has shunned people of divorce for centuries.

And there is a big takeaway for marketers here. Let me ask you … are there any corporate doctrines in place that make your offering closed to a segment of your potential audience. I certainly hope not. But let me take it a step further. Is there anything you are doing in your persona, messaging, or engagement that is potentially repelling people? Here I think the answer could be yes. I am not suggesting you do so on purpose, but there is likely some facet of your marketing that is turning off some.

We need to look deep and hard at the way our brand messages affect our audience. The scrutiny is well worth it as there should be “no closed doors” for our audience.

It is no secret that The Church has been losing followers in part due to their strict, nonflexible doctrine. The Pope’s message this past week says he is willing to ease The Church’s persona, messaging, and engagement with the people a bit to increase his audience. But in doing so, he did not water down his message for the core of his target audience.

This is key. When you develop your brand’s position, you need to appeal to that small group of ideal customers, but at the same time you want to attract a large enough audience to meet the required scale for business profitability. Look at the bull’s eye diagram below. The challenge is determining how far off the center circle you need to go to win the right number of customers while not watering down your position such that it is not compelling to the ideal customer.

Target Market Audience

Consider listening to the entire target audience mass. Understand what they are saying and based upon their behavior, think about tweaking your position. (This is exactly what The Pope did.) Then make sure your brand messaging resonates with the outer most segment of customers and certainly with the ideal customer as well.

I think this is what the modern day Pope accomplished with one of the most historical and oldest market segments. If he was able to stretch the doctrine of an old inflexible institution, you certainly can with your brand.

Make it Happen!
Social Steve


Filed under brand marketing, community, leadership, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Stop Looking for Influencers, Find Great Partners

business partners

It is ironic … my blog is listed as number twenty-three on the “50 of the Best Global Influencer Marketing Blogs” and in this article I am going to tell you to stop looking for influencers. Well sort of …

Many people think they can just contact a leading subject matter and ask them to write something about their product/service (or whatever they are pushing) on their blog. If you have ever tried this, you are likely to know it does not work. And at the same time, just about every marketing leader knows that advocacy and word of mouth are the strongest marketing actions to drive measured results. So it makes total sense that when you look for advocacy, you would love to have someone that is viewed as the authority on the subject your product/service represents and has a large audience (the influencer) to speak well of your offering.

Now I ask you, “Why the heck would anyone want to do something for you?” Unfortunately, this question usually gets twisted and is answered from the subjective viewpoint of the one looking for product/service support. Wrong. This question must be honestly answered from the point of the influencer. Invariably the influencer is going to ask “What is in it for me?”

So let me share with you my real life scenario that addresses the issue. This coming week, the company I just joined, DivorceForce (an online network for people affected by divorce), will launch its website, I am responsible for social marketing and audience development so it is my responsibility, among other things, to deliver traffic to the site. Yes, I want to find divorce experts. People that offer great financial, legal, and emotional support for divorce. People that have established audiences. People that have authority and will say “you should visit DivorceForce” to their audience. But what is in it for them? I am not looking to pay someone off. You know what really matters to them? An opportunity to grow their audience.

I worked with one of the co-founders of the business and provided for him a simple grid as shown below.

partner grid

In column one, I identified three different types of influencers. In column two, I stated what we want them to do for us. And in column three the “what is it in for me” (from their perspective) is defined. There must be synergy between what we are asking for and what is in it for them. This is a key attribute of all partnerships. You see, I am not doing “influence marketing” but rather “partnership marketing with influencers.” There is a significant difference and the grid above punctuates this difference.

Without getting into too much detail, I will share with you one essence of our partnership marketing. As the site is about to launch, I am looking for select divorce subject matter experts to host conversations in our forums. That is what I want from them. When I ask myself, what is in it for them, I recognize that they likely want to use DivorceForce to expand their audience and deepen their reputation as an expert in their field. I have developed numerous ways I can promote them which include use of DivorceForce social channels, paid social media highlighting their contributions, and offering them participation in our videos to be produced.

What I want you to take away is that you need to truly craft something that excites influencers to work with you. Build a true partnership. Partnerships are only strong if both sides get strong value from the relationship. Work both sides of the opportunity.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under community, influence marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

There Are Only Two Things People Want from Your Brand’s Social Presence

brand social presence

How many brands’ posts’ get added to social channels in a given day? Some massive number close to a gazillion. (Now that is some empirical data for you :)) But how many of those posts actually resonate with the intended target audience and get shared. Unfortunately, the number is the inverse of a gazillion. That is because only a small minuscule percent actual gain traction. If you stop to think about it, you might get appalled at how much time, money, and effort are meaningless for brand social marketing.

So stop. Get back to basics. And at a high level reflect on why anyone would give any care to your brand’s social presence. It comes down to two simple mentalities. They want compelling content and they want a connection that makes sense for them, not you. Lets break these down a bit.

Compelling Content
Compelling content (from the audience’s perspective, not yours) must consists of educational and/or entertaining information. That is it. Forget all the other junk. Your audience wants to learn something important. And when I say your audience wants to learn something from you that does not mean product/service features. Give your audience something that enlightens them.

Content need not always be informational. It can be entertaining. If you go this route, think of your brand as a media company as part of a billion other media companies in a market. How is your entertaining content really going to stick out in a very crowded field?

It is worth noting that content can be both informative and entertaining. If you want more information on producing stellar content for your audience, I have written a number of articles on this topic. Some suggested pieces are:

Think of Content Marketing as Gift Giving All Year Round
4 Tips for Winning Content
Delivering the Content You Audience Wants
A Content Marketing Approach That Works

Yes, some people really value connections with brands. But that is only the case if you make it worth their while, not yours. Forget about connecting with customers. Your mentality should be to connect with friends that happen to patronize your business. Friendship mentality. Not customer mentality. If you connect with people in this approach, I guarantee that you will build strong relationships that pay dividends. Friendship means being there when someone needs you. This is how brands must treat their customers. Put your agenda on the back burner and the needs, wants, and desires of your target audience at the forefront. Have empathy for your target audience and be proactive to their wishes. Stay engaged.

You need both a winning content and connection strategy, plan, and execution.

I have painted a very competitive and crowded environment where it is tough to stick out. But the fact is I am still most bullish on social brands. Nothing can build stronger brand love than a great social presence. It is just a matter of doing it right or not doing it at all. Right by your audiences’ terms. Not your agenda.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, community, content marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Building a Strong Community


A little over a month ago, I declared that “In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience.” Having community members validates that you deliver value to a group.   That group often serves to be your brand’s best costumers and advocates.

By the time you read this, I will have started a new chapter in my marketing career. I am responsible for social marketing and audience development for a company that is providing support, resources, and great information for a particular need, while also serving as a platform for individuals to help/support one another. I am responsible for building a community. As I prepare to build a most engaged community, I thought it would be worthwhile to share with you my strategy and approach for building a community.

To start, I borrow a simple, but profound methodology from Simon Sinek.

Simon Sinek - WHY

Most people start with a definition of what they are doing. As Sinek points out, this is premature. Start with “WHY.” Why are you building a community? Why is there a need? Why will people value participation in your community?

Once you define “why,” then you should define “how.” How are you going to get people aware and interested in your community? It is not initially about getting 10,000 to join the community. It is more about getting 100 influencers on board that will help you market your community.

A word about influencers here … Many people think they will reach out to influencers and get them to advocate on behalf of your community. Wrong. What is in it for the influencer? If you want an influencer to advocate on behalf of your community, you must deliver an opportunity for them to further develop their audience. You must give them an opportunity to shine and receive accolades within your community. Think about their perspective. Why would they want to “partner” with your community? What is in it for them? Make sure you have this well defined before you reach out to influencers.

Now comes the what … what is your community offering? What channels will you use? What will members get? What will they receive and what will they give?

Once you have the Why, How, and What defined here are a handful of rules you should follow:

1) Define the personality, tone, and persona for the community. This personality should prevail independent of which staff member is conversing. Make sure all communication and engagement feels cohesive to the community you serve.

2) Build your own community. Do not assume Facebook or any other platform is your community. But use social platforms such as Facebook and others as an extension of your owned community. Use the social channels to drive people to your owned community. (I touched on this issue three years ago in an article “Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community.”)

3) Produce and curate content that is valued information. Produce and curate content that motivates discussions and debates.

4) Let everyone participate and share.

5) Inspire. Challenge.

6) Highlight contributors and give credit to others.

7) Identify power users and build one-to-one relationships.

8) Allow criticism and opposing views.

9) Find ways for members to engage with one another. This is more important and valuable than you being the only one to converse with the members.

10) Create sub-groups for niche discussions.

11) Think offline as well as online. Host online and offline discussions and get- togethers. Motivate your community to connect locally in person. Give them tools to do so.

12) Experiment and capture empirical data to know exactly what your community reacts strongly and weakly to.

13) Have patience. It takes time to build a strong community. Strong in engagement. Strong in numbers.

I hope this helps. I am very excited to put these steps and guidelines to work in my new endeavor. The best part about digital marketing goes beyond selling. It allows you to connect with like-minded people to build meaningful and valuable relationships.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve


Filed under community, Social Steve, SocialSteve

In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience


Throughout my marketing career, I have been focused on the target audience of the brands I represent. I have been working with many companies to make them more vigilant to their audiences’ wants, needs, desires, and motivations as opposed to simply espousing product communication and advertisement.

For example, I worked with a company that had strong SSL (secure socket layer) technology. They would talk about how their SSL solution was superior using technological terminology. One segment of the target audience was the financial services industry. But they were not buying SSL technology, they were buying payment card authorization solutions. Yes, SSL is a key part of that solution. But successful marketers speak in the vernacular of their audience. Not their own language.

So yes, target audience focus is essential. But as brand representatives, don’t we want more than an audience of customers and potential customers? Wouldn’t we love to have “members” and advocates? A community member is a deeper relationship? What if we created a community of like-minded people that support one another? What if this was accomplished under the moniker of a brand? Not using the community as a place for brand agenda, but a community focused on some kind of an alignment with the brand category. That is something people would gravitate to.

How do you actually develop community? It starts by providing outstanding original content that helps your audience in an area that is relevant to the brand category. Augment that original content with curated content that reinforces what your brand stands for and is valued by your audience. Then provide an area for people to discuss topics. Engage with people and give them a platform and opportunity to converse amongst themselves. Seed conversations. Set up subgroups for various topics.

When you build a community, you naturally assent to a leadership role in your brand category. When you build a community, you naturally build relationships that spawn advocates for your brand. People share the content you develop and conversations that are happening in your community.

Yes, building a community is hard work. People are not going to suddenly flock to your nest. A community will be a small subset of your target audience. But look at it this way … wouldn’t you be happy to have five new people sharing your brand; standing up for your brand? Five people are a start. Then it becomes 15; 40; and 100. Even if you developed a community of 100 active people – that is 100 more people to advocate for your brand content and solutions.

I stress building a community. Not only does it produce deeper relationships with your audience, but it forces marketers to truly think and act upon audiences’ needs and engagement. Even if a small set of your target audience becomes part of your community, the marketing efforts to build a community are effective for the entire audience. People want brands to help them. Be there for them. They don’t want advertorial content pushed upon them.

Think of your audience as a potential community. Act as you would as a leader of a community instead of an advertorial spinster. Your target audience will most certainly be more receptive to your brand presence and exposure.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

PS – If you are interested in building a brand community, also see “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community.”


Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, community, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve