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3 Ways To Grow a Branded Community Around Your Startup

Entrepreneur Mike Szczesny says successful brand communities create a sense of belonging for members while integrating the brand into their lives.

Humans have a deep need to be part of groups. It’s why so many people actively seek ways to connect with those who share a common trait, goal, or other attribute. As an entrepreneur, you can leverage this natural desire to belong by investing in creating virtual and in-person communities built around your brand. Your efforts can result in tremendous financial and reputation benefits when handled strategically. Successful examples include Harley-Davidson and Peloton, which have cultivated strong brand loyalty through their community-focused strategies.

Photo: Mike Szczesny, owner and VP of EDCO Awards & Specialties | Courtesy

Harley-Davidson’s success is partly due to its H.O.G. chapters, providing local, national, and international networks for enthusiasts. These chapters evolve under corporate guidance, strengthening the brand’s connection with its audience.

Peloton, despite initial struggles, has built a significant subscriber base and tapped into diverse markets, including BIPOC fitness enthusiasts. The company is recognized for making fitness accessible and appealing to a broad audience.

Entrepreneurs can replicate this success regardless of their industry. Building a community, either virtual like Peloton or in-person like Harley-Davidson, brings several advantages. These include a loyal fan base, a targeted audience for marketing, and valuable feedback for product and service improvement.


How to propel business success with branded communities

To get started in engineering branded communities to propel the success of your business, try these techniques. They’ll help you create value for your company while creating belonging for your customers.


Leverage social media platforms

Choose a platform suited to your target demographic, such as LinkedIn for professional communities or Instagram for B2C retail markets. Research existing communities to understand their interests and pain points. Launch your brand community with compelling content and collaborate with influencers for wider reach. Define metrics for success, like follower count and engagement.

Conduct some research to uncover the existing communities and may be interested in hearing about your business and its offerings. You can use hashtags to conduct your investigation. When you find potential existing sub-communities, make sure to read historical posts. What drives followers? What seems to be their biggest pain points? If your new community can fill in any gaps, they’ll be more interested in listening to what you say.

Once you’re ready to launch your brand community, consider working with influencers to drive faster reach and growth. Be sure to measure your success by defining metrics and KPIs early, such as number of followers and content engagement. Oh, and don’t forget that you’ll need to push out truly remarkable and compelling content written FOR your community, not ABOUT your business.


Organize community events

As you develop a stronger trust with your community, think about ways for them to gather. This can be done online, in person, or a combination of both. For instance, you may want to host an annual conference and invite all your community members to attend. Or you could hold pop-up virtual or live events.

Try not to go overboard with this, particularly at first. If you offer too many events too soon, you may get very few “takers.” (After all, everyone will assume they always have another chance to attend.) Be picky — having one or two event options will add to the exclusivity surrounding being a community member.

Even if your events are free, you won’t be able to get anyone to come unless you show how the events are valuable to attendees. This may mean paying top dollar for a guest speaker and giving away swag and trophies to your brand’s most vocal cheerleaders.


Constantly improve your brand communities

Avoid a static approach. Assign team members to manage and monitor the communities, adapting strategies based on feedback and engagement metrics. This allows for timely adjustments and ensures the community remains vibrant and aligned with the brand’s evolution.

In time, your brand communities may start taking on their own lives. You can still retain control of the messaging. However, be open to pivoting. Your community will assist you in understanding where to take your business next to keep them satisfied and continuing to purchase from your company.

Successful brand communities create a sense of belonging for members while integrating the brand into their lives. This reciprocal relationship enhances brand loyalty and market presence.


Mike Szczesny is the owner and vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties, a dedicated supplier of employee recognition products, branded merchandise, and athletic awards. Szczesny takes pride in EDCO’s ability to help companies go the extra mile in expressing gratitude and appreciation to their employees. He resides in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


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