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Community 101: Brand Community Basics

Community has been one of the marketing industry buzzwords of late, so it’s no surprise Hootsuite named it their top trending social strategy in their Social Trends 2022 report. While community is a big word that can seem scary for brands who may not have previously engaged with it, there’s never been a better time to embrace the power of connection.

In this edition of Social Download, Orchard’s Community Manager Georgia Carroll welcomes you to Community 101, a new Social Download series giving you the lowdown on everything you need to know about communities (and your brand).

Let’s start with the foundations: What is a brand community?

When you think about community as a broad concept, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t customers, but there’s huge potential in building relationships with the most engaged users of your brand. And this is what a brand community is at its core: people who are so hyped about your brand that they seek out others who feel the same and look for ways to become more involved.

So where can brands find — or build — a community?

Brand communities can be dispersed, coming together organically at key moments on social media (or in physical spaces, should launches or events be a part of your brand experience). This can sometimes also take place in unofficial channels, as is often seen in fan-created subreddits. While user-created spaces are valuable as they demonstrate commitment to a product, there are far more benefits for brands via owned networks.

As the buzz for community has grown, we have seen a rapid rise in centralised homes for brand communities on platforms such as Facebook, Discord, Mighty Networks, official subreddits, and brands’ own apps. These platforms serve as community hubs, providing access to official brand representatives, information, and exclusive benefits, as well as allowing members to engage with each other. This is especially beneficial for brands as they are easily able to monitor conversations and trends, collecting invaluable insights and data, while also connecting and building relationships with real users who are passionate about their brand and products. There’s no need to create fictional personas when you have access to real users at your fingertips.

However, it’s extremely important to keep in mind the most important rule: community is not about the exploitative extraction of information. Rather, it’s about the fostering of connections and reciprocation, not just between yourself and your customers, but also between the members of your community.

In contrast to advertising and traditional marketing where brands speak to customers via a one-way channel, community is about conversing with them. We are living in an age where people value the recommendation of their trusted networks over other forms of messaging and influence, and more than anything a community is a group of advocates for your brand. You’re creating a space where people feel welcome and encourage others to join, with these others ultimately becoming advocates for your product themselves.

I hope this post has you feeling on top of brand community basics and that you’re now primed and ready for future installments of the Social Download community deep dive!

Still to come in Community 101:

Part Two: Community Strategy: Building from Scratch vs Influencer Engagement

Part Three: The benefits of community for healthcare brands

Part Four: What brands can learn from fandom communities



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