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Digital Marketing Psychology to Transform Your Business

How does digital marketing really differ from traditional marketing? How is social media changing things really? And what's going on in Asia?

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In the post-COVID-19 landscape, “community” might be the ultimate buzzword. Distributed work isn’t going away, meaning people will be working from all time zones, and therefore all hours. In-person meetings will be far less frequent—even synchronous meetings are likely to become rarer occasions.

Is it possible to maintain a community under such conditions, let alone build one?

Yes. In fact, startups that stick to three key drivers can build stronger communities than ever before.

“Community at its most basic is a group of people who’ve come together with a shared purpose.”

Alex Angel, Chief Community Officer, Commsor

The What and Why of Company Community

Communities, on the surface, are just groups of people. But deep down, they’re much more than that. A football team’s community, for example, is more than just the players—it includes coaches, fans, cheerleaders, and sponsors. What is it that evolves a simple group of people into a community?

Alex Angel, chief community officer at Commsor, says that “community at its most basic is a group of people who’ve come together with a shared purpose.”

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The key ingredient to success? Passion.

Finding your kokorozashi will unify your passions and skills to create positive change in society. This GLOBIS Unlimited course will help you develop the values and lifelong goals you need to become a strong, passion-driven leader.

For a company, that shared purpose could be any number of things, from a product or service to a greater social mission. Strong (and smart) companies don’t let their purpose rest on making money—they make it about something bigger. Mymizu, an app with a mission to reduce plastic bottle waste, connects its users with free water refill stations across Japan and, increasingly, the world. Jefa, a banking app, aims to empower financially underserved women in Latin America. Another app, Sootchy, combines financial planning, community, and education in its mission to eliminate student loans.

Katelin Holloway, founding partner at Seven Seven Six, says, “The things that you love become so much better when you get to enjoy them or geek out about them with others that love them, too.” Add a little modern technology and innovative thinking, and not even a global pandemic can damage that bond.

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The 3 Drivers of Community

The benefits of a strong community reverberate beyond a company’s walls.

Consider Microsoft: In the early 80s, Bill Gates declared a corporate mission: “A computer on every desk and in every home.” This unified the company around a purpose, but it also impacted branding, user engagement, word of mouth, and sales. That is to say, community building should not be undertaken lightly, nor impact underestimated.

Lolita Taub, cofounder and general partner at The Community Fund, says community-driven companies have three common elements:

  1. Customers identify as members of the community.
  2. There’s a space for them to gather, whether real or virtual.
  3. Value is created to kickstart marketing.

These may sound simple enough, but communities don’t build themselves or rely on top-down commandments—they are created, enhanced, and evolved by the people who form them

Lolita Taub at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021, listing the 3 elements that community-driven companies have in common
Lolita Taub lists the 3 elements community-driven companies have in common | ©TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

Identity through Shared Beliefs, Behaviors, and Values

Community members tend to have three things in common: beliefs, behaviors, and values. “Purpose and passion really fuel subscription to those things,” says Holloway, “and in turn create a deep sense of belongingness.”

The physical distance forced between us by the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the political unrest of these last few years, has created a greater need for belonging around the world. Your company can help meet that need. Start with these questions:

  • What purpose holds us together?
  • What beliefs and values do we have in common?
  • What behaviors (in-person, remotely, or virtually) do we share?

A Space to Gather beyond the Social Media Megaphone

In the past, most organizations built their communities as an internal aspect of company culture. Remember how impressed we all were with the Google offices in the early 2000s—all those colorful beanbag chairs, yoga classes, and cookie-stocked kitchens! As businesses evolved toward greater missions such as sustainability and positive impact, social media created a space for far-flung global citizens to get involved.

Digital Marketing Psychology to Transform Your Business

How does digital marketing really differ from traditional marketing? How is social media changing things really? And what's going on in Asia?

But beware: a strong presence on social media does not prove a strong community, and vice versa.

As Angel explains, “Social has historically been speaking out to the crowd.” Communities, however, must be interactive. Businesses should leverage the unique benefits of each, rather than bet on one or the other.

Can you build your company’s community on social media? Absolutely—Taub cites Peloton as a prime example. Just don’t expect your social media platforms (or your mere presence on them) to do all the work for you.

Alex Angel speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 about the role of social media in community
Alex Angel on the role of social media in community | ©TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

Marketing Value through Connection

Remember that without a purpose, you’ve just got groups of people. With a purpose, you have a community—and the value that comes with it.

Peloton did more than engage purpose-driven users on social media; it also managed incredible growth through the pandemic. The formula was actually fairly simple: praise user progress and rely on user feedback to iterate the product. Users don’t passively enjoy the value the company is putting out. Rather, they help create marketing value through connection.

The Chosen, a crowdfunded television show about the life of Jesus, has millions of viewers creating value for its message. Fans share personal stories, merchandise purchases, and even tattoos inspired by the show. All of that engagement becomes marketing value that helps fund future episodes.

Users want to create value for brands they believe in. Your community should connect them to something both meaningful and bigger than themselves. “At the end of the day,” says Holloway, “impact greatly determines how we feel about our existence. Community connects us to the world around us.

Katelin Holloway discusses how a sense of belonging is crucial to community
Katelin Holloway discusses how a sense of belonging is crucial to community | ©TechCrunch Disrupt 2021

The Time Is Now

If you’re a new startup, it’s best to think about community from the start. On the other hand, if you’re an established corporation, don’t write off a rebirth thinking you missed your chance. The pandemic has given us all the perfect opportunity to reinvent ourselves.

Angel emphasizes that it’s the why that matters, not the when. Your people need that purpose to rally around.

On an individual level, consider alignment with that core purpose from the hiring stage onward. Though you want your mission and vision to grow with fresh blood and diversity, you also want to bring people onboard who are a good fit for what you’re trying to do.

Holloway says that everyone in your community, established and new, should be asking themselves, “How does this work or not work for me? Where am I going to find my home?” Create something authentic, inclusive, sustainable, and values-driven, and the right people will find you.

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