The need for community is hardwired into the human psyche. It’s why most people enjoy spending time with others. Being part of a community fosters connections, builds a sense of belonging, and encourages customer loyalty.
Is it any wonder, then, that so many companies try to build communities around their brands?
Organizations that are successful at creating communities among both internal and external stakeholders can gain many advantages. Perhaps the biggest benefit is a core group of steadfast supporters. Just look at Disney’s branded community, which no doubt has had a hand in shaping the entertainment giant’s impressive profitability.
The Rise of Superfan Marketing
Over the years, Disney has generated an army of superfans. Among those superfans are stars like Katy Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tim Tebow. However, Disney’s superfandom isn’t limited to big names. Anyone who identifies with Disney’s ethos and ecosystem is welcome to join the brand’s community. And if you’ve ever tried to talk a Disney superfan out of their beliefs, you know it’s impossible. They’re faithful cheerleaders.
Another benefit to developing a brand community comes from a marketing perspective. Community members develop an inherent sense of pride. That pride becomes an impetus for them to share their experiences freely.
For example, community members of an organization or brand frequently post unsolicited shoutouts on social media. That kind of word-of-mouth advertising is powerful because it’s so raw and genuine. Remember: Consumers tend to trust the words of influencers and peers over the words of companies. So any authentic and unprompted praise for a brand carries a lot of weight.
A final benefit to brand communities is the development of a stronger brand identity. Businesses can struggle to create and develop identities. A community can help solidify its identity and even guide its evolution.
Patagonia’s community is an example of how the brand community drives and informs the corporate identity—and vice versa. It’s no secret that Patagonia cares about environmental concerns. Its community does, too, which further deepens Patagonia’s green initiative impacts.
The bottom line is that businesses that want to get ahead can achieve more when they promote community development. And you can start the seeds of a community right away. The key is to take a page from a thriving company with a burgeoning community like CitizenShipper.
The CitizenShipper Model: Getting Community Right
To understand CitizenShipper’s community, you first need to understand how the company works.
CitizenShipper is essentially a portal. The portal connects people who need items shipped with people who can transport those items. It’s essentially a “rideshare” platform for treasured (and unique) stuff. Whether you need someone to take a piano across town or a puppy across the country, you can depend upon CitizenShipper.
Though CitizenShipper’s model serves a gap, it’s the company’s expanding and expansive community that has catapulted it to success. CitizenShipper continues to make the most of its community in several key ways.
1. The company has allowed customers to lead the brand community direction.
Like many companies, CitizenShipper launched with a wide target audience in mind. However, one audience grew faster than any other. That audience? Pet parents and dog breeders. Unknowingly, CitizenShipper had tapped into several unmet needs of pet lovers.
For instance, many pet parents either couldn’t or didn’t want to transport their beloved animals via traditional airline carriers. Consequently, they used CitizenShipper to find pet-friendly drivers eager to take their furry best friends from point A to point B. As word of CitizenShipper spread among pet parents, breeders began to take notice, too.
CitizenShipper leaned into serving this unexpected and vibrant community that was beginning to flourish. For instance, the company added extra background check must-haves for pet drivers. It also set up automatic Pet Protection Plans.
Those customer-based changes have paid off and prompted community-fueled growth. As a result, CitizenShipper has brought about the safe travel of more than 77,000 domesticated animals over more than 100 million miles.
2. The company concentrates on hard-to-ship and highly treasured items.
In addition to pets, CitizenShipper focuses on shipping people’s most treasured (and sometimes unwieldy) belongings. Think motorcycles, heavy equipment, fragile objects, and watercraft. Plenty of owners feel an emotional attachment to these belongings. Consequently, they want their treasures to get the white-glove treatment.
How does this drive a sense of community?
When someone’s rare collection of china pieces is brought safely from Portland to Miami, that person is delighted. And a delighted customer wants to have those same good feelings again and again. The result? The customer looks for other opportunities to use CitizenShipper and become a repeat buyer.
The more repeat CitizenShipper buyers there are, the bigger the community becomes. From a cost-per-lead standpoint, regular customers are a huge boon to the bottom line. The more times an existing customer comes back, the less is spent on lead acquisition. That means a brand community can have a direct influence on profit margins.
3. The company serves as a gathering place for people to meet.
When someone posts a listing on CitizenShipper, the listing is seen by countless pre-vetted drivers. Consequently, interested drivers can bid on the listing, and posters get to decide which driver meets their needs. Though this is a systematic process, it’s not an impersonal one.
As a company, CitizenShipper has done its best to promote personalization, above transactions.
Yes, a transaction occurs. But the transaction has a very human touch. An example of this can be found in the use of communication between shippers and drivers. All drivers are encouraged to send pictures of and information about their progress. This keeps everyone in the loop and makes the experience a more individualized one.
It’s not unusual for strangers who met as posters and drivers on CitizenShipper to stay in touch after working together. As these networks of relationships grow, the networks fuel the growth of the broader CitizenShipper community. The relationships encourage more reviews, which further validate the trustworthiness of the company.
Without its brand community, CitizenShipper might be just another portal. Instead, it’s a business that’s fast becoming a household name.
Featured Image: Blue Bird; Pexels.com. Thank you!