7 Things Brands Need to Know About Building Community

Communities offer brands and companies amazing opportunities to build loyalty, get to know their customers, and bring new people into the fold. But how do you get one started, or how do you access a community that’s already created itself?

Melonie Gallegos

Last week I interviewed Melonie Gallegos, Social Media Specialist at Geary Interactive, on brand communities. We talked about what brands need to do to develop a community or how to tap into one that already exists. We also talked about what’s involved with running a successful community, including how to get legal, PR, and marketing on board.

  1. “The idea of a community just existing inside the walled garden of a brand is not accurate anymore.” While many companies create communities that they monitor using tools like Ning, KickApps, or a roll-your-own solution, online communities can exists on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and discussion groups around the Web. Even if you have a walled garden community, you should be cross-pollinating with other social media sites to extend the conversation.
  2. Your community may already exist. The WD-40 “community existed organically on its own and it wasn’t because they were sitting there talking about the brand or the latest sale or even what a marketer would put out. They were talking about silly ways and uses for the product that the brand wouldn’t even legally promote on its own…it’s all about embracing it and letting their audience build community around that with the brand together— that’s where you’re going to have a big success.”
  3. Your best opportunity to build a brand community may lie in not talking about the brand. “It’s great when a brand gets out there and they’re not focused on the brand itself, and they’re just giving back or providing value to the people. I think there is what seems to be an unseen value and equity in brands doing that that gives a really big payback.”
  4. The community learns to police itself. “For the most part, you’re going to find the community itself taking care of it for you and self-policing or getting all over that person who’s misbehaving. You really can just step back and not do anything. They’ll take care of it because it’s not the brand’s community. It’s the people’s community and everyone has ownership and partakes in it.”
  5. Your community will surprise you. Let them. They’re surprised by people. They’re surprised by the real-life, day-to-day way people behave in real life. People kid around, and things that they say—maybe they’re swearing—or things that are said aren’t politically correct or they’re just silly. The silliness of real-life people is very surprising and sometimes scary for a brand. Because they’re in such direct touch with it, I think they feel that by engaging in that and going into it, they take some responsibility for it, so they need to control it.

    But embracing it is the best thing, and then realizing that you’re dealing with people. They’re not numbers anymore. They’re not “customers” or “market segments.” They’re your real live people out there who are being people.

    It’s really surprising to see sometimes how out of touch brand managers or marketers become with their actual customers and audiences. Real life becomes shocking.”

  6. Some barriers to a successful community come from inhouse. “If you have a legal department on your staff, you already have a barrier to building a relationship and the communications that you can have in social media. The other barrier will be PR and marketing paradigms that we used to hold on to about how things should work and how you communicate with your customers, your brand, and just act out.”
  7. For a brand’s community to succeed it needs resources, more resources and goals. (Not necessarily in that order.) Brands aren’t “going to build this community and then it’s magically going to run itself and magically going to just be there and flourish. It takes nurturing. It takes upkeep. It takes work. They need to make sure that they have the resources on staff to manage and grow that community.”

You can read the entire transcript of my interview with Melonie here.

If you want to learn more about community building, life in San Diego and taco cravings, you can follow Melonie Gallegos on Twitter.

Rich Brooks


About the author

Rich Brooks is founder and president of flyte new media (, a Web design and Internet marketing firm in Portland, Maine. His monthly flyte log email newsletter and company blog ( focus on Web marketing topics such as search engine optimization, blogs, social media, email marketing, and building Web sites that sell


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