Building A Community Around Your Brand: The ROI Of Online Communities

The community industry is very early, especially in India. And at CommunityHood, community builders from across the country try to help each other in learning the best practices of building a community around your brand. One event is hosted every week in CommunityHood, and this panel discussion was one of those events.

In these panel discussions, we bring in certain community experts from India and try to pick questions that people are asking in the community. Then those questions are discussed in these panel discussions. The topic for our 3rd Panel Discussion was Justifying ROI for a Brand Community Building.

In this blog on the discussion, we will talk about:

  • Why is there a need of building a community around your brand?
  • How organizations are building stronger brands through online communities?
  • Why is ‘community’ more than a buzzword?
  • Indian examples of building stronger brands through online communities

And much more… So let’s get reading!

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Introducing Our Panelists

Our 1st guest speaker for the panel discussion was – Arun Narayanan!

Arun is the Head of Community at MoEngage Inc.

Currently, he is building #GROWTH – A global community of growth experts and leaders focused on customer engagement-led growth. It is also a platform for future growth leaders to learn from them!

He is an experienced startup leader with growth, marketing, and customer success leadership experience at fast-growing companies. Arun Co-founded and grew his first startup profitably to ~100 employees before making a successful exit. 

He has also served as the Chief Growth Officer (CXO) at Mobisy Technologies, set up Marketing & Customer Success processes for, and consulted companies like Site5 Ltda that exited to EIG.

Our 2nd guest speaker was – Aditi Chopra!

She has worked as a Growth & Community Consultant for 18+ startups so far! 

Before this, she built the early adopters community at FamPay via programs like brand ambassadors, referrals, savings streak, Discord, and more. She also organized a virtual fest called FamJam 2020 that got 25k+ registrations from teens. 

Being a Community Enthusiast, she loves meeting new people and learning new things. Apart from Growth and Community, Circular Economy is another subject area she enjoys talking about. And when she’s not working, she loves hiking to rather less explored terrains in the outskirts of her city or playing a game or two of football.

And our 3rd guest speaker was – Rohit Ganapathi

He is a Product Manager for Man Matters, where he’s responsible for the growth of the Man Matters App. One of his main responsibilities is also to grow an in-house community of men – a safe space created for men to talk about unique male issues. 

He is one of the earliest employees at Mosaic Wellness and has been a part of the entire 0 to 1 growth journey of the startup. Before this, he served as an investment analyst at Kalaari Capital.

Why Is There A Need To Build Community Around Brand?

The best essence of what a brand is creating is – belonging and identity. For the longest time, Mosaic Wellness struggled with it. They have launched 2 communities – one for men and the other for women. Rohit talked about the men’s community in the discussion.

One of the things that they struggled with, was that men did not talk much. For example, men had health issues but did not talk about them. They tend to not speak. This is a huge problem where men do not talk about their issues. They try to hide things under the carpet, they do not take care of their wellness and are struggling with it.

Rohit says, “Even as best friends, 2 males in India will talk about sports and stuff. But no one will talk about these health issues that they have and struggle with.” One way Mosaic Wellness tried to solve this was through their products, but the community gave them the real sense.

In Rohit’s words, “Create a tribe of people with the same goal to help each other grow. Successful communities are all about celebrating progress with each other.”

Also, Check-Out:

How Organizations Are Building Stronger Brands Through Online Communities?

Why should brands invest in a community?

As per Arun, the answer to that question is relatively simpler. He has done a fair amount of marketing before. And as we all know, marketing is all about building an audience – having an attentive audience that also wants to engage with you. Through marketing, audiences hang on to what a brand says. And building a community around your brand is a greater and enhanced version of doing the same.

Arun explains, “So, in that sense, it makes sense to invest in the community. Because purely in business terms, it acts as a super funnel that you can harvest whenever you want to. If you can make the people feel belonged, it helps move deals faster. The business benefits are very obvious.”

But he believes that a brand should invest in a community only if they genuinely care about solving the problem that they stand for. In that sense, community becomes the most powerful channel to empower users, educate them, and get them to elevate their art.

MoEngage’s community is called #Growth. They strongly feel that growth is about:

  • Retention
  • Engagement
  • Serving the customer through the channels that they care about
  • At the times that they care about
  • The way that they care about, and
  • Personalized engagement

This is what their product is about.

Arun explains that everyone who has ever worked with MoEngage has built a lot of empathy for people who have used their product. This is how they know that they are thinking of growth in the right terms.

Arun says, “Five to ten years ago, growth was shorthand for acquisition, now it is all about LTV (lifetime value).” He feels that for people who do a good job with growth, what they are practicing is no less than art and this art must be elevated.

He adds, “If everyone comes together, this art will get elevated. Because otherwise, it is a fairly lonely journey. For something so new, I strongly feel that people need to come together and elevate the art so that people are looking at the growth the right way.”

3 Ways In Which Building Brand Communities Enable Growth

Why Community Is More Than A Buzzword?

There are just so many reasons to give. A community is important for a brand because, in a community, people can find credibility, adoption, reviews, and product evangelization comes from the community. This is something that only a community can bring about.

In Aditi’s words, “For example, my friend saw an ad and then brought something but it did not motivate me since it is not that relevant to me. But I own a community and I see a testimonial from a friend, someone who I relate to, someone who I share that context with. Which is the definition of a community – people sharing similar context, experiences, problems, all of that.”

She continues, “And then I see that this thing is working for him or her or them, so why shouldn’t I try it.?” So, the level of early credibility that a startup needs, that level of early adoption that a brand needs, and that continued evangelization, are things that come from the community only. 

As a community, an organization goes out into space, and as a brand community, they create value. Some people need it, who have the intent to get it. So, organizations try to reach them through the brand community.

The other important thing is that community if done right from day one, can give massive long-term effects. Think of your power users in a community as your small marketing influencers who can help your brand grow.

The vocal things (word of mouth) comes out of the community. That helps in building stronger brands through online communities, especially early brands. That is where a community adds a lot of value.

Brand CommunityBuilding: Building A Community Around Your Brand And Justifying Brand ROI

Indian Examples Of Building Stronger Brands Through Online Communities

1. FamPay

Aditi talks about FamPay and how they had less than 5k users when they started. But with the help of a brand community, in a year they crossed the 2 million mark. And it has only been scaling after that. And this is how a brand community did it for them – They got one person on board and then that person got his entire group into the FamPay-Card program.

Aditi says, “First of all, Corona was a phenomenon that you cannot ignore. It just happened and FamPay was a FinTech product company. They had cards and everything to go out, those were delayed.” Any type of advertisement or influencer marketing would not have worked for them. But the community helped in terms of growth.

When someone is doing community for growth, they have to understand the target user as well as the target market. The target users need everything very well. What will work for Gen Z users will not work for the household women or small business owners. This understanding is the first block of foundation for a community.

And by gaining this understanding, they decided that it fits them right to have a community, to bring all their users together, and help them network with each other. That is where the community played a massive role, even in defining use cases for their brand. In Aditi’s words, “When you have a community, you can talk to your top funnel.”

She explains how they would not have gotten to know that OTT was the topmost expense. Through the community conversations, even before their expenditure started happening, their users were always talking about Euphoria and Stranger Things, etc. They observed those conversations and that helped them a lot with their growth.

Aditi believes that FamPay has been able to grow its ecosystem for the Founders via Community.

2. Salesforce, HubSpot And Gainsight

According to Arun, there are very few examples in the B2B space too. One is SalesForce, which has done a great job with its trailblazer program. It is a thriving ecosystem and it is also quite huge.

Then comes HubSpot of course. Arun praises them saying, “They did great for the category that they represented.”

And third on Arun’s list was Gainsight. Not Indian, but they did a very good job with their customer success. Everyone thanks them for teaching a true sense of discipline.

3. CultFit And Dream11

Rohit personally thinks of ‘community’ as a sense of feeling of belonging and identity. Fitness is something that he thinks does a really good job for the community. CultFit thrived on that concept. People started going just because their friends were going.

Rohit says, “Doing fitness classes together has always been something so powerful, and building communities around that is always going to be effective. Whatever gym you think of, for that matter, they show you the best example of community. People come and join just for the experience altogether.”

On the digital side, Dream11 has done wonders. Tons and tons of WhatsApp groups, all across India, people play on Dream 11 all day, every day. And it is not just about the playing, people predict and obsess about it. The same goes for Fantasy Sports, like fantasy football, etc.

Community Building For Brands Online: Indian Brands Justifying Community ROI

What Thought Triggered The Idea Of A Brand Community?

A lot of us order food from Swiggy and Zomato. This mainly started because people started thinking, “Oh my friend ordered, so I too want to do it.” It was a utility-driven acquisition. The same was the case with FamPay. For them, what started happening was that when FamPay started giving out cards, people did not know anything about FamPay’s offerings.

In Aditi’s words, “People were just coming because of the attractive cards and their friends were already using our products. The decision was inspired by their friends. FamPay understood that a lot of adoption will happen from people themselves and created the community to bring more people and let them know about FamPay.”

Lastly, they just wanted to bring a lot of people under their umbrella, especially Gen Z users to help them network, collaborate, learn, and grow with each other. And their initial experiments also validated the same.

For Man Matters, from day 1, they were clear about the fact that they want men to talk about their issues. Since day one, they had WhatsApp groups, which were limited to 250 people, and so they continued making more and more groups as they scaled. And they would genuinely listen to their users.

Rohit explains the experience by saying, “What was surprising was that when you are trying to create something that doesn’t exist that people want, people are so passionately talking about it in such a positive way that conversations run all day long.” These topics were related to sexual performance, weight loss, fitness, nutrition, health issues, etc.

So, they knew that they needed to create a community from day one. They shifted to Telegram as it was a better option than WhatsApp in terms of scalability. But once that didn’t work out, they moved to Discord. At that time, no one knew what Discord was, but they moved because it had all the features they needed.

They listened to their members and even made things that they asked for. Rohit says, “It was nice waking up every single day and reminding yourself that you are making an impact on people’s lives.” He also recalled that someone named Sagar asked on Discord for a protein powder and they went on and launched it.

On Discord, they had 2.5k people. And on their app, they have a lot more people. Because of the limited bandwidth, they spend less time on Discord now, but still, a lot of people come there and ask questions. The engagement still runs and that is a testament to the kind of value their community holds.

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What Is The Community Team Structure At MoEngage?

As a full-time team, they are not very big, with just 4 members. The team consists of a Head of Community, a Community Lead, a Junior Operations Manager, and a Community Content Specialist. Their idea is not to expand and they like to call themselves facilitators and not a community team.

However, they do work with various teams that help them with building brand community. For example, they work with the customer success team extensively to organize events.

Arun explains further, “In terms of a team, fundamentally, we do have someone who is the custodian of peer learning, who builds out the academy and makes courses. We also have a person that works with the content marketing team and helps us with the execution of all the content.”

The best way to think about how to build a community around your brand is to think about how this is to be done. For example, in terms of masterclasses and mass conferences, they try to give actual information and provide people with value. They are experimenting with multiple formats. In Arun’s opinion, the community is not a product but a platform that helps you deliver the core values.

Build A Brand Community: Creating The Community And Structuring The Team

What Are The Key Metrics For Justifying The Community Cost?

The Man Matters community is still at the 0 to 1 stage, and so they focus on tracking engagement & retention numbers.

For engagement they track the following things:

  • Who is liking the post?
  • Who is creating a post?
  • And who is commenting on the post?

For retention they track the following things:

  • How many people are coming back?
  • And for what kind of content they are coming back for?

So, engagement and retention are what they majorly focus on.

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How MoEngage And FamPay Enable Community ROI Advocacy?

MoEngage gets sponsors and being an entrepreneur himself, Arun supports the concept by saying, “I’d like to make my community P&L (Profit & Loss) positive.” They charge for events, but they don’t charge for everything. Arun believes that if ROI is under a larger business, then driving it is quite easy.

He says, “Because people come because of the value that you are providing. You can’t force the pace in B2B. It’s not difficult to justify the ROI. At least from a B2B point of view.” 

On the other hand, Aditi says that she won’t call herself an ROI advocate if she is creating a community of sports because she loves that and loves it when people indulge in it. She further explains that if she is building a community for business, then she needs to be able to justify the ROI out of the targets that are set.

In her words, “The target is the ROI. In terms of metrics, our metrics were platform-dependent.” For Twitter, they track how many followers they got. They also track if the rate of unfollows is increasing or decreasing. Whereas for Discord, they track things like what are the channels on which people are talking the most. Then they also track topics that people are talking about the most.

They kept track of how many new people came to FamPay via the programs that they were doing. And they found out that the ones who came via community stayed longer as compared to those who came via ads. 

Business ROI: Metrics For Calculating Brand Community Building ROI

Quick Tips, Tricks, And Hacks

  1. If you are building a community around your brand on Discord, then you should never stop engaging. Make sure that people get replies to their queries round the clock.
  2. For building brand communities on Discord, hire a good and experienced Discord moderator.
  3. For higher engagement in communities built on Discord, use its free bot features to gamify the whole experience.
  4. A key best practice for seeding content in a community is to define the tone. Put the onus on the people to engage, and make them feel important by specifically pointing them out.
  5. Choose the platform for building a community around your brand based on your niche customers – go where your customers are.
  6. Opt for an in-app community only if the number of members in your community is in the thousands. But if it’s just a couple of hundred people, then just use WhatsApp or Telegram.
  7. Pet parenting is equal to human baby parenting. So, if you are considering building brand community around pets, then you’d have to have a wide range of offerings.
  8. For building a learning community: (a) ensure authentic & high-quality education (b) provide the right support for grasping the content, and (c) assure strong certification & credibility.
  9. When it comes to creating a community on different social media platforms or having a centralized community on a single platform, the decision should be based on bandwidth.
  10. After setting your community goal, you should define your user persona. This will include choosing the language they understand and the platform they are comfortable with. 

If you want to learn from the experience of leading community builders themselves or feel you can help other community builders in upskilling themselves, then join ‘CommunityHood’ now.

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