*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.
Arek Dvornechuck: What's up branding experts? Arek here at Ebaqdesign and welcome to On Branding Podcast. And today my guest is Carrie Melissa Jones. So Carrie is a community consultant. Her work influences some of the world's leading brand communities, including American Medical Association, Brainly, Buffer, Google, Nerdwallet, and more. And Carrie has founded the gathered community consulting where she consults brands to help them build new communities, and audit existing ones. She was also a founding partner at CMX where she trained teams at companies like Google and Facebook and community leaders within Salesforce, Airbnb, Discovery Channel, and more. So Carrie is an expert when it comes to building brand communities. And she co-authored this book “Building Brand Communities” And this is the book we’re going to talk about today. Hello Carrie—thank you for joining us today!
Carrie Melissa Jones: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited.
Arek Dvornechuck: Awesome. So basically in your book, you teach us how to build brand communities, right? And in general, how to bring people together as it pertains to both non-profit organizations and for-profit organizations, right? Mm-hmm so, and I like the fact that you give us a lot of examples, real life examples, you know, of brands that we can all relate to, you know, big brands like Harley-Davidson and Patagonia, Sephora, Yelp, Twitch, Etsy, you know, and many other examples, which is really great so that we can understand those principles and you know how to actually, we can get some inspiration from those examples and, you know, understand how we can put them into practice. Right. Mm-hmm um, so I wanted to start off with something, uh, some basics just to explain to our listeners, to our audience, what is brand community? So what are the types of brand communities? And maybe you can give us some examples.
1. Brand Community Basics
Carrie Melissa Jones: Mm-hmm yeah, it's a really important starting place because a lot of people assume that they know what a community is and assume they know what a brand community is, but it turns out that there are some really important pieces often missing. So a brand community is simply a community that is invested in stewarded by any identifiable brand. So that can be a nonprofit, it can be a for-profit, it can be a, a local neighborhood association. It can be a B Corp. It goes all across the board. Any identifiable organization can build a brand community and a community is anything where people feel that they have have come together around some kind of shared interest or identity, and that they share mutual concern for one another's welfare. So it's not enough just to be on a shared email list or, you know, to all be watching this same TV show or like the same band. They actually have to be brought together and care about one another as individuals.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right? So some of my key takeaways from this part, so community, as, as you just mentioned, is a group of people who share a mutual consent for one another. Right? So if community is that then brand community is a community that aspires to serve both it's members and the business at the same time. Yeah. Um, so building a community means actually to facilitate a building this connection, accelerate support, individual relationships that includes, you know, promoting events, mobilizing groups, what social media platforms should we use for example, and how to learn them, what we should post and write, what kind of photos should we share? And so on in the introduction, you also talk about, you know, that we live in the longest era in American history and smart brands do know that there is a hunger for connection, and they do want to invest in community building activities, but it's just like so much in for information out there. Some of them, they, they don't really have a clear idea on how to do it. Right. And here you give us a lot of examples. Like for example, I just wanted to mention this. So cuz I'm sure our listeners would really be interested in hearing this. So for example, Harley David's on, is it like an extreme example? You describe that in detail in your, maybe you can talk more about that. But basically takeaway is that they had some problems. They started long, long time ago, like a hundred or more years ago. And then they were going through some hard times mm-hmm <affirmative> and um, and they came up with this hardly honest group. This is what really helped them change the trajectory, you know, of their brand, right? Basically they started organizing events for riders who can enjoy the experience of riding, you know, bikes together. And that obviously helps to make the brand more profit by selling mat. And um, and also riders use their bikes. Obviously they need new bikes and so on, so, and they can connect to one and the other ride together. So there is this bigger sense, you know, of connection to the brand and to one another. So there are benefits to both in an individual. So individual can feel this belonging and form relationship relationships with other people who are invested in the brand. And also it benefits the business, right? Because you know, it drives marketing, it promotes the brand and you can recruit with new talent through, you know, by having a community, you can attract new talent. So there are many different ways in which you can building a community can benefit your business. Right. So mm-hmm <affirmative> can you talk to us a bit about, you know, what are some of your favorite examples of brand communities?
Carrie Melissa Jones: Mm-hmm yeah, I mean, Harley is definitely the one I go to all the time it's and near and dear to my heart because it's something actually my parents are part of and it changed their lives to be part of it. And so I watched that when they were all the kids had left the house, my dad decided to invest in a Harley and join the Harley owners group and made all these friends with people. He never would've met. Otherwise they traveled around the country together, you know, really became very, very close to one another through that organization. And so, yeah, as you said, Harley benefits majorly from the Harley owners groups because, um, not only do they, you know, sell insurance through it, but they also, um, you know, get people to actually ride their bikes. So they don't just sit in a garage somewhere. Um, and that means the more they ride, the more they're likely to need repairs need, uh, more merchandise, et cetera. So I think it's one of the most classic examples and well executed examples that we have today. And it's been around now for about 40 years. So it's been going on for a long time, you know, pre days. So that's the one I, I turn to most frequently, but there are so many examples. Sephora is another one where they have this massive community of makeup and beauty enthusiasts online so that when you go buy their products, you're not just buying a product. You're also, you know, if you need to understand how to apply the makeup that you have just bought, you can find all kinds of other people in the forums and as well through their algorithm where they've, you can pick, you know, someone else who has in my case, like blonde hair and green eyes, and it'll actually show you people using the same product as you who have those same traits. So it's just, they've paired it up with all this technology so that you can discover people and maintain these relationships online. But yeah, there are just, there's so many incredible examples. Airbnb is another one. Mm-hmm Twitch Etsy. You've mentioned. Um, these are some of my favorite. That's why they're in the book.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. So you give us a lot of examples in the books. Obviously we're gonna link to the book for you guys, if you wanna find out more about that and, and about those examples, but I just wanted to spend a few minutes also talking about actually how to do it. You know, about the steps, because in the second part of your book, you talk about how to actually do it. You know, so you present us with a few steps on how to build a brand community. Some of my key takeaways from this part is, you know, first you need to clarify your purpose. So find out what's your organization goal. And it must in some way align with the people and their aspiration, right? And it needs to complement each other. So understanding your members, you need to do research about them, their demographics, you know, like age, location, income, and so on career goals, challenges they face aspirations they have and so on. And there are also different stages of community, right? So you're gonna start with some inception where you choose the founding members and create content yourself, and then you establish rules and then policies and you take it from there and you establish some rules on how to produce the content, what kind of topics we should discuss, what kind of events should we plan? And then the next step would be to expand beyond that, you know, and appoint others to do that, to lead the community, to make content, and then also inspire other members to invite other people, to join the community. Right? So, and some of the important tips from this part, you can start with volunteers right before you recruit a pay team and you can also create like sub uh, subgroups kind of, right. So for example, if you have a company that provides many different services and products, maybe you should focus on that as well. Right. So can you talk to us a bit about what are some of those steps to build a brand community.
2. Building a Community
Carrie Melissa Jones: mm-hmm yeah. So, uh, just to start with where you kind of ended up there, many people start segmenting and having subgroups way too soon. So to build a brand community, the first thing that you start out with is just, is a small group of people who, you know, you know, share some similarities who have a passion for your brand and who will gain something by being a part of a community where they're connected to your company staff, or to you personally, if you're a founder, um, of this organization. And so we talk about founding member groups in the book, and really you don't need, you could have anywhere between three and 10 people, that's all you're starting out with just to make sure that you're building what people actually need and not just guessing and building this giant platform. I see companies do this all the time, where they invest in the technology and they just load in, you know, tens of thousands of contacts from their sales database, for instance, mm-hmm and nobody knows why, they've been added to this community. There's no real grounded purpose in place. And, um, the people don't even know why they're there and what they have in common with each other. So yeah, you have to start out with these small groups, create a way for people to get to know each other. And then over time you can identify people who can, as you said, volunteer and become leaders in the community. And this doesn't happen in a matter of weeks. It usually happens in a matter of months. In fact, most organizations I work with, it takes about 18 months for a community to go from this early kind of founding member stage all the way to this stage, where there are people who are stepping up into leadership positions so that, um, the organization can step back and just enable people to do what they really wanna do and lead the community on their own. But it takes about a year and a half to get to that point. In the meantime, all of the work is really invested in building those relationships with people individually, cross connecting people to one another, um, hosting events, just ways that people can as community builder, Douglas, Atkin calls it like stick together like great glue for people to interact more and more and more over time. That's really the job of the community builder in that time period until they can step back out other people to do that. Because as human beings, we're social creatures, we all want to connect and gather. And so this is something that all of your customers want to do. All of your sales prospects want to do all the people that are important to your organization's success, all want to meaningfully connect. And so this is just about giving people an opportunity to do what they already know how and love to
Arek Dvornechuck: Do. Right? Right. So there is a huge say, like a demand for that, right? Um, yeah. We all want to connect one another. We want to find relationships. So yeah, you need to start small first. You need to define your brand, define your purpose, define your mission. Right. But your goals as an organization, and then find out about, you know, how is it going to align with your audience and then start small, as you said, you know, you cannot just upload your email list and expect people to, you know, you need to actually start small, build strong relationships and take it from there. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and then that's take a lot of time. Usually, as you said, you know, my be a year, a year and a half, because there is a lot of different steps, small steps that you need to take. And like, if you meet someone for the first time, it takes this, you know, we need to meet over and over again and get to know each other until we are able to build that stronger relationship. So it's similar with brand communities, right? Yeah.
Carrie Melissa Jones: And when we're talking online too, I just, it takes even longer to form those relationships. It actually takes about six times as long to form relationships online as it does offline. So you really have to be patient and a lot of brands are not good. <laugh> at patience. <laugh> yeah. So,
Arek Dvornechuck: So patience is one of those factors. So in the third part, you actually dive deeper and you explain, you know, those principles and those ideas in more detail, like for example, how to make it safe for the members, how to welcome, like everything, all the details, right. How to welcome members, how to deliver on, on your promise, how to make it fun for them. And so on, I just thought maybe you have some final thoughts or tips on building a brand community. Some comment as said, you know, patience is one of those factors or maybe some common challenges that people come across when they're trying to build a community. Perhaps you have some other examples that we can talk about. Besides high, maybe Twitch, you mentioned also Sephora, maybe you have other examples in mind that, you know, you, you think our audience would, you know, kind of like a, like a big brand so we can all relate to it.
3. Deeper Ideas
Carrie Melissa Jones: Mm-hmm yeah. So in terms of tips and, and things, people should keep in mind. I mean, absolutely patience is one of them. The other thing is a focus on the people in front of you. So again, I see a lot of organizations, especially large organizations, default to looking at data and abstractions about people versus actually investing the time it takes to build relationships, which take time. So that is a really important piece. It's always coming back to why are we doing this? And who are we doing this for over and over and over again, sometimes I do this, uh, with my clients, we do this at least once a week where we say, okay, why are we doing this and who are we doing this for? And we write it down. And I actually have a giant piece of paper. I keep in my office that says, like, who I serve, why I serve them. And that keeps me really in integrity with every action that I take, every decision I make. So that's really important piece is just not creating abstractions in terms of other examples. I mean, uh, let's talk about so many <laugh>, uh, Etsy, for example. Yeah. Um, Etsy is a really interesting example because it's an organization that started out in, I think it was the early two thousands when they were founded and their mission of their entire company was to change the economy. Me, the world economy, to enable makers, to actually make money from the things that they create, whether that's art, whether it's jewelry, anything. I mean, you've been on Etsy, probably seen all the random stuff they have. And so it was a really revolutionary idea and obviously very mission driven. And so it attracted people were really passionate about what they created and passionate about making this change in the world. And because of that, it really had a strong place from which to build community in those early days. What you see in a lot of marketplaces, which Etsy is a marketplace of buyers and sellers, is that there's actually just a ton of competition between sellers in a marketplace. It actually, they don't wanna talk to each other. <laugh> usually because that's their competition. Why would they wanna talk to them? But because Etsy made it about this big, big purpose of changing the world, we need all the people that we can to be part of this that made it so that people were not in competition with one another, but we're actually in again, cared about one another, had mutual, true concern for one another's success. And so that was really the ground upon which Etsy was built. Now, if you look at it today, uh, I think it's a public organization and it has changed a lot. And you actually can see in their community, a lot of distrust and frustration with the way that things have grown over time, as they have moved, some would say away from that mission to just being, you know, a marketplace where shareholder value is more important than anything else. But yeah, you see that in a lot of organizations. And so it's easy to lose track of why you're doing something and who you're doing it for. It's very, very easy. And you can see what happens on a business scale when that occurs.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right? So these are totally different examples, right? Hardly, you know, obvious, you just want a connection. We just wanna ride bikes together. We are not competing with each other. Right? Yeah. And it see a totally different example. We are all sellers. We sell our craft on et sea, as you said, you know, there is competition. So that's a different challenge. It's a different kind of type of community, right? You also discuss in your book, a lot of different types of communities. You give us a lot of examples. So obviously we cannot talk about everything, but you know, I'm going to include a link in the description box for you guys who want to check out the book. I really recommend this a lot of great examples. So you can definitely find something for yourself, whether you have a, of a, for profit organization, service products, startup, big brand, it doesn't really matter. There's something for everyone. Awesome. So thank you for joining us. And as we are approaching the end of our interview, I just wanted to ask you, you know, how to get in touch with you on social media, maybe on your website.
Arek Dvornechuck: Awesome. Thank you for those. I'm gonna include those links in the description box to get through the link to the book. Thank you very much Carrie, for joining us today on the podcast.
Carrie Melissa Jones: Thank you. Wonderful conversation. Appreciate it.
Arek Dvornechuck: Thank you. Bye.
Carrie Melissa Jones: Bye.
Arek Dvornechuck is a strategist and designer who helps brands grow by crafting distinctive brand identities, backed by strategy. Need help with your project?—Get in touch
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