fbpixel Four simple steps to building a thriving and effective brand community. - MG Empower
Written by - Joe McElligott

Four simple steps to building a thriving and effective brand community.


Joe McElligott

‘Brand community’ is the buzzword of the moment (and the last few years). I hate buzzwords. So let’s try and make it measurable and actionable, shall we? We’ve helped brands like Bumble succeed in doing exactly that and, over the years, we’ve developed a framework for it. But first, let’s define what ‘it’ is…

A brand community is:

  • More than a group of individuals who like what you’re selling – they actually hang out with each other, online or offline, because they’re invested in your brand, the way you think and the lifestyle you’re promoting.
  • Driven to action beyond transaction, whether that’s a recommendation to a friend, a social media engagement, or a brand mention in a piece of user-generated content (UGC).
  • Your brand’s real owner.

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, brands no longer thrive solely on websites, billboards, and offices. They’ve found a new home in the minds and lives of consumers, manifested in the creations and iterations of social media users – so if you’re only going to take away one thing from this blog, make it the idea that building an effective brand community is a balancing act between having control over your brand’s narrative and the flexibility to allow others to build it for you.


It’s a complex process. And it starts with acknowledging that you share your brand with your audience, so rather than dominating the dialogue around your brand, you need to create platforms that facilitate consumer–consumer conversation around your shared values.

Here are four simple steps to get you started on the road to building a brand community that works for you.


Step one: Understand why you want a brand community in the first place.

Good question. Let’s break down the answer by thinking about what a brand community can do for you:

  • Increase your consumers’ Average Lifetime Value because superfans buy more products.
  • Create organic user-generated content (UGC), lowering your ad spend and Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC).
  • Provide results-driving feedback: your community will tell you what products they want to see next.
  • Build customer-orientated brand relationships: done right, customers make friends with other customers, incentivising them to stick with and grow your community from the inside.

Step two: Own your narrative while giving your consumers a degree of ownership too.


One important thing to understand is that the traditional model of building community, where the flow of conversation goes brand-to-consumer and consumer-back-to-brand, is no longer a thing. Instead it has to be brand-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer, and then it comes back to your brand.

In other words, brands have to lay the foundations for consumers to connect with one another, or risk looking out of touch or worse – losing control of your narrative. Because no matter what you do, people are going to talk about your brand. So if you’re not actively guiding the conversation around your brand, people are going to tell stories that you haven’t planted – and they’re unlikely to nail your Tone of Voice or express your values in the way your team would.

Step three: Define your community’s shared value.

Community is built by defining, owning and celebrating a shared value. Whether that’s sustainability, or something more intangible like Bumble’s stance on women’s empowerment, your shared value central to our framework, and the base layer that all brands will have to define for it to work.


Everything else, beyond the shared values, is about finding ways to co-create your brand with your consumers. It starts with asking yourself, “What is your brand doing to facilitate conversation around your community’s shared value?


Step four: Foster conversation and let it grow organically between consumers.

The point of our framework is to give people the tools, space and opportunity to connect with each other and make your brand with you. You know those campaigns where brands launch a social media competition for their followers to create a new logo for them? That’s the kind of thing we’re talking about.

Our framework has three key pillars to get you thinking about ways to facilitate that conversation:

  • Social media. Conversations in the comments section of your latest Instagram post aren’t enough to give your consumers a sense of community. Instead, leverage the reach and influence of creative content and influencer platforms to foster meaningful conversations, encourage community participation, and amplify your brand’s message. User-generated content (UGC) is the goal here, so do everything you can to engage your audience and encourage them to create organic content inspired by your shared values.
  • Experience. Do whatever you can do to take your community offline. Pop-up events, social gatherings, active participation in protests that are relevant to your shared values… whatever it is, make it happen. Bumble’s IRL events are a brilliant example.
  • Membership. Think of loyalty schemes that are more membership than email marketing. Matches Fashion has a brilliant loyalty programme called The Curator, which really makes you feel like you’re part of something despite the fact that you haven’t actually paid anything to join. They’re proving that brand membership doesn’t need to be exclusive as much as feel it. Even just being a follower of a brand on social media is a soft kind of membership – especially if the brand is leaning into inside jokes and creating an experience for their followers that feels exclusive to them.

By actively involving your community in co-creating your brand with you, whether through UGC, shared experiences, or membership programmes, you unlock a powerful force. Because when consumers become active contributors, they not only shape your brand’s identity but also strengthen their own sense of connection and ownership – which is exactly what the world is craving right now.


Joe McElligott is MG Empower’s strategy director – he’s all about finding creative ways to build and grow active communities for the world’s most exciting brands. If you want help building yours, get in touch today.


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