CIM Marketing Podcast - Episode 47: Take care of your community

CIM Marketing Podcast - Episode 47: Take care of your community

How to build great online communities

This podcast will: 

  • Explore the remarkable explosion in digital communities
  • Reveal the secrets to extracting marketing value from digital communities 
  • Demonstrate how to avoid the pitfalls of community marketing 
Podcast transcript

Ally Cook  00:00

The contents and views expressed by individuals in the CIM Marketing Podcast are not necessarily those of the companies for which they work. This series is currently being recorded via web conferencing. We apologise for any issues with the audio.

Ben Walker  00:14

Hello, everybody and welcome to the CIM podcast. And you know, the word community has taken on a very different meaning. In recent times when I relied on which was longer ago than it should have been, it prompted visions of jam and Jerusalem church halls and parish councils. Now it's something much more vibrant and exciting in the shape of online and social media communities to discuss this exciting shift we have with us today, Elliot Cierpiol at We Are Resource. Elliot, how are you sir? I'm great. Thank you. With us today as well. We have Molly McArthur, a third appearance on the CIM podcast and as many of you will know, she is Digital Marketing Manager at CIM HQ itself at Moor Hall, how are you Molly, welcome back.

Molly MacArthur  00:59

I'm great. Thanks. Thanks for having me back.

Ben Walker  01:03

Elliot, it's no longer about these jam, Jerusalem coffee mornings and parish councils, online communities is something very different. What are they?

Elliot Cierpiol  01:11

in terms of online communities to shift the change in terms of what we're doing is an organization's market is brands, online communities with a new target audience to actually get in front of customers of the see now connect communities. And it's a very different shift in how we approach people, what conversations we're having with people and how we how we actually look as consumers as well as marketers, to engage with brands, audiences, individuals, I think what's really interesting around communities in general is they're not something new, they've always been around. So whether that's, you know, the football team you support. And that's what you do in your social life, who you hang around with what you like to do as a hobby. There's always been a sense of community. The difference now is the digital aspects, and how we actually access them online.

Ben Walker  02:04

That's interesting, isn't it? Molly, my slightly facetious introduction was kind of erroneous, because those communities are really just representations of what's happening today. So the parish church, the football team, the Greek club, they're still there as communities. And what's happened here is that they have been represented as online communities. But other things have also been represented as online communities, which don't relate to geography, they relate to shared interests, or shared passions.

Molly MacArthur  02:32

They definitely do. Yeah, there's a whole range of online communities now. I think one that stood out to me the most when I saw it was a slow cooker community where there's like hundreds of 1000s of people on Facebook groups talking about different recipes, and people from all over the world sharing different recipes from wherever they are. And it's really interesting to see and things like, right through from slow cookers to parent groups. Another one that stands out is it is a face cream business that somehow managed to build a massive following on Instagram, you can check it out common theory be beauty. And she started out making these creams in her kitchen. And suddenly she's built up this whole audience of people who struggle with sort of different skin, things that she's managed to sort of solve their problems. And they talk about that in the comments. And yeah, they've built a whole community based on on creams, which is great.

Ben Walker  03:23

This is absolutely fascinating, Elliot, because you if you tried to start off a slow cooker group, or a group for face cream enthusiasts in your local town and village, you might only get one or two people because there simply isn't enough people there in a geography to make that group worthwhile. But actually, what Molly's saying is that these things are very possible now because online slow cooker communities exist, face cream communities exist, I suspect the list is almost endless. And that, to me, is a very important trend that marketers need to understand and be aware of, isn't it?

Elliot Cierpiol  04:02

Yeah, I think you know what Molly pointed out there, which was really important, because obviously, it just goes to show the power of a community for a starting point, the fact that there is people following a slow cooker community baffles me, but not to slay them. Everyone's got their hobbies. But it just goes to show the accessibility of and the power of social media and the internet and what we can achieve through this. So obviously, these communities which were ones, they're in local associations where you'd only, you know, like you said, maybe find two or three people that are interested in the same thing. You can create a group locally, now you can do it online. It's given us access to all these groups of individuals, and as marketers, that's a little bit of a dream, isn't it? Because we get to see all these people. There's all this data profiling and communities that are just accessible to us. And it's just all our audiences in one space. I think the battle is where do you want to spend your time in the community?

Ben Walker  05:00

One needs to be aware of the scale of this community foundation, if I can call it that, that is 76% of Internet users now, according to research, participate in an online community. And even if it was only 20% of Internet users, that would be a major trend that we need to be aware of. But it's three quarters of all internet users are actually participating in online communities. I mean, Molly MacArthur, where do we start in understanding that trend, and we're learning more to the point how to tap into it and exploit it as marketers.

Molly MacArthur  05:31

I think the that is a really, really high SAT. I think it's so so many people are part of these communities, because it's their support system. It's how they find people, but like, that creates a sense of belonging for them. So I think particularly for brands, it really helps them to get to know their audience. If you've tapped into this real community of people, you can look at product innovation, what do they like about your product? What do they? What are their other problems that you really need to be solving? I think it's a huge opportunity to learn more and grow your brand within those communities.

Ben Walker  06:03

Is there a way of getting it wrong? So community exist, it's grown organically. You gave great examples. I love the slow cooker. I actually quite like the face cream enthusiasts one. Just because they seem so niche. But actually, they're big. They're important for people who are interested in cosmetics or interested in cookery. Is there a way for marketers to get this wrong and these organic communities have grown of marketers suddenly try to ingratiate themselves into these communities? And these people think, well, they're just trying to sell us stuff. And actually, they're not really part of our community. They're outsiders, trying to exploit it.

Molly MacArthur  06:40

Yeah, I think that's right. I think if you go in to heavy with the sales, people are just so switched off to it, it these communities need to provide real value, like talking about the slow cooker community, or the face cream community, they're gaining ideas for recipes that they're going to cook in their home for their families, is a real creating a real connection and value for them. Like although slow cookers, slow cooker companies are gaining from the sales of their slow cookers, they're still adding a lot of value to the audience, I think that's the key, if you're not adding any value, and you're just trying to sell it's, the communities aren't going to grow in the first place where if you sort of shift from focusing on educating, helping people in these communities to then more sales, you're gonna sort of lose interest, I think from the audience.

Ben Walker  07:25

Your job is to develop business, Elliot, your, your job is to increase revenues and increase sales. How do you identify these communities? And what are your tools and techniques to make sure that once you've identified them, you don't make the mistakes we've just talked about? And actually, you become part and parcel of that community and increased revenue that way?

Elliot Cierpiol  07:45

It's, it's an interesting one, because obviously, you've got to look from a business aspect and a brand aspect, what you do. So let's understand what value you give to your audiences, what value they give to you. And as Molly said, their their sense of community is about sharing value. And I think what what we start to need to realise as marketers is the fact that we're dealing with people at the end of the day, and consumers are a lot more savvy than they used to be, they don't get suckered into, you know, sales this, although I can bet I do quite a lot. But it's a bit more high level than that, in the sense that, you know, people do want to deal with people, people want to deal with brands, not companies. So if you're an organisation, you want to showcase yourself as a brand. You don't want to be another salesperson knocking on the door. So just going back to your question there around how do how do you challenge that and get involved in these communities.

There's loads of different ways. Obviously, there's targeting online, you can understand what communities your audiences suit to who you need to be within that audience. You need to understand what value they give what value you want to give them. And it is a transaction in terms of value. It's not a transaction of trying to just sell something. And I think that's where as an organisation, you need to be really clever about what communities you join in operating, and, and become an influencer. Because what we've seen over the years is obviously the massive boom of influences. We're starting to slowly see through the influencer act a little bit, I think, as consumers, but the ones that are authentic, are the ones that start to cut through and actually build genuine communities. And that's how you start to commercialise, build a business upon a community.

Ben Walker  09:32

In your business, you must see both extremes of that scale, you know, the really expert value adders and the really clunky online salesman, if you like for one of the benefits from one of a better phrase and everything in between how do you convert the people sort of the wrong end of the scale to the right end of the scale? What sort of coaching, what sort of methods do you use to get people to to become those value adders that you're talking about?

Elliot Cierpiol  09:57

When you're joining the community? You're creating a community understanding what your role is, essentially. So what do your consumers want to see from you, as an organisation or a brand? Are you willing to give them value without actually trying to sell them it? I feel like there's a, there's a massive battle. Obviously, a lot of organisations are quite scared to give too much info away. Whilst I think We Are Resource as an organisation, we've got multiple brands, obviously Commshero being a key community building brand that we've created.

It's about building a sense of belonging amongst the community, we praise people within the community itself, and we converse with them. We're there when we need them to be not when we, we want to be seen. So with communities, it's all about actually being there for them being you know, authentic, actually understanding the difficulties, and really embedding yourself in it so that, you know, if you get a DM on Twitter, or LinkedIn or whatever, at eight o'clock, nine o'clock at night, four in the morning, five in the morning, you're there for them. Because often enough, you see a lot of brands fall down from the sense of, we're just building this nine to five transactional stage where we're not actually building relationships. And that's what community is about relationships. So how the brands enter that relationship zone.

Ben Walker  11:17

Molly MacArthur you have that role at CIM itself, your job, it is as digital marketing manager to build a sense of community around CIM itself as an organisation. You approach this and as we spoke about in previous podcasts from a social media aspect, what role does social media tools have, in creating that sense of belonging that Elliott's referring to?

Molly MacArthur  11:40

I think different social media platforms have got sort of different ways of doing that. So we've had on Facebook for a very long time Facebook groups where absolutely anyone can start up their own group, share it with their communities, and really start to build an audience there. LinkedIn, also have LinkedIn groups. So you can start a very specialist group about wherever profession you're in, whatever sector you're in, and location. And then I'm seeing a lot more of this through on Instagram recently, and they're doing a lot more to sort of promote communities. So they've got, they've just recently released a close friends list. So even as a business or online influencer creator from a creator account, you can add a close friends list within your community. So even if you've got 100,000 followers, you can filter that down to 1000 people that are really in your close knit community and communicate with them. So there's a few different sort of areas within each social media platform that allow you to really leverage the community and build on it even more.

Ben Walker  12:42

We've been through a sort of big digital experiment or social media experiment to some degree in the last couple of years, because we've been limited for much of the last two years to digital interaction. What was the biggest pandemic fuelled shift you saw in digital communities, Molly, you know, how was it? And how is that? And would you say that shift has been sustained? Since we've been able to go back to the Cricket Club and the football club and the parish council.

Molly MacArthur  13:07

I think that's really interesting. At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw people were spending way much more time online, they really wanted to keep connected with their families and communities. They were really worried about friends and families and how they're getting on when they were isolated. I think we saw a real rapid growth amongst communities particularly. So we were talking about earlier about communities, in different locations, doesn't matter if they're local or far away, I feel like in in lockdown, we saw a lot of online growth amongst local communities, there was a real sense of wanting to support local businesses that may be struggling. A lot of these local businesses probably might not have been like online even before the pandemic, but they were forced into it for survival. And the community really sort of rallied round to support them and in different ways online.

So I think a lot of a lot of communities and businesses, small businesses saw massive growth online, over the pandemic. And I think, particularly in the sort of educational groups, there was a lot of growth. So every parent was thrown into homeschooling practically overnight. So a lot of education providers, a lot of companies that provide educational resources for children. And they were sort of bombarded overnight with hundreds of 1000s of parents that were storming to their communities to find out more about how to help themselves in that situation. And there was a bit of uncertainty around what was going to happen and people worried about job losses and things like that, and how the, and how businesses would recover from this. So we saw huge growth in sort of educational side of things that people really wanting to upskill online and whether that's through sort of brands that provide formal education or influencers and creators that are just providing really insightful stuff online, for free that they can sort of upskill themselves at very low to no cost online.

Molly MacArthur  13:12

Well, that's absolutely fascinating. Elliot, how has that affected your business, specifically post pandemic and pre pandemic?

Elliot Cierpiol  15:13

Yeah, so obviously, the shift in digital transformation Molly was talking about has been massive across the whole sector. And We Are Resource as a marketing services provider. You know, we deal with comms and marketing people day to day, and obviously touching on the topic of online communities talking specifically Commshero, and there's been a massive shift for us. So just to give the lesson is a bit of an overview of Commshero itself how it started, what it's about Commshero was created in 2014 by our sales and marketing director Asif Choudry, and which has been a bit of a baby too, We Are Resource which we've nurtured, looked after, over the past seven years, we've got a full team supporting us in terms of building that community building that brand. The idea behind Commshero on the community itself, is that comms and marketing people are fundamentally really, really good about shouting about how well their organisation is doing, how they're communicating. But they're really modest in what they do day to day. So it's the unsung hero role.

So Commshero is there to gather all these comms and marketing people and celebrate, you know, the epic work that's done in the sector, no matter what sector you're in, it's the role. And we do have this saying as well, you don't have to be in comms to be at Commshero. So we're not just limiting it to comms, marketing, it can be anyone, because at the end of the day, as individuals, we're all marketers. And if you have a business, you all want to be that marketing front. We want it to put an event on which actually engaged with comms and marketing people, all too often events can be a bit monotonous. So we thought, let's mix it up, make something engaging. And we created Commshero on the back of the idea of an event within eight weeks. And then since then, the popularity has grown, the word spread. And we've built upon that a massively believe it's coming from being authentic, that consistency, there was a massive shift, because obviously, we've been in a situation where we had annual events which gathered groups of people together, which could no longer happen.

But just because that that's the case doesn't mean we can't get people together. Obviously, we built this brand through solely online, and obviously conversations, there was a massive opportunity there to actually get people together, keep our name front of mind keep that support going. But what it shown is that community and online community can be so strong when going in the right way. So obviously not trying to commercialise every aspect of it. It's just a fantastic tool to be speaking to our audience as an organisation We Are Resource, but showcasing what value we can offer through the services through the packs we've sent out, but without actively selling them to these individuals, but as Goodwill's and celebratory. So the power of digital has been more prominent than ever because of lockdown. And I think that will continue from now on because of the accessibility.

Ben Walker  18:07

Couple of things to unpack there. I mean, first of all, it's very interesting that the actual online community has been very cogent, and very powerful. So you've been able to build up a community online, without being able to do it for a period. In person, the thing that I was desperate to ask is why marketers are so modest about themselves. The whole premise of your, of this, this product or this service, if you like is that marketers, just aren't very keen on blowing your own trumpet? Why? Why not?

Elliot Cierpiol  18:40

They're too busy blowing everywhere else is trumpet in the organisation. They've got too much going on. It's as simple as that. And obviously, you know, it is one of them roles that in the past has probably been undervalued, I'd say, obviously, locked down was a very interesting one. Because when, when COVID initially hit, I think the importance of comms and marketing roles suddenly became a lot more prominent than previous because now, we've been doing the day to day marketing stuff for all these years. COVID hit, we're going into lockdown, we need to communicate with people. And now we need to be front of mind through this period where businesses shake it, most likely, in most instances where we need to be in front of customers in front of our audiences.

Who's going to do that? It was the marketing departments and comms department. So, you know, the heroics that have shown over the past couple of years has been fantastic, because we've been able to share that as it as a community. And I think what's really important about Commshero is, you know, we build champions within the community. So we don't need to necessarily market ourselves we just need to be there spreading the right message, keeping in contact and people will do the champion for us.

Ben Walker  19:53

You're a curator of these these heroes. You're there almost as a neutral voice to give these these people these heroes of our industry a platform.

Elliot Cierpiol  20:01

Yeah, 100%. And I think that that's what Commshero is all about, you know, we've got a fantastic team here. And we're in a position where we, we've got a very open mind to how we treat our marketing ourselves. And obviously, if we're approaching our own marketing in the way that we want to showcase for our customers, the marketing will do the work for us. We don't necessarily need to worry so much about, you know, selling the individual products, although we do as a business, but it works for itself. Because if you're curating that, if you're building this brand up within organisations, you know, who's the first person they're going to think of, then when they want to work on autonomous piece, a marketing piece or project, who's done it really well, who's built an online community? We Are Resource did. And I think that's what's nice about it.

Ben Walker  20:49

Build it, and the revenue will naturally come is the message is it?

Elliot Cierpiol  20:54

Yeah, I think I think it's all down to authenticity, I think you've got to be relevant. You've got to keep up with the times and actually understand your audience. And what we've done with all our brands we've created, I know, we've created plenty, but we build relationships, and it's about people to people marketing. It's not, we're not trying to do business to consumer, in a sense, where, you know, we're dealing with people as an organisation, we're dealing people as a person. And I think that's what's nice, because if you understand your audience and where your audience lies as predominantly Twitter, LinkedIn, you know, we're there, we're active, we're engaging with them. But we're building relationships.

We're not, we are worried about the commercial aspect in the background in terms of right, how do these convert, but we're not forcing that on people. And I think that's where businesses can easily get it wrong. Because they see a community hell for leather straight in there with their promotions, discounts, ads, and they're not building a genuine relationship. They're just looking for one thing, and people see through that.

Ben Walker  21:58

Are social media platforms getting this Molly are they grasping this is really strikes me as an extremely important lesson that Elliott's giving here. In your experience on social medias, platforms really grasping this trend of community related content and how to sort of subtly soft sell, commercialise it without being a hard, clunky salesperson about it.

Molly MacArthur  22:22

They definitely are. I know, this is something that Facebook has been focused on for quite some time, there was a lot of research done into how online communities people spending too much time online is infecting their real life relationships and communities and how people don't even say hello as they walk past each other in the street anymore. So Facebook really picked up on this sort of negative press that they were getting, and made this promise that they were really going to push community. So they do a lot in the background, without promoting themselves to support financially, smaller communities and all these communities that we were talking about here.

And they do a lot to develop the tools and the groups that we were talking about with different functionalities. They have focus groups and surveys where they really try and build on what they've got there. But yeah, I think all social media platforms are really aware of this and some move faster than others in developing. I think LinkedIn is one that's particularly slow in this area. But Instagram and Facebook are really doing a lot to push that.

Ben Walker  23:23

Why is it slow? LinkedIn? What's What was it getting wrong?

Molly MacArthur  23:28

I think it's it's potentially just the way that business is I know, they tried stories recently, which is years after it had been bought out by Instagram and other platforms. And it just didn't work. I think it was, it was a nice idea. I think it could have been a really great insight into people's day to day life. What's it like to be a CEO and getting snapshots of people's days. But the way that it was set up, it wasn't most people I think use LinkedIn on a desktop. And you don't get stories on the desktop, but you didn't at least when they rolled it out. So sort of missed the mark a little bit there and way too late in the game. So I know they've they're scrapping the whole stories now. But yeah, a little bit slow.

Ben Walker  24:12

What it'll do, it'll give us all hope that one of the biggest social media platforms in the world to get some things wrong, sometimes that's a lesson for us all. Elliot, how are you innovating at Commshero and trying to get ahead of those trends. So you don't make silly mistakes like LinkedIn did.

Elliot Cierpiol  24:27

I'd like to say it's really simple for us. But that'd be too easy, wouldn't it? But basically, it's just understanding what what your customers are looking for where they are, what's relevant, obviously, I'm not there on tiktok just yet. And I don't think I will be at all dancing. But you know, if you take a look at the new social media platforms that are coming out, you know, tiktok being a massive win in terms of growth through locked down organisations that have taken advantage of that have reaped massive rewards in terms of building the communities, but equally there is negatives to joining certain communities in terms of all social media platforms, because you've got to be very careful what your brand perception is, as well. I think that that's one really important thing to know, especially with using your brand online to engage in online communities, you're now more under the spotlight than you've ever been with online.

So anything you put out there on the internet, it will be seen, it will be saved, it's on record. So as a brand, you've got to be very careful what conversations you're jumping into who you're having conversations with, what communities you're getting involved with. And equally, just how you want your brand to be perceived. If you're quite serious brand professional, tiktok might not be the account for you, you might be more focused on LinkedIn. So understanding what is relevant for your audience is a massive way to stay ahead of the curve. And I think that digital transformation that has forced everyone onto the internet a little bit, it's about staying ahead of that curve, and trying something different. The same from Commshero, which is hashtag dare to fail. And that's what we tried to do day to day. So everything we do, as a brand.

And as an organisation, we look to do something a little bit different. You know, if you're pushing the boundaries with your brand, as long as it's sensible, you'll get a response. If it fails, it will fail. But without trying, you'll never know what's going to work and what's going to be that that differentiator for you. And it's about standing out now. Because the crowd, the community is so saturated with other organisations with everyone online, you do have to stand out you can't just do the standard schedule posts. I mean, one really interesting thing from what we do as an organisation, we don't schedule any posts. So everything we do, from tweets to LinkedIn posts is all done by someone at that time, because you can very easily fall into traps with scheduled posts of you don't know what news is coming out that day. So you've got to be very careful, you've got to be ahead of it. And at least people know it's authentic then because it is current. But that's something that's worked well for us.

Ben Walker  27:06

Is that the future then Molly? Innovative sort of failing fast and being very, very responsive in the way that Elliott describes.

Molly MacArthur  27:15

Yeah, definitely. I think that's really interesting to hear that you don't schedule any of your posts. And I do see companies fall into that trap, where it's sort of the same repetitive thing that's just out in a schedule. But yeah, I definitely think the sort of online communities will continue to grow, I think we'll see sort of a rise and fall with trends come and go maybe slow cookers won't be the hottest thing for a long time. But right now, that's that's what it is. And yeah, I think they'll go from strength to strength.

Ben Walker  27:42

Do you have faith in the marketing industry to continue to sort of extract that value and fascinating testimony from Elliot is that the way to extract value is to not try too hard to extract the value, which is to create the platform become part of that community. And the value in terms of revenue will naturally come to do you have faith in the industry to sort of get that get to grips with that sort of soft sell, approach and extract maximum value from these communities in the years to come?

Molly MacArthur  28:09

Yeah, I definitely do. I think as long as we're focused on the value, what are we adding to our audience? There's a really good book, actually, that talks a lot about this. It's called Super Fans by Pat Flynn. And it will tell you in detail all about how to build a really engaged community online. So definitely recommend giving that a read if it's if building an online community is something that you're working towards. I think the key is sort of being clear on your vision and your purpose, what value you're going to add. And like Elliott said, just being engaging, replying to comments, I think is really key. Because that's sort of getting the people to love it. When you engage back with them. They're taking the time to tag you in a post or reply to something that you've posted. And if you're giving that time back and responding to them, I think that really started to create the connection

Ben Walker  28:56

Be a Commshero then and be rewarded. Elliott. Thanks very much for both of you. And I hope that you will both return on the podcast very soon. It's been fascinating talking to you today. Thanks, guys.

Elliot Cierpiol  29:11

Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Ally Cook  29:14

If you've enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe to the CIM marketing podcast on your platform of choice. If you're listening on Apple podcasts, please leave us a rating and review. We'd love to hear your feedback. You can also join the conversation on Twitter @CIMinfo where we'll keep you updated about the latest episodes. See you next time. CIM Marketing Podcast


Ben Walker Host CIM Marketing Podcast
Elliot Cierpiol Business development manager We Are Resource
Molly MacArthur Digital marketing manager Formerly CIM
Back to all