Nurturing Brand Communities: Insights from Community Strategist Kate Rushton

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Kate Rushton, an independent community strategist, researcher, and user experience designer, has managed communities for social welfare, businesses, telecoms, competitive food brands, and micro learning communities. She started her career as an energy analyst and later worked as a community manager for OpenIDEO. Brand communities serve various purposes, such as creating brand ambassadors, providing feedback, and offering insights. Sponsored influencers are essential for a robust brand community, as they help “funnel” new customers into the brand’s network and forge closer ties with potential and current clients.

Independent community strategist, researcher, and user experience designer Kate Rushton. For the last four years, she has established and managed communities for social welfare and businesses. There are also internal marketing communities for telecoms companies, competitive gourmand communities for international food brands, and “micro learning” communities like Red Bull Mind Gamers. In a past life, Kate worked as an environmental and energy analyst and educator. She is passionate about sustainability and education. Prior to covid, she lived in Stockholm and Barcelona before settling in Northern England.

Let’s start our mycreativefansite interview!
Could you please provide me with any background info? What brought you into the field of community development?

I started taking part in online innovation competitions as a work-from-home energy analyst. What started as a minor pleasure developed and blossomed. For the best analyses of the submitted submissions, several of these competitions offered awards. Then OpenIDEO asked me to volunteer as a community manager for one of their online challenges. They were then hired as a result, which led to work for additional companies, advertising agencies, and brands.

What function does a brand community serve?

Depending on the community and brand, the goal may change. Creating a pool of readily available brand ambassadors is often the aim of branded customer communities. These brand ambassadors may help create more conversation and content about a company’s marketing endeavors, give assessments and comments, and offer suggestions and insights. It is feasible to have a deeper understanding of what top/loyal consumers genuinely want by bringing them closer to a brand. This will enable the business to develop better goods and services. An on-demand client market research and creative firm may be compared to it.

Are sponsored influencers still necessary if your brand community is robust?

Ideally, both ought to be applied. With the aid of sponsored influencers, you may “funnel” these new customers into your brand’s network. Then, with the aid of your brand community, you might forge closer ties with both potential and current clients.

However, I would advise that your sponsored influencers come from people who use your product or at the very least enjoy it. Genuine brand devotion and authentic content are easily identifiable, in my opinion. When an influencer doesn’t like a brand, it is clear. People are absolutely able to see through it.

What role does a community play in the creation of content?

Content might include everything from product reviews to commercials. Generally speaking, you must provide a kind of payment for content, such as points, discounts, or anything else the community members consider valuable.

It is feasible to ask for reviews in return for free items. If you need video ads, you may run a contest with a specific brief. It depends on the intended type of material, the delivery schedule, and the level of control the brand wants over the final product’s content and presentation.

How can you encourage more people to join a brand community?

I advise implementing incentives and prizes up front to encourage particular behaviors like teamwork, content creation, etc.

Then, as the community grows and expectations are established, you may give the community more and more decision-making authority. This might be achieved by “badging” key participants, giving them clear duties and responsibilities, or asking the community for suggestions on events they would want to attend.

I believe it is essential to regularly ask the community for input on what they enjoy, hate, and want to improve.

It is clear that analytics are crucial for brand communities given that you are a member of a marketing team.

What role does analytics play in other types of communities?

Analytics are essential for brand communities since they help identify the sorts of subjects and people that interact with the community, their problems, etc.

Since you need to know when your community members are active, what material they are interacting with, and what is working and what is not working to maintain driving activity in the community and establish a growing community, I would suggest that analytics are equally crucial for non-brand communities.

If analytics aren’t used to keep track of this, you’ll be depending too heavily on the subjective assessment of the administrators and won’t be able to identify the root cause of problems or what to do to resolve them.

Which analytic kinds must community administrators keep an eye on?

You should create and periodically assess personas for the members of your community, in my opinion. You may wish to identify them and incorporate them in your growth strategy if your company intends to grow in a certain nation and there are people from that country or with a strong connection to it in your neighborhood.

Then, depending on the identities you’ve created, you need to keep track of how many people are coming into and going out of the community at any one moment.

You must ask “why?” if an excessive amount of one particular population is leaving your neighborhood.

I also think it’s critical to keep track of the subjects and content kinds that your audience finds interesting and disinteresting. Then make an effort to modify your plans as necessary.

Every community has people who are drawn to one another by a common passion or interest, or whose personas simply compliment one another. It is crucial to take note of this since you might want to engage in an activity with a group of other community members who get along.

Then it is valuable to keep an eye on who in your network has a company, a blog, or other relevant or intriguing interests and skills, like producing videos for TikTok. In the future, you could want to work with them in a positive way.

It is important to look into the general and community-specific subjects that members of your community are and are not interested in discussing.

Using the technologies already present on community platforms, some of these items can be monitored, while others cannot. I’m not aware of any communities that allow the development of personas, the assignment of users to these personas, and the observation of group dynamics. I might be wrong, though.

What challenges do people face while creating a community?

In my opinion, there are three major challenges to building a community.

1. Outlining “why” people should become a part of your community

gaining the confidence of your founding members to invite them to join your community.

3. requesting information from your initial community members

Additionally, when your community expands, it manages this expansion to ensure that it either stays near to its original goals or takes a route that you and the community find pleasing.

What are your top three recommendations for those trying to build communities?

1. Have you done research and identified a market niche for your neighborhood?

2. Specify a clear goal for your community and the methods by which it will be accomplished.

3. Establish your community’s definition of success and the metrics by which it will be assessed, then assess success.

How do you see community development developing in the future in light of developing technologies and the “new normal”?

I think communities will becoming smaller. I think that a deeper connection with a smaller group is more desired than a superficial connection with a bigger one.

As opposed to forum posts, I think more communities will embrace audio and video material to foster a more personal, human environment.

In my opinion, more groups will dissolve as a result of worries about privacy and people’s need to belong to a “safe space.”

As opposed to “top member” insignia that are nebulous and imprecise, I think there will be more gamification and badges that are little more customized and meaningful, honoring community members as experts at something.

I think that communities’ finance strategies will advance. Community management that isn’t paid takes a lot of time and work. As a result, I think people will look for partnerships and other revenue methods.

I predict that more businesses will want to help and back communities that are consistent with their missions. Additionally, I see more businesses exploiting communities to further their corporate goals.

I think certain businesses might develop customer communities to market and sell their goods and services. You might use a community of your customers to develop content and promote your brand through peer-to-peer recommendation instead of spending money on Facebook advertisements.

Could you tell me about your goals and hobbies outside of work?

Being on the ocean and kayaking are two of my favorite things. I just bought a brand-new kayak. I’m now anticipating its arrival as a result.

I do yoga almost every day. I also like to make scents.

I was a digital nomad who traveled extensively before Covid-19. In my hopes

Continue it, but do so more sustainably and at a slower rate.

More information:

You can contact me on LinkedIn

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