Marketing and Community are often at odds.
As community professionals, we often vilify the Marketing team as ‘too close’ to sales and gumming up the community with promotions. Whereas the Marketing team often doesn’t know how to engage in the community, feels gatekept, and doesn’t see our intrinsic worth. If it doesn’t have a monetary or clear value, marketers often don’t have the time or resources to focus on it.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Marketing and Community can learn a lot from each other, and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship when you have clear paths and campaigns to work together on. And, selfishly, we can help our communities thrive with engaged members by tapping into social media as a growth lever.
So how do we build this relationship and get Marketing on the community train?
Here are three avenues I’ve found that work extremely well to show the community’s value to the Marketing team and drive new members to your community.
There’s a specific function that takes much of the Marketing team’s time: content creation. For most Marketing teams, it can be hard to come up with ideas out of thin air to power social and long-form content creation.
That’s where the Community team comes in.
We have a fountain of content and ideas from our community on a daily basis, whether it’s common challenges in the space, questions about our products, or questions people newer to the space need clarity on. All those things make excellent (and often highly searchable and shareable) content.
Promote these community conversations on social media so your audience knows where to find — and contribute to — relevant discussions.
a. Share a content calendar
Or at the very least, get access to the marketing calendar and give Marketing access to yours to give both teams a pulse on what the brand is saying (either via the community or social). And if there’s one thing marketers love, it’s a consistent brand voice.
b. Create a group chat
I know — we’ve got too many Slack channels. But to work cross-functionally, both teams should have a collaborative space to communicate seamlessly and help each other.
The Marketing team can share questions they’ve been getting in DMs or comments, or posts that have been getting a surge in engagement. The Community team can share interesting threads in your platform, trending topics, or specific members to highlight on social.
c. Provide a weekly recap
Even if you share community conversations as they happen, outline the most engaging conversations and the highest value content you’ve seen in the community that week. Share direct links with the Marketing team so they can dig into the conversations for themselves.
Look at clothing and skateboarding brand Supreme. To the untrained, unstylish eye (hi, hello, that’s me ✋) you might be confused why so many people flock to the releases and openings. But there’s a reason: scarcity.
It’s the same reason concerts and festivals do pre-sales, and why big tech conferences do ‘early-bird’ pricing. Tapping into scarcity increases desire. And what does that do? Increases social engagement.
In social media, this is often in the form of giveaways. Think of the big splash Venmo made this year with its #VenmoItForward campaign. But not every Marketing team can dish out $10,000 multiple times a year (nor should they).
You can create community-exclusive initiatives or content that don’t break the bank and give your social audience more reasons for wanting to join your community.
a. Create community-specific merch
Don’t just slap the logo on a shirt and call it good. Make it cool! Play with the brand a bit. Use common phrases or maybe inside jokes from the community.
For instance, the merch at hound (where I work) has ‘you’re awesome’ as the main content on the chest, as opposed to our logo. We get stopped and conversations start far more often while wearing it compared to our regular hound merch. And the same will happen on social. Which leads me to…
b. Encourage user-generated content from community members
Have the social team promote the merch and start some buzz around it. You could highlight community members using or wearing it, and ask members to share it on social with a brand hashtag.
c. Do private events with people in your space that others look up to or admire
The more intimate you can make the event feel, the better. Whether it’s a Slack AMA, webinar, or roundtable, you must make sure:
When you make those three things happen, every other event you host will have a waitlist. Don’t forget to promote the event on social!
You don’t have to look far to find industry experts to promote — your community is full of them! Amplifying your members outside the community platform shows your social media audience the value of your community and your members’ expertise.
It can also help accelerate community growth, as seeing community members being highlighted shows your social audience that you shine a light on the people of your community.
a. Find your community influencers
These could be either:
b. Decide the best way to highlight them
Between these two groups, you’ll give Marketing a good mix of people to choose from. Whether that’s someone who can bring a bigger crowd to your social content or events or someone who can fill the content calendar for days with their thoughts. Both are super helpful for marketers.
For instance, if you have a member with a large following, you can collaborate on a post together, host giveaways, or let them do a takeover of your social account. If you have someone who is a fount of knowledge, you could feature them in an interview, host an Instagram live or Twitter spaces event, or grab quotes from them to generate more educational content.
c. Cross-promote in the community
Create a #spotlights channel or a place where you can hype up your community members when they’re featured. This will encourage other community members to want to be featured and can increase engagement on those social posts, helping make the case for social to do more of these campaigns in the future.
Having Marketing and Community alignment can only help your community.
By partnering with Marketing on campaigns, we can power their social content via community discussions and highlighting members, while creating more buzz and intrigue for our community with our social audience.
That’s what I call a win-win.