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The Best Brands Are The Ones That Build "Belonging"

How Brands Can Build Belonging

Most brand-led community building focuses on people loosely aggregated around a brand, where the brand is the hero, and the people mostly interact with the brand.

What is needed are initiatives that enhance belonging with real connection. Brands should create spaces, experiences, products, and services that deliberately foster the conditions for diverse people coming together in respectful environments for shared experiences.

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The Best Brands Are The Ones That Build "Belonging"

The Best Brands Are The Ones That Build "Belonging"

https://www.fastcompany.com/40530846/the-best-brands-are-the-ones-that-build-belonging

fastcompany.com

6

Key Ideas

A Crisis of "Belonging"

In previous eras, people used to gather around a faith group, neighborhood association, or trade union.

However, the crisis of social isolation has created a vacuum that commercial, for-profit brands are stepping in to fill.

Connected But Alone

Social isolation may be the leading problem of our era.

  • 89% of people used a cell phone during their last social interaction. 82% felt it degraded the conversation.
  • 40% of Americans identify as lonely; up from 1 in 10 in the 1970s.
  • One in four Americans have no trusted confidante; up from 1 in 10 in 1985.
  • Less than half of American kids live in a traditional family home.
  • There’s been a 40% decline in standard measures of empathy since the 1990s.
  • There’s been a 24% rise in suicides between 1999 and 2014.
  • Only about half of Americans trust their neighbors.

Tribal Connections

Technology is part of the problem of disconnection, as we're replacing deep, emotion-driving in-person relationships with superficial online relationships.

Another cause is the decline of participation in organized religions that were traditionally responsible for weaving social fabric. Reweaving the social fabric is vital to the individual as well as collectively.

How We Gather

Some for-profit brands are identifying the opportunity for stepping into the cultural need and market opportunity for more in-depth, real-world person-to-person connections.

Those companies that help us forge meaningful connections will win deep loyalty. If belonging can be built around apparel and technology companies, surely it can be built around learning, parenthood, food, and health.

How Brands Can Build Belonging

Most brand-led community building focuses on people loosely aggregated around a brand, where the brand is the hero, and the people mostly interact with the brand.

What is needed are initiatives that enhance belonging with real connection. Brands should create spaces, experiences, products, and services that deliberately foster the conditions for diverse people coming together in respectful environments for shared experiences.

Principles of building belonging

  • Make contact with people you disagree with.
  • Share collective joy and pain.
  • Speak up politely when you disagree.
  • Embrace the paradox. Those with a strong sense of belonging often demonstrate a mix of traits, such as the courage to stand alone, while also being engaged in a group.

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Community Engagement Cycle
Community Engagement Cycle

In contrast to existing communities, new ones lack a social identity, an established way of participation and assurances of reward or value. These are the foundation of the Community Engagem...

Why People Sign Up To A Community
  1. The community aligns with their identity.
  2. They trust that the community will bring them value.
  3. They know how to participate.
  4. There is a reward (intrinsic or extrinsic) for their participation.
Build the Foundation of Community
  1. Form the a community’s Identity: Carefully choose 10 potential members who fit the community identity you envision. They’ll set the standard of quality and the tone for everyone else.
  2. Earn Trust: The members can’t trust a community that doesn’t yet exist, but they can trust you. Connect with them, bring them value and ask for feedback.
  3. Fuel Participation: Start to build trust between the members. Their trust in you will translate to trust in each other, and in the group as a whole.
  4. Reward: Ask if the experience was valuable and if members felt rewarded for their participation. This gives them extra validation and lets you know what to fix if you need to retry.
  5. Repeat Steps 1-4: Invite new members and give existing members the opportunity to invite someone new. As the base of the group begins to settle it creates a sense of belonging and makes people more likely to invite others who will fit the group.

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Anti-Social Social Media

Studies show that the younger demographic wants restricted, private, secure and exclusive networks which cannot be thronged by unwanted people, like their parents.
These exclusive online social ...

Private Messaging Campfire

Private messaging services like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp are where private interactions happen and people are comfortable sharing details in private group messaging.
There are new applications like Tex-Rex, The Infatuation, or Community which are helping brands penetrate this private space.

Micro-Communities Campfire

Micro-communities are platforms where people gather around shared interests, beliefs or passions. Some examples are Facebook Pages and Groups, Instagram Stories, Slack and Youtube.

Brands can tap into this by partnering with influencers who have the kind of demographic they are targeting.

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