Creating profitable communities from media brands

Media brands have always principally defined themselves in terms of the quality of the content they produce.  However, an equally powerful asset is being able to create a community around a particular topic or point of view, especially a community that is appealing to advertisers.  See my recent post on the media futures conference for more on the idea that media brands will be a meeting place for conversations to take place rather than just a collection of great content.  So how can media owners develop profitable communities; in particular how can they create a “meeting place” that can charge an entrance fee?  Media businesses will have to go far beyond the usual collection of savings, offers and discounts to create a valuable community.  Here are some principles that may help you in your thinking:

1. Belonging

Established media brands have a strong identity, and people have a clear image of their typical reader, user or member.  If individuals identify closely with that image, then they will be happy to be associated with the brand, and wear the “badge” proudly.  They will also be keen to listen to the views of “people like me”.  Within a group, rewards of special status can be more valuable than cash or goods.

2. Access and Exclusivity

Everyone loves to feel like an insider, and be treated as a VIP, with hot off the press news, special access to experts, gurus or stars, or exclusive “member-only” events and offers.  Providing priority booking for events or special offers can be a valued benefit.  A big draw of RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) membership is being able to get Chelsea tickets earlier in the week…

3. Networking

People love to socialise, share ideas, or even do business with their peers, or those who share their interests and point of view, and feel more at ease doing this in a closed community. In a business context (or even a social one) they may well place a higher value on networking that they do on content.

4. Contribution

An expert or well-informed community may well be able to contribute significantly to content, and will relish having the tools to do this.  Photo Answers generated huge numbers of reader photos in a very short space of time, and built significant content for the site.  Provide your audience with the opportunity to contribute ideas, content and comment and they will become more engaged and loyal.  Prolific contributors can be rewarded with special status.

5. Power & Influence

People love to feel they are making a difference.  This can be as simple as voting for their favourite products, providing feedback on content, or even being asked to help test out new products.  Long-standing, loyal, enthusiastic readers and members can feel extremely proprietorial about a media brand, so harness that and listen to their views.  Famously, Barcelona Football Club is owned by its supporters, and in seeking new members appeals very strongly to their wish to influence its future development.

If you have successfully established a profitable community around a media brand I’d be interested to hear your experiences.

Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital media and marketing strategies.  If you’d like to discuss how you could develop a profitable community from your media brand, please contact us for an inital meeting.