For businesses, communities are a superpower. Building communities for your customers can bolster marketing efforts, deliver rapid R&D, drive the customer journey, and much more. In a previous article, I talked about the value of brand communities and how two small and medium-sized businesses successfully leveraged their communities to drive business value. Today, we’ll explore how two global brands have seen success with the same strategy.
Airbnb host communities
Let’s first take a look at Airbnb’s incredible approach to building online communities at scale for its hosts. Airbnb leverages 600 Facebook groups as online hubs for its Host Club program. Currently, 120,000 host members across 66 countries belong to these groups. The communities are managed by hundreds of volunteer hosts who are supported by Airbnb’s community team.
Is it worth all that effort to sustain? The answer is a resounding yes.
How exactly does a robust community lead to better outcomes?
“Hosting is a very local experience. Much of the guidance and advice hosts need to thrive is on the city or even neighborhood level, so connecting with other hosts in their community is an ideal way for them to learn, grow, and take their hosting to the next level,” said Ashley Williams, senior manager, community at Airbnb. “Without our hosts, Airbnb wouldn’t exist. The Host Club program allows us to strengthen our partnership with hosts and connect more deeply with hosts at scale.”
Scale continues to be the goal. Airbnb plans to launch even more Host Clubs in the future and hopes that eventually, all 4 million of its hosts will join a community.
Volkswagen ID. Drivers Club
While Airbnb has built a broad community program designed for every host, Volkswagen is taking a more focused approach to community-building by tapping into its European electric car customers through its ID. Drivers Club Facebook group.
In September 2020, Volkswagen started an online community of owners that has steadily and organically grown to a group of 10,000 of the company’s most engaged customers. As of June 2022, the group had more than 9,000 active members. Since the beginning, users have written more than 9,000 posts, 87,000 comments, and 8,500 direct messages. Volkswagen has seen this energy carry over offline as well. In 2021, a small group of community members held their first successful event for 100 like-minded people in Switzerland, while additional events are currently being planned.
More importantly, community-building has become a pivotal part of Volkswagen’s product development process and has led to several user experience improvements. One example is the implementation of a permanent state of charge graphic on the interface in its vehicles, which looks like a smartphone’s battery percentage. Customers have grown accustomed to this graphic and prefer it to seeing estimated miles remaining on the current charge.
“We continuously draw feedback from the group and use it to deliver better and more customer-centric software with each generation,” said Silke Bagschik, head of marketing and sales, product line emobility at Volkswagen. “Now our product teams regularly approach the community team to ask what our customers want.”
So there you have it: Two incredible brands in vastly different verticals leveraging community-building in meaningful ways. In my third and final article of this eMarketer series, we’ll dig into the role of communities in the creator/media economy and highlight some best-in-class examples. Keep a lookout for that article next month, and download our brand community playbook to learn more.
—John Cantarella, Vice President, Community Partnerships, Meta
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