2014-25-November-GoPro-User.jpgDigital tools and social networks are making communities stronger and more important than ever for brands.

Whether it's your local burrito shop or GoPro, nurturing a community of active users can accelerate the brand development and spread the word over digital channels. Now, this might seem obvious, but is everybody doing it? Businesses that don't focus on building a digital community will have a hard time getting over the hump.

The concept works in just about any industry. Digital tools have given businesses more power than ever to do this. You can build your network with email communications, social networking updates and digital content.

GoPro or Go Home

One of the best current examples is the massive high-definition action camera marker, GoPro -- a recent IPO -- which helped build its dominant position in the industry by building a grass-roots marketing campaign using user-generated content. When GoPro discovered one of these user-created videos had 600,000 page views on YouTube, it started uploading user videos daily. It now uploads more than 6,000 videos per day to its YouTube channel and website.

The GoPro video business has become so huge, in fact, that some GoPro experts think that the camera company might have a bigger future as a media company.

This incredible array of action sports content comes from the customers, and it helped build the brand. GoPro has been masterful at taking this digital content and working it into its marketing programs. GoPro doesn't just sell hi-def cameras, it's built its own media community of adventure athletes.

GoPro isn't the only one doing this, as Fast Company points out. Fashion retailers and consumer goods companies are regularly harvesting social media content and using this to bring their community together via digital marketing.

The LaPa Challenge 

A friend of mine runs a successful local burrito shop in our college town, called La Parilla. He focuses on loyalty programs, email communications and fun contests he runs across digital media. The contests, which are highlighted on social media, are yet another form of content.

For example, every month La Parilla runs the "LaPa" challenge with absurdly challenging goals. If a customer completes the goals -- usually numbering 10 and often very difficult -- they get free burritos for a month. This November's LaPa challenge includes "dress like a turkey and gobble down Main St. on a skateboard." There are also charitable goals such as "make a donation to the food bank."

What's great about the contest campaign is that it integrates the social media. To compete in the contest, the contestants must post proof of their participation on the La Parilla Facebook page

LaPa's techniques are great for building the community, and the contests have become legendary in the town. The content from the contests is reused, as pictures in the store or media highlighted on the company's social networks. In a college town, this generates excitement for the brand and helps keep it top of mind.

Community Power

There are many examples of small, local businesses using their own content and digital communications tools to build a community. For example, a coffee shop I'm a fan of hosts activities such as music performances or book readings. The coffee shop promotes these events in email and local publications, and the performances help reinforce the coffee shop as a gathering point for the community. It's more than just about consuming coffee (which I will gladly do).

Whether you are part of the global GoPro community or the La Parilla community, it's small marketing and content details like the La Pa challenge and the GoPro videos that help keep the brands vibrant. These companies have stronger brands because of their active cultivation of community.

Title image by ThierryB. (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license