At Edgar Allan, we like to say that brand is a club. But what does that really mean, and why should you invest in your brand’s club when building a product? Because community matters a lot of the time, at least as much as your product does.
Storytelling and marketing
According to marketing guru Seth Godin:
“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.”
Sure, people have concrete, practical reasons why they buy things. But often, there are also ethereal, impractical reasons, too — a brand personality that just resonates, a community they want to be a part of, a new way they want to see themselves. And there is one meaningful way that brands get that kind of juice: storytelling.
Storytelling is nothing new. And even the idea of brand as a way for people to emotionally connect to products is nothing new — it’s been around since the birth of the two-martini lunch. (Hello, Mad Men.) Historically, there are a few standard ways we get brand stories out into the world:
- Mass marketing: One product story blasted out to everyone. Think commercials, billboards, and traditional marketing websites.
- Targeted marketing: A more personalized message distributed to a slightly more refined audience. Basically, it's just a different flavor of one mass story that aims to narrow the blast radius a bit. Think directed ads.
But then there’s this third one that’s a little newer (and we think super important):
- Network marketing: Personalized messages distributed amongst many groups of individuals. This is brand-centered community. Think product forums and social media.
While mass and targeted marketing both have their place, network marketing is extremely valuable — and often under-appreciated and overlooked. To meaningfully engage with users and build affinity and connection through story, brands must first become listeners, paying attention to what's happening with their product out in the world. A great way to do this is by nurturing micro-networks and attracting active, avid users looking for their kind of connection and conversation. Within those exchanges, we can expand and develop our brand story.
Why does community matter?
A great community doesn’t just increase sales (though it does that, too). It also gives you valuable, actionable insight into your product — helping you improve your offering by giving you a manageable avenue for getting real-time feedback from real users.
A few of the main benefits of creating community include:
- Less churn. By turning fans into users invested in not just the function that the product serves in their lives but the story the product allows them to be a part of, they become active, invested advocates. For example, if a user is part of a tight-knit, passionate community of people who feel that they’re also a part of the product’s building process, they’ll feel heard, experience a twinge of ownership, and as a result, be less likely to jump ship at the first sign of trouble.
- Better customer understanding. With an active community around your product, you hear directly from their customers, for good or bad: what they’re enjoying, what they would like to see in future iterations and updates, and everyday insight into their pain points and frustrations.
- More word of mouth. Your users are your organization’s most valuable asset. People trust other people (modern life aside, we’re still pack animals), so when users see a passionate community formed around a product, they’re more likely to give it a chance.
How has Edgar Allan created community?
There are many ways to build community — and what’s awesome is you don’t have to choose just one.
Community forums, advisory boards, conferences, and social media all create community in different ways, facilitating discussion not just between you and your users but also between users themselves.
Edgar Allan’s product, Slater, has a pretty great community behind it. An extension for Webflow, Slater is an AI-assisted tool that allows users to inject code directly into their Webflow build, empowering them to add more functionality to their websites without necessarily learning more complex code themselves.
We started building Slater in 2021 and have prioritized community engagement from the jump. For us, the Slater community isn’t just a marketing tool — it’s a core part of how we build the product: in public, alongside and with the help of the group of advocate-users we’ve collected around it.
We’ve learned so much from the resulting community, including what Slater users love about the product and what could work better for them. In this way, we can let the customer in on the product-building process. By inviting them behind the magical product development curtain, we humanize the process and create affinity for it through that spark of ownership mentioned earlier. And because of our amazing, tight-knit community, our users feel comfortable letting us know if they have issues right away — and see that we’re working on solutions.
Invest in your products by investing in community
If you are building a product, don’t just invest in product development — invest community development, too. Through community, you can grow your user base and learn about what your users really need, both of which will prove invaluable as you grow.
And if you're not already, follow Slater on X (f/k/a Twitter) to become a part of our growing community.