Taking the value chain of the brand into a branded community

Social Media opens up a brand’s sphere of influence and creative energy, beyond the confines of the business boundaries, out into the larger community. To do this, a brand’s presence in social media has to have the X factor, which marketers call social capital. So let us take a look at this allusive thing called social capital and how a branded community can become a part of a brand’s value chain.

Vivaldi and Partners, a US brand consultancy, wrote in a Fast Company article about the relative commercial payback of Starbuck’s social media presence versus Dunkin’ Donuts. The morale of the story goes something like this, while Starbucks had the numbers, it was still using social media in a mass media like way, driving volume traffic and communicating one to many. In contrast, Dunkin’ Donuts were many to many, stimulating interactivity and participation. In one competition, Dunkin’ Donuts asked customers to help them create the next donut, generating 300,000 entries and spikes in advocacy.

In Fast Company, Vivaldi published the criteria of what they believe creates social capital in a community. When we drill down into Vivaldi’s drivers of social capital, we simply see the traditional sales and marketing functions. The difference is, they are now reaching a greater sphere of influence through the community, with the spin of many to many, where the customer is in control of the conversation.

It is at this point I would make the claim that building a successful branded community is based on the business’s ability to take the value chain of the brand, in particular the sales and marketing function, into the branded community.

The following attributes of social capital are derived from Vivaldi’s studies, please note that while the attributes are Vivaldi’s observations, the wording is mine.


The attributes of social capital:


Emotional Connection with the community: In the past the brand built emotional connections along the lines of one to many, ie brand to customer, in branded communities, the brand connection is, many to many, as customers connect with each other.


Brand Advocacy: ie: the community has both detractors and advocates for the brand. Word of mouth has always be the key to the successful growth of a brand, a branded community further facilitates and fuels this.


Linked to self image: ie: the values of the community reflect the desired  self image of the customer. Attraction to a brand is based on an individual’s perception of how the brand fits with their self image. In social media, the community itself becomes both an expression of the brand and an extension of the customer’s self image.


Value of the Content: ie: relevance and practical value of the content in the community. Branded content is not new, sales presenters, product brochures, press releases, pre and after sales advice, are sales and marketing content that has been traditionally used in brand development. The difference of social capital being, branded communities provide a platform for branded content to be community generated and reach a greater distribution.


So what do we all need to do differently tomorrow to take the value chain of our business into branded communities?


  1. We need to map our trend setters and opinion leaders to create a community of influence
  2. Use the branded community to co create products and services
  3. We need to create raging debates, meaningful conversations and provide compelling reasons to contribute to the community.
  4. We need to shake loose the current confines of our business boundaries and actively consider how we can further expand the brand’s value chain into the community


Louise Kelly

Managing Director

Hearts and Minds



Founder of the Thought Leaders Circle





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