Paid ads on Facebook and Google are getting very expensive, and as a direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand, it is not prudent to rely solely on paid advertising as the primary marketing strategy. Moreover, the customers acquired through paid advertising rarely stick for a long period of time. D2C brands should explore organic and more long-lasting ways of reaching their audience and building a loyal community.

D2C brands build community in a myriad of ways - on social media platforms like Instagram and Tiktok, platforms like Facebook Groups and Discord, ambassador programs and many more. There are advantages of each channel and typically brands opt for a combination of these channels. In addition, the effort estimate and impact vary greatly per channel and it may be wise to double down on the few channels that are working for your brand rather than trying too many channels.

That being said, here are some popular channels that D2C brands can leverage to build community: 

10 Ways To Build A Community

  1. Content on social media

    “Content is King”, and when it comes to content, social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok are the prime ways to grow and educate an audience with quality content.

    D2C brands can leverage Instagram and TikTok in a myriad of ways to educate their prospective customers and the larger community about what they stand for and here are some interesting ways in which brands can stand out:

    1. Talk about the problem
      “You’re not selling a gym t-shirt, you’re selling good health”. Talk about the problem your brand solves and not the product. What transformation will your customers get after purchasing your product?

    2. Behind the Scenes
      Show customers what goes on behind the scenes at your company. If you have employees, it’s a great way to showcase the culture of your team.

    3. Discuss tips and best practices
      Share tips related to the solution you’re offering. What are the best ways to use it for customers to get the most benefits?

    4. Industry news
      Feel free to share news about your industry as it’s quite possible that your audience will be interested in what’s going on in the broader market. If you’re selling a skincare product and there is a ban on certain products, your customers would want to know about it.

Glossier, a beauty and skincare brand, has a program called "Glossier Squad" that allows members to test and review new products before they are released to the general public. They also have a strong presence on social media, where they engage with and listen to their community's feedback and ideas.

Effort: Medium
Impact: Very High

2. Email newsletters
Email newsletters are a great way to build community! A community doesn’t have to have its own platform. 

Email newsletters make it easy for your customers to stay in touch with your brand on a regular basis. Content repurposing can really help you here - Youtube videos and podcasts can be converted into newsletters, which can then be broken up into blogs, Linkedin posts and Instagram / TikTok reels and short videos.

Effort: Low
Impact: High

3. Encourage user-generated content
User-generated content helps your brand showcase the voice of its customers and fans and build community.

Customers love seeing other customers wear a brand’s products so they can see how the product benefits people like them.

User-generated content can also be used to increase sales by making it shoppable and displaying galleries on your website and shoppable posts on Instagram.

Lastly, UGC helps you leverage your fans, customers and nano-influencers to grow. Once a customer shares UGC on their own Instagram, the story or post is seen by their followers, who can then become customers themselves. The same holds true for brand ambassadors.

UGC is an organic way to grow your community and increase sales. The "Show Us Your Roots" contest by Lush Cosmetics: In this contest, Lush asked customers to share photos and stories about their cultural heritage using the hashtag #LushShowUsYourRoots. The brand used the UGC to create a series of social media posts and in-store displays celebrating diversity.

Effort: High
Impact: Very High

4. Create a brand hashtag

D2C brands can create a hashtag that inspires their customers and top fans to create UGC. This UGC content (posts, stories, reels and videos) can then be displayed on the brand’s website as a feed or gallery.

Finally, these galleries can be made shoppable and can help the brands increase sales.

Effort: High
Impact: Very High

5. Brand ambassadors
A D2C brand can also leverage brand ambassadors who could be customers, fans or nano-influencers to create content for a discount coupon or other benefits.

A brand ambassador strategy is a great way to build and grow a community for a D2C brand, and some of the best brands use this strategy to grow their community on platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

Brand ambassadors can increase sales, but can be leveraged for other purposes as well such as feedback about new products, early adopters / beta testers, and their social media following.

ThirdLove: ThirdLove, a lingerie company, partners with Instagram influencers to promote their products. These influencers often post pictures of themselves wearing ThirdLove lingerie and include a discount code for their followers to use when making a purchase.

Effort: Medium
Impact: Very High

6. Run a contest or giveaway
D2C brands can create contests to get more followers / UGC / signups or for any other crucial metrics.

Contests are also a great way to get customers and brand fans to co-create with you. For example, Threadless, a t-shirt brand created the "Design a T-Shirt" contest in which they invited artists to submit their own t-shirt designs. The winning designs were produced and sold on the Threadless website, and the creators received a cash prize.

Effort: Low
Impact: Medium

7. Use polls and Q&A
D2C brands also use polls and Q&A quite often to get feedback from their community on social media. Polls also help increase the engagement of the account and signal to the social media platform (Instagram, TikTok) that you care about your followers’ opinion.

Effort: Low
Impact: Medium

8. Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs help you reward your most dedicated and loyal customers. Loyalty programs are a great way to increase the LTV and ARPU for your products.

Allbirds: Allbirds, a sustainable footwear brand, has a loyalty program called "Friends of Allbirds" that rewards members with exclusive products and experiences, such as private shopping events and product releases.

Effort: Very High
Impact: High

9. Create challenges
Challenges can be a great way to stand for a cause that is related to your brand. For example, if you have a fitness or activewear related product you could do a 30 day fitness challenge where you share knowledge about fitness on your brand and help your customers work with each other to get fit.

Peloton regularly has challenges on its Instagram community that motivates community members to get more fit and share their progress.

Effort: High
Impact: High

10. Events and Meetups
Lastly, events and meetups can be a great way to build community as nothing beats in-person interaction.

Warby Parker: Warby Parker, a eyewear company, has a program called "Warby Parker Class Trip" that brings their community together through events and experiences, such as museum tours and pop-up shops. They also have a philanthropic component to their program, where they donate a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair purchased.

Effort: Very High
Impact: Very High

A combination of these initiatives can work great for you as a D2C brand and we at Casa help you grow your community, UGC and ambassador initiative. ​