What does it take to energize a thriving community of superfans, in today’s Social Commerce era?

Community-building gurus Katie Adams (Senior Marketing Director EMEA @ Abercrombie & Fitch), Sian Pilkington (Senior Marketing Manager @ Mint Velvet), Grace Andrews (Marketing Director for Steven Bartlett & The Diary Of A CEO), Angelic Vendette (Founder @ Ave Advisory, ex-Alo Yoga, ex-Sephora), and Daisy Morris (Founder @ The Selfhood) know.

In this ‘Advocacy 101’ episode, you’re invited to dive back into Building Brand Advocacy’s best advice on the world of community. A compilation of insightful conversations and tactical advice from past episodes, the experts share exact strategies that have worked for nourishing their world-renowned brand communities.

Follow the timestamps to hear from…


– Katie @ Abercrombie & Fitch

On how full-funnel marketing remains pivotal for fostering community, why evolving alongside your brand fans is key, and her direct engagement strategies for building meaningful connections.


– Daisy Morris @ The Selfhood

On the nuanced distinction between an audience and a community, building for the Advocates who love you, and why it all comes down to speaking to your community to foster loyalty. 


– Angelic @ Ave Advisory (ex-Alo Yoga, ex-Sephora)

On harnessing the power of word-of-mouth, spotting strategic community investment opportunities, and how to attribute success back to your community-building efforts; despite its notorious difficulty. 


– Sian @ Mint Velvet

On combating dark social by leveraging community engagement, how to authentically participate in relevant conversations outside of your brand, and why cultivating a sense of belonging is the ultimate lever for connection.


– Grace @ The Diary Of A CEO

On adding immediate values to the community you’re cultivating, resisting the urge to chase every trend, and tried-and-tested strategies for Advocate retention. 

Tune in. Take your community strategy to the next level.

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Building Brand Advocacy 060: 


Advocacy 101: Abercrombie, Mint Velvet & DOAC's Cheat Codes to Community Strategy.

Katie - Whether it's a teeny tiny community, you and your best mates on WhatsApp or Instagram, whatever, or whether it's a community of thousands of Brand Advocates, you are special and you're a part of that community. And that means a lot to humans generally. 

Daisy - People typically remain more loyal to brands who make the effort to engage, connect, and retain them there because it's a saturated market. Like people have to really put the graft in now.

Paul - Have you ever wondered why some brands grow exponentially, building legions of passionate fans that live and die by their logos, and some, well, don't? I do, all the time, and that's probably because I'm a massive brand nerd, but I believe there's a secret source at the core of every remarkable brand, a formula that sparks the growth of passionate communities of superfans, building a business and a reputation that will last for years to come.

In this podcast, we tap into the greatest marketing minds in the world, as they share the exact tactics and strategies used to build the world's greatest brands, dropping actual insights every brand builder can apply. My name is Paul Archer, and I'm a specialist in Brand Advocacy and word of mouth, having consulted for hundreds of brands on a topic. Co-hosting with me is the wonderful Verity Hurd, expert on the bleeding edge of social media. 

It's time to learn and build brand advocacy.

Verity - Obviously we're here to talk about community, two legend brands when it comes to building a community. And I think now we're moving away from talking about building one and it's more than just having a community now, it's about obviously monetizing your community, engaging them. And obviously over the last few years, I don't know, Social Commerce has meant that things don't work the way they used to, like there's no cheap clicks anymore, cost of customer acquisition is just ridiculous. 

I mean, for both of you, where, if a brand is just getting started with this, trying to cultivate a community, where do they start in terms of moving away from sort of like traditional marketing to kind of bring these groups of people together? 

Katie - First of all, I think I'm a huge Advocate, pun intended, of a completely full funnel approach to marketing. So, even the phrase move away from traditional marketing…

I think it's probably something that we don't want to throw the baby out with bathwater on. I feel like traditional marketing absolutely has a place. In fact, tomorrow for Abercrombie, we're going to be launching a digital out of home campaign on the tube because we know that people need to be aware of brands. They need to start to consider brands in a way that they haven't in the past. So traditional marketing absolutely still has a role in my opinion. But I think moving also with where your consumers are moving and understanding how they are interacting and how they are engaging is really important and the place that you start there is with the people who already love you. So there are bound to be people out there who are already tagging you organically because they love your brand and because they love what you have to offer. So starting, it's almost like starting at the easiest place with people who already Advocate for you and then building proactive relationships with them where you bring them in to part of your brand community and you make them feel welcome and special because that's what part of a community is being. 

Whether it's a teeny tiny community, you and your best mates on WhatsApp or Instagram, whatever, or whether it's a community of thousands of brand advocates, you are special and you're a part of that community and that means a lot to humans generally.

Paul - I want to just go straight into the action. Let's talk about community. What is a community and what's the difference between a community and an audience? 

Daisy - For me, I think there's a big difference between an audience and a community. And something that is, I guess, one of my bug bears is when people describe their audience as a community. And I think a lot of big brands will do this. They'll say, oh, you know, it's for the community. And it's like, do you have a community or do you have an audience? 

So for me, an audience is group of people who maybe follow you, subscribe to your channels, interact with you, but on a one-to-one basis, so they may be engaged with your content, participate with your content, but on a very singular level, whereas a community is more engaged, I would say, than an audience. They're having conversations amongst each other, they're attending in-person events, and they're Advocating for you behind the scenes, so they're the ones that are going to the pub on a Friday, raving about your products and meeting their in-laws and singing your praises. They're kind of like your die-hard fans, followers, subscribers and customers, where an audience, they buy from you, but they're not super loyal to you. 

You know, if your competitors are peeking their interests and they're cheaper or they have some kind of advantage, they're not going to stay loyal to you. And I think we see this a lot, you know, with bigger brands. It sounds more compelling and I guess more friendly and human to say, look at our community or welcome to the community. So I think it's harder to grow a community. 

I think for brands, especially, I think it's easier for creators to build a loyal and engaged community because they are humans. Therefore their content is naturally more humanized. So for brands, when they call their audience a community, I'm kind of like, oh, come on, is that realistic here? Is it a community or is it an audience? So that's how I would break that down. 

Paul - So do you reckon, so from the sounds of it, it sounds like community is a subsection of your audience. They're your superfans, you've got your larger audience and then a group of them are the ones that sort of turn up to various different things, is that right? 

Daisy - Yeah, that's what I would say. They're the ones who are more, I always say, I've just written a book called Community is Your Currency, and phase one is you're Lingering Lindas. So they're the people on the sidelines that are maybe seeing their mates reshare your content or they've heard about you, they might peep on your content or your website, but they're not fully committed yet. And then you break them down into this journey and you take them to Die Hard Denises and Die Hard Denises are like the first to sign up to a new product drops. If you're announcing that you're doing an online event or an in-person event, they're there straight away, they're interacting with other people in the comments section. 

They're very loyal and committed to your brand and they're the ones that advocate for you, they're proud to be part of what it is that you're doing. Because I always think brands, and this isn't new, but especially now, brands become an extension of who we are as people. So the brands that we buy from, the people that we shop from, they are an extension of our own online personas. And I think social media especially has completely democratized the way that we engage with and create content. And everyone now has the opportunity to become a creator or an influencer. And I'm not saying that's everyone's end objective, but because there's so much more pressure on brands to be transparent and to live their values, that also reflects on us as consumers and therefore, yeah, the brands that we engage with and that we buy from, they are an extension of us. 

So people want to interact with brands and be part of brands communities who have strong values and stand for things and Advocate for that. I'm not saying that's everybody, you know, you've still got people doing fast fashion hauls that don't necessarily care about the fact that the brand isn't eco-friendly or climate conscious. But especially nowadays, I do think the pressure… mot necessarily even the pressure, but the expectancy that the brands that we buy from our art are a reflection of us in a positive light has birthed this need for brands to be fostering community because people typically remain more loyal to brands who make the effort to engage, connect and retain them there because it's a saturated market. 

Like people have to really put the graft in now.

Paul - What is it that makes that a community versus just a really engaged audience? If you think about it, you've got like a super fan who is buying Ganni and is passionate about it. And it's because of what it says about them as a person, as with every purchase that we make as a brand, it's a selfish sort of need to portray something to the world. Unless you're buying something purely for its utility, particularly when we're talking about fashion.

It is all about what you are portraying of who you are so other people can identify you, your tribe, your type of person, whether you lift, you wear Gymshark, you know, if you're stylish, you're wearing Ganni and that type of person. But where does just sort of audience and then really close audience and fans and superfans stop and start to become community?

Daisy - I think it comes down to that loyalty piece and also that wanting to Advocate. So I'm a passive audience member to lots of brands and that I follow their content. I've bought from them repeatedly, but I'm less likely to shout about the fact that I've bought about that brand because quite frankly, they haven't done their job in nurturing me, they haven't done their job in creating a brand that I feel deeply affiliated with and connected with on a personal level.

Whereas the brands that I feel I am a community member for, and from observation, the brands that I've worked with that have communities, they're really good at really, really knowing their customers, really knowing their audience and even things like, and this is, this sounds really like basic stuff, but brands who actually just go and speak to their community and understand exactly what they want, where they're at in their life, what they care about, what they don't care about, what they're passionate about, what they stand for. 

And I was just… I was just speaking at an event in Berlin and someone from Meta was on the was on a panel, and they were talking about they used to manage all of the top Facebook group communities in Meta and help them build community building strategies. And I asked the question, how do you really differentiate an audience in a community, especially at scale? 

So we're talking about Facebook groups with like millions, hundreds of thousands of followers. I was like, what tools would you use to really gauge the sentiment and the tone of what people are speaking about and foster an actual community? And he was like, whether you've got a hundred people or a hundred thousand, the best way is to go and speak to them and actually have conversations with them and actually have dialogue with them, whether that's through Facebook groups or intimate spaces. So WhatsApp groups, Slack channels, for example. 

So I think the difference between, yeah, an audience and a community is the brands who really fully understand their community inside out.

Paul - Do you see community building as a brand building activity? Are you able to attribute anything when it comes to community? I'd love to know about any frameworks you have so brands can think about this really tactically. 

Angelic - Yeah. I mean, I love the subject of community. I think community is the single most important brand building kind of tactic that, that brand leaders and marketers can use today in this day and age. Building community and being able to co-create with folks that are as passionate about your product, as passionate about your service and or experience, no matter what industry you're in, having them be a part of the narrative and grow it outside of what you're only able to do. It's going back to those examples of word of mouth.

You know, back in the day, maybe 20 years ago, you would say your best marketing is to deserve your first 10 customers as best as possible. And then they'll go tell 10 people, well, community in this day and age is not different, but they get to tell maybe hundreds of or thousands of people at a time because of social, because of reach and being able to foster what a community could look like both within the walls and confines of your company of your consumers, but then in the larger zeitgeist is very important. 

I think it's interesting that you mentioned attribution, whether it could be attributed or not. There's certainly tools that you can use to help do that, to help really quantify the value that community is bringing. And you and I both know attribution funnels are broken and extremely hard.

When it comes to, you know, kind of line for line saying what's brand marketing and what is that driving versus, you know, your bottom. Of the funnel, however, there's things to do, like, is it introductory kind of welcome links? It doesn't have to always be a discount code. But is there a unique experience that community members can drive their community to come in? And it might be early access. It might be kind of a unique landing page for that that person's community in and of itself. And so you could track all of that traffic. 

You can furthermore really track the engagement and the reach that you're getting from an EMV standpoint. And folks oftentimes undervalue the earned media kind of quantification that they're getting from that extended reach. And you would be paying for that otherwise.

A group of 1000 folks that are within my community and I had to now go reach 1000 folks. Well, that's going to cost me. And as a CMO, I have to know and understand that value of what community can bring me so that I could start quantifying and looking at the whole business from a marketing perspective and understanding where I invest. So there are tools and there are ways to quantify and also to track communities' values that go beyond just the direct conversion.

Verity - Okay, so obviously I want to talk about community. From a brand perspective, like how, in terms of like the dark social and things happening in DMs and through WhatsApps and things like that, do you see that as a big challenge or like how will you kind of cater to that? 

Sian - Not necessarily as a challenge. I think Mint Velvet's really good at growing a community and we've got a really loyal strong fan base, whether that's our customers or our ambassadors or influencers that we work with and I think the only way you can really combat dark social is through community.

You want to make sure that you're showing up in those conversations where it might be Maddie down the road has posted an outfit of the day on her close friends and you want to know where she's got the outfit from or you're at an event like this and you're like, oh my God, I love her silver trousers. Those are the conversations you want to be authentic in and you want to be showing up. And that's why I think you're going to combat dark social rather than kind of creating all these broadcasting lists, which I'm sure you've all seen and thought, shall I be doing that? 

Verity - Yeah. 

Sian - And it's kind of, yeah, staying true to yourself and just honing in on the community you already have. 

Verity - Yeah. And Grace, you said community is a big trend for 2024, community on steroids. It's not necessarily about building a community but strategizing around your community. Any kind of tips around sort of engaging, energizing the communities that these guys have all been building over the last few years?

Grace - Yeah, I think we finally got away from this idea of brands thinking they have a community but actually thinking they've got an audience, well actually having an audience.

And there's a huge difference between audience and community in my eyes is an audience is there, they exist, they might check in, they might check out, your community are talking about you to your friend down the pub and they're your ambassadors, so we all know the difference. And I think we finally are all on that same page. It's been a few years of getting there and I think now it's about, okay, we've got this community, we've nurtured them, we've given them a place to belong, how can we turn them into our Advocates or reward them or add value and get them to kind of stay as nourished and as nurtured. 

Verity - Grace, what do you think communities are going to expect from brands in 2024? 

Grace - That's a really good question. I don't think; it's funny when we do these things where it's like 2023, 2024, I don't think they're going to wake up in January and be like, I now expect XYZ. But in terms of trends and where we're going, they want transparency. So more and more every kind of Gen Z trend, like what to expect next year, Gen Z want transparency, they want authenticity, like they want all these buzzwords.

And then it's like, okay, you're sitting there as a brand having a brainstorm. It's like, okay, but how? Like, how do we be more transparent about what we're doing? Do we do a... Who's my example for going to be? Do we do, I don't know, duolingo and create a character and tell our story through this person? Or do we, you know, find another way of telling our story? I think, I don't think it matters as long as you are finding your platform and your voice and whoever it is to get that story across because...

At the end of the day, it's not a trend. It's the most cliche saying ever, people buy from people. And that's because people connect with people's experiences and people's stories and people's journeys and struggles and all of that sort of wonderful stuff. So it really is just finding a way to get that story across in a way that is authentic to you. 

Like being transparent doesn't mean, I don't know… if you're a brand that doesn't make sense to show the factory, because it's another country and everyone's like, you've got to tell behind the scenes, behind the scenes, behind the scenes. You're like, that doesn't make sense for us. We've never done that. It doesn't sit well for us. You've got to be transparent in a way that makes sense to you. And like that brand is going to do it differently and that brand is going to do differently. So I'd like to just not copying what others are doing as much as you possibly can. Like you might be inspired, might see something cool, but you don't have to jump on every trend by any means. 

And I would I would just look at ways of going, OK, here's our community, here's our product, here's our offering – how can we enhance this relationship and how can we speak our truth and our brand values to them as much as we possibly can? 

And it's not, there's not like crazy science to it. I think it's just, if they were coming, if you had an old school shopfront and you were in a village, how would you communicate what your brand's going through right now in a way that entices the customer? And it's just having those like stripped back conversations. 

I think we've seen a lot of, in terms of content, we've seen a lot of polished content in the last few years. We've seen everyone using the same subtitles and captions and cutaways and these polished, polished visuals and what we're seeing across email, influencer, social, all these different platforms is stripped back wall, honesty, transparency is breaking through the noise.

So I think it's that sort of stuff and just finding ways to experiment with it and incorporate it into your content and go, actually… Maybe we don't need a graphic designer to make this super glossy. Maybe we can get someone just to pull something together and just tell the story in their own way. And maybe that person should tell the story, maybe that person should tell the story and see what works and just test and trial new things. 

Verity - And Sian, just to kind of like, round everything up; you've obviously covered a lot, but in terms of utilizing a community for fashion and beauty brands, like what would just… in terms of like summarizing top tips, for utilizing them to really get that traction of word of mouth?

Sian - Show up where they are, be on the platforms that they are on that feel right for you. Join the conversation, don't just watch it happen, very much what you were saying, even if it's in DMs or on comments, make sure that you're there and being present. Reward them for being loyal or even just being a fan so that we can help turn them into part of the advocacy platform or program or whatever you've got going on. 

And I'd say the ultimate kind of tip is to make them feel part of something, like we like feeling part of something, how good does it feel when you get a freebie or some brand knows you, then that's fab. Allow them to feel that, because I think that's kind of the top tip there. 

Be a part of something. 

Verity - Amazing, love those.

Paul - That was another episode of Building Brand Advocacy, the world's top brand building podcast. To find out more about Building Brand Advocacy and how this podcast is part of a bigger plan for our brand building cookbook, then make sure to search for Building Brand Advocacy in Apple podcasts, Spotify and Google podcasts, or anywhere else that podcasts are found. And make sure that you click subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes. 

Thanks to Duel for sponsoring. To find out more, go to www.duel.tech.

And on behalf of the team here at Building Brand Advocacy, thanks for listening.