Humans are social creatures. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, most of us enjoy spending time with people—be it in an intimate setting or a large group hang. Perhaps that’s because there are benefits to socializing, like sleeping better or improved productivity.

It makes sense then that people react well to consumer experiences that incorporate a sense of community. As technology advances, the rules of consumer engagement continue to change, and businesses are using interactive digital tools to craft more meaningful and mindful marketing methods.

Community as the new commercial

Flashy signs and million dollar TV commercials are nice, but the future of marketing lies in cultivating value-based relationships with customers. One way to build relationships of value? As social creatures that crave social experiences—communities enable us to build connections and lasting memories.

Flashy signs and million dollar TV commercials are nice, but the future of marketing lies in cultivating value-based relationships with customers.

By creating accessible communities and relationship-building opportunities, companies extend the customer experience and are more likely to build a natural advocate network. Companies like Spotify have successfully created a collective of brand advocates because of the sense of community and emotional connectivity the brand facilitates.

Value-based relationships

In The Future of Advertising, PSFK—a consulting and insight firm—explores three ways businesses can create value-based relationships with customers through community building.

Fan-pairing. According to PSFK, relationship-building initiatives should connect audiences to a brand story that emphasizes connections rather than products. Take KLM, the Dutch airline. KLM took it upon themselves to connect locals with travelers. In doing so, the airline extended the experience of their brand, giving it a deeper meaning than just a transportation service. The travelers now associated their adventures with KLM and local new friends—taking their relationship beyond a sterile experience in the airport or on the plane.

Fans can also make great brand evangelists, even acting as extensions of a company’s customer service team.

Fans can also make great brand evangelists, even acting as extensions of a company’s customer service team.

Conversational assets. It’s one thing to emphasize connections over products, but it’s even better to have more ways to talk about those connections. PSFK suggests entering the consumer lexicon and allowing customers and customer service agents full-range to express how they’re feeling. Think branded emojis,

2nd screen participation. With tools like live streaming and real-time activators, it’s easy to create participatory opportunities for remote fans. It’s simply a matter of considering how your company can connect with consumers with another screen, like their mobile phones. PSFK used the example of NBA InPlay in their report; fantasy games that fans can play live during broadcasts. It not only effectively engages the people that are watching but can’t be present, it also takes outlets for customer engagement from static to dynamic.

Companies that actively engage customers and create communities are ones that go above and beyond in regards to what their customers want. As social creatures, people love when they get to extend a good experience by talking with others. Customers want to share their happiness, they just need a community to operate in, a dynamic language to communicate with, and multiple ways to engage—even if they can’t be there in person.

Amanda Roosa is a content marketer for Zendesk and a frequent contributor to Relate. When she's not petting other people's dogs, she's exploring where technology and humanity converge. Find her on Twitter: @mandyroosa.