In many ways, 2022 was a year of widespread resetting. Societal, Governmental, economic, and technological changes brought about new opportunities and challenges for business leaders. In 2023, we will see a more pragmatic approach with organisations consolidating the many shifts made in 2022, into long-term business operations (the rise of hybrid work is a good example of this). Naturally, this reflects in the online community trends we’ll be seeing this year — including leveraging communities to drive business growth (known as community-led growth), with more emphasis on business alignment, and greater insights delivered through community data.
So let’s dive into each online community trend.
9 Online Community Trends for 2023
1. Business outcomes become a focus
Increasingly, business stakeholders are waking up to the potential of online communities on their top and bottom lines. The 2022 State of Community Management report found that 88% of C-level execs felt positive towards community plans. This creates great buy-in for community managers but also raises the bar for performance, results, and reporting.
Savvy community leaders are stepping up, by connecting the dots between communities and business outcomes. The most commonly reported ones in 2022 were:
- Customer loyalty and retention at 68%
- Awareness and branding at 60%
- Product usage at 45%
- Employee retention at 65%
- Culture change (internal) at 57%
2. Communities integrate with the business
Due to the increased executive interest and serious expectations being put on the community, you’ll see more community teams begin to operationalise. Team members will report on the things that matter most to the C-Suite and integrate more with the business. There’ll also be more focus on community ROI measurement.
Value creation will become a core remit and you’ll see big community partnerships with other business units. Product teams can use their brand community as a source of feedback, while sales leaders can tap into exactly what their prospects need and are feeling right now (based on community discussions and questions). Community insights will influence everything from product development to marketing strategies.
3. Community data informs the wider business
First party community data will become more critical to all business areas, not just within community teams. This data is generated directly by your community members so it’s more insightful than other sources like social platforms. It can be used to inform everything from content creation and marketing communications, to product features and customer support. Vitally, community data is owned by the business. Meaning you have full control over it and don’t have to pay extra to access or use it.
4. Online communities’ role in marketing and comms evolves
Online communities will cement themselves as critical in the marketing mix, while online tools such as social media and Slack communities will move towards feeding the community with new members. The mainstay of meaningful, lasting communication and relationship building will be the online community.
More brands are moving away from communities hosted on social platforms and Slack. They are setting up private communities on dedicated community platforms. This gives them more control over the experience and who can join the community, and also generates that valuable first party data just mentioned. For this reason, private communities are one of the hottest trends in community development.
Instead of hosting your community, social media and other public marketing channels will become an amplifier for it by attracting new members. Social media managers, digital marketers, and community managers will be partners in growing the community. Social media and digital marketers will focus on creating a growth engine for the online community and community managers will foster deep, lasting connections with new members.
As Zapnito CEO Charles Thiede explained in a recent B2B Marketing podcast, “The connections happen in the community. There’s no more pushing sales messages and whitepapers, interactions are more dynamic.”
5. Communities share their purpose and values
Having a clear purpose and values is becoming a major purchasing motivator, especially for Gen Z and Millennials. These two generations are seeking out brands that are changing the world for the better (and Gen Z are known for boycotting ones that don’t). Online communities provide the perfect sounding board for your brand purpose. Aligning with your customers’ values and goals, and providing a space for them to collaborate with others towards those goals, will improve brand stickiness.
6. Events and community become even more integrated
For a while, communities were almost used as a replacement for in-person events. Then, they became a complement to physical and hybrid events. As more event teams partner with their community colleagues, you’ll see this area mature into something that adds significant value to attendees before, during, and after an event.
Combining an in-person or hybrid event with an online community can drive 24-7-365 engagement and increase the buzz around an event. Community data can be used to inform event schedules and content. Video panels featuring experts is one tool you can use to boost community engagement. Those same experts can be a part of your community long-term, authoring articles and answering questions before and post-event.
It’s a quid pro quo relationship as holding live events is a major community engagement trend — particularly if it’s exclusive to your community members; as it gives people a clear reason to join and remain with your online community.
7. Community content experiments and becomes structured
This might read like a juxtaposition, but you cannot effectively experiment with your community content if you don’t have a content calendar in place. The calendar gives you a steady cadence of content that keeps your members engaged and interested. With that in place, you then have the freedom to experiment with new content styles like short-form video. However, despite the benefits, it’s not yet best practice to formally plan your community content and progams.
So 2023 will see community teams begin structuring their content. They will also turn to external sources, such as community peers, strategic partners, and industry experts, to contribute their insights.
Those with existing content plans will use 2023 to explore new content based on media trends like TikTok and Twitter threads. People are consuming content in different ways based on their needs, time of day, and the message being shared. Covering all bases with a range of rich multimedia content will help to get their attention.
8. More communities drive revenue opportunities
Business leaders are on the hunt for more revenue streams and, depending on the kind of community you’ve built, your community can become a driving force for revenue diversification. It allows you to engage directly with customers and prospects, to upsell and cross-sell in a more organic way (especially when you harness collective intelligence to build trust in your products and drive recommendations). Plus, the community itself can be monetised through advertising, membership tiers, premium events and rooms, selling courses, and more.
9. Community-led growth becomes business fuel
Community-Led growth is a go-to-market strategy that puts online communities at the core of the business. It unites brand experts with customers in a trusted space, to share knowledge and create more frequent and valuable engagement. In turn, this boosts product adoption, customer retention, advocacy and referrals, and can drive new customer acquisition. Ultimately creating a direct, measurable impact on your recurring revenue.
With the right community-led growth strategy in place, your community who will boost your reputation, credibility, and help to nudge prospects closer to signing on the dotted line.
Staying on top of community management trends
Of course, we cannot possibly predict every trend in 2023. As the past years have shown us, life likes to throw us curveballs. Being responsive and open to change is a strong trait to build in 2023 (and beyond).
To stay ahead of online community trends, always be listening to your members and keep an eye on the market. Your members will tell you if their expectations and needs are evolving, if not directly then through their discussions, questions, and engagement within your community. Colleagues in marketing and sales can also help you remain on top of wider market news and changes in prospect priorities. Setting aside some time each month to listen and learn about your members and the industry will ensure you spot the next big thing in community management, before it even classifies as a ‘trend’.