2019 Online Community Trends from 4 Big Events
It’s an exciting time for online community experts, fans, and leaders. As the Product Marketing Manager for Khoros Communities, I had the great privilege of getting a front row seat to it all this year, and I thought it would be fun to sum up 2019's top online community trends! In this post, you’ll learn about 4 industry events valuable for online community professionals, along with 5 key trends these events revealed. But first, some quick logistics:
Online community events I attended:
- CMX Summit
- Khoros Engage
- Khoros Communities Autumn Innovation Release
- Community Roundtable Connect event
Hours spent in conferences:
~315 (and that was just during daytime hours)
Online community event takeaways
At this San Francisco event, community professionals came together to discuss the industry, share best practices for building community, and connect.
- In person events are an increasingly important way to deepen connections and engagement.
- The definition of a community has to incorporate all channels — social network, online, offline, internal, external, and more.
- “Business should be personal” — Nick Mehta, CEO at Gainsight.
Khoros Engage had a strong focus on online communities, as well as keynotes and sessions from marketing, care professionals of all types and industries. To read the full recap of this event, check out our blog post.
- Community is increasingly part of a bigger conversation about how to engage in a meaningful, personalized way with prospects and customers.
- There are a ton of motivated, smart, and earnest professionals using digital tools to help people feel more engaged and connected to others.
- You need to take time to think about community strategy. As Richard Millington from FeverBee said, “You can’t fly the plane if you’re serving drinks in the cabin."
Khoros Communities Autumn Innovation Release
This was a significant collection of product innovations for Khoros Communities. Highlights are available in our blog post, while this recorded webinar is the best way to learn about all the new capabilities.
- Communities are already known to be valuable for customer support use cases, but there is a lot of untapped potential, such as the ability to syndicate community content throughout your brand's website to involve community in every stage of the customer journey.
- Today's customers trust other customers more than brands — online communities allow your brand the opportunity to own and control the channel where brand advocacy is built.
- Capitalizing on online community opportunity requires robust technology and experience.
September 23rd Community Roundtable Connect Event
The most intimate of the events, Connect was laser-focused on sharing and building best practices for community managers. The attendees here were the most passionate and had the most experience building strong communities across a variety of industries.
- Internal communities are fertile grounds for improving productivity and innovation if given the proper amount of light and attention.
- The future of community is here, it’s just not evenly distributed. Some people say the technology is lagging the market, others say the profession is behind the technology. I say both are true.
- “The helpdesk portion of communities is just the tip of the iceberg — it’s highly visible, but there is so much going on underneath the surface if it can be properly used.” — Lori Harrison Smith of Motorola Solutions.
Top 5 online community trends
1)Peer oriented communities are on the rise
Diminishing trust and attention for traditional digital channels means that communities hit the sweet spot for users who still need a reliable, on-demand source for information. Brands are realizing that empowering users to help each other not only makes fiscal sense, it improves customer experience and increases loyalty. It’s a (not-so) new paradigm that some are still struggling with, but a tipping point feels imminent.
2) Community is dead — long live community
From a technology perspective, community platforms stagnated for a few years as social media sucked up all the air in the room, but a new renaissance is beginning. In fact, community maturity is quickly outgrowing the technology, as the sharing economy expands into more industries and everyone becomes more data savvy.
3) Support and customer retention still rule
Although customer growth and acquisition are coming on strong as marketing teams realize that communities are incredibly fertile areas to interact with potential customers as well as existing ones.
To some degree, this has limited the adoption of communities because support teams are more pragmatic and cost sensitive than other departments, but it also means that communities have a strong foundation from which to build deeper use cases. This was corroborated in both the Community Roundtable and CMX keynotes.
4) Data is the new king
Customers are now used to much better data access than just 2 years ago. The BI revolution means every product needs to have 1) simple insights available on demand and 2) incredibly detailed feeds with real time fire hoses of data. However, vendors now need to orient data around users and customer experience instead of content generation and usage metrics. As vendors solve the problem of accurately measuring every customer’s journey through community and deliver a simple understanding of that, community advocacy will skyrocket.
5) Governance and data privacy are merging in communities
Branded communities already have a huge advantage over Facebook when it comes to trust: you already know what is being sold in communities. If you didn’t know before — what is being sold on Facebook is you. It is clear in communities that you are exchanging your attention and contribution for a better experience with the product or services that the brand is selling. Therefore, the data is jealously guarded by the brand and there is no way they are giving that to anyone — which members like!
An exciting future for online communities
Online communities have an almost unlimited potential. In this post, we learned about how communities are making amazing social changes in the world as well as how communities are driving new business models.
What's next is still up in the air
Some say the future is in-person integration. Some say the future is with collaboration tools like Slack and Teams. Others say AI is the way. Interpretation: customers want a platform to distribute power and connect users, but most are not sure what that looks like. Companies are trying to build everything and also make sure that it all integrates seamlessly with everything else.
My personal vision is that communities will have to start to function as the knowledge backbone across the entire digital AND physical landscapes for brands: meaning easier, more interactive experiences at every point of action instead of forcing people to go to a specific event or place to connect with their peers.
Think of how you see your friends activities in Spotify, or how you can share to Facebook that you are going to a concert from the page where you buy tickets. What if hitting a goal in your software popped up a suggestion for you to join a group of similar experts? Or completing a purchase of a new TV directed you to a forum about how to optimize the lighting and sound? Most people only use communities for a small portion of what they are capable of, and we need to think of new ways to engage broader audiences.
Nobody builds a community by themselves, and Khoros wants to build the future of communities with you all — the digital leaders of today. We would love to start by talking about what you see. Head over to our Atlas Community to join the conversation! And to learn more about online communities, sign up for our webinar: Unlocking Community Engagement.