10 reasons why successful brands build online communities

In a world where digital connectivity is the norm, and consumer engagement is a key factor for success, building an online community has become more crucial than ever.

“A brand-owned community gives brands direct access to customers and fans with no restrictions from the large social platforms.” This quote is from a 2021 Forbes article that highlights how online communities provide “ample data collection, feedback, and measurement opportunities that can help brands build a first-party-data-driven strategy.” 

If you want to go into more detail, Forbes also has a 2016 article on “5 Critical Reasons To Invest In Online Communities”.

People have been talking about the benefits of online communities for years. And with each passing year, the message gets even stronger: online communities are the future of any business as more and more people seek meaningful connections.

And the data backs it up: 76% of internet users have visited an online community of some kind.

Today, we'll explore why establishing a vibrant online community is a strategic move for your brand and delve into real-world examples and case studies of companies that have successfully leveraged online communities to propel their growth.

Let’s get started.

Why invest in an online community?

There are so many reasons why investing in your online community can be one of the biggest factors contributing to your brand’s success. But before we get to the top 10 list, let’s take a closer look at our favorite three reasons why you should build an online community:

1. Fostering customer loyalty and advocacy: One of the primary reasons to build an online community is to create a space where your customers feel heard and valued. When you establish a platform for them to connect, share experiences, and provide feedback, you're not just selling a product or service; you're cultivating a relationship. 

A prime example of this is the outdoor apparel brand, Patagonia. By creating an online community centered around environmental activism and outdoor adventures, Patagonia has forged a loyal customer base that not only buys their products but actively promotes their brand values.

2. Enhancing brand credibility through UGC: Online communities are treasure troves of user-generated content (UGC), and savvy brands are capitalizing on this content to enhance their credibility. 

Take a look at how Airbnb utilizes its community platform. Hosts and guests share stories, photos, and tips, creating a rich tapestry of content that not only markets the platform organically but also builds trust among users.

3. Gaining valuable customer insights: Your online community is a goldmine of insights waiting to be tapped. By actively participating in discussions and monitoring user behavior, you can gain a deep understanding of your customers' needs, preferences, and pain points. This valuable information can inform product development, marketing strategies, and customer support. 

Salesforce, a leader in customer relationship management (CRM), understands the power of community-driven insights. Their Trailblazer Community serves as a hub for users to exchange knowledge, helping the company continually refine its offerings based on real user experiences.

And now, without further ado...

Top 10 reasons why every brand should consider investing in their online community:

1. Brand loyalty: Building a strong online community fosters a sense of belonging among customers, leading to increased loyalty to your brand.

2. Customer engagement: An active online community provides a platform for direct interaction between your brand and customers, fostering engagement and creating a more personalized experience.

3. Customer feedback: The community serves as a valuable source of feedback, allowing your brand to gather insights, understand customer needs, and make informed business decisions.

4. Word-of-mouth marketing: Satisfied community members are likely to share positive experiences with your brand, leading to organic word-of-mouth marketing and potential customer acquisition.

5. Product improvement: Real-time discussions within the community can highlight areas for improvement in your products or services, enabling your brand to make necessary adjustments quickly.

6. Brand advocacy: A vibrant online community can become a hub for brand advocates, who actively promote your products or services to their networks, amplifying your brand's reach.

7. Market research: The community provides a cost-effective way to conduct market research, enabling your brand to stay informed about industry trends, competitor activities, and customer preferences.

8. Content generation: Community members can contribute user-generated content, such as reviews, testimonials, and creative expressions, which can be leveraged in your brand's marketing efforts.

9. Customer support: An online community can serve as an additional channel for customer support, where community members can help each other, reducing the workload on your support team.

10. Community-centric innovation: Engaging with your community can spark new ideas and innovations, as members share insights and collaborate on solutions, potentially leading to the development of new products or features.

Get inspired by successful online communities

LEGO, the iconic toy brand, has taken community engagement to new heights with LEGO Ideas. This platform allows fans to submit their own designs for new LEGO sets. The community then votes on these ideas, and if a concept receives enough support, it has the chance to become an official LEGO product. This not only sparks creativity within the LEGO fanbase but also ensures that the company produces products that have a ready and eager market.

HubSpot, a leader in inbound marketing and sales software, has built a thriving community around its products. The HubSpot Community is a space where users, partners, and experts collaborate, share best practices, and troubleshoot issues. This not only reduces the burden on customer support but also creates a self-sustaining ecosystem where users help each other succeed. This community-centric approach has contributed significantly to HubSpot's growth and reputation.

While not a brand in itself, Reddit is a prime example of how a platform built on community engagement can become a powerful marketing tool. Numerous brands, from small businesses to global corporations, leverage Reddit to engage directly with their target audience. For instance, the skincare brand The Ordinary gained immense popularity through Reddit, where users shared reviews, recommendations, and advice, turning it into a cult favorite.

Peloton, a pioneer in the fitness tech industry, has masterfully cultivated a vibrant online community around its interactive exercise equipment and streaming services. Peloton's community platform goes beyond just a fitness tracker; it's a social hub where users can participate in live and on-demand classes, compete with each other, and share their fitness journey. The success of Peloton's community lies in its ability to turn individual workouts into a collective experience.

Communities are the secret to future-proof your brand

Building an online community is not just a trend; it's a strategic move that can future-proof your brand in the ever-changing digital landscape. By fostering loyalty, harnessing user-generated content, gaining insights, and learning from successful examples, you can create a thriving community that not only benefits your customers but also contributes to your brand's long-term success. 

If you want to learn more about online communities, check out our article debunking 10 community myths (with real-life examples from brands you love!) and 15 must-have community features for ANY app.


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