Emerging platforms are creating new dynamics in the way people interact with and influence each other, and consume and distribute content, consequently impacting how brands should approach online communities.

As a result of the greater amount of time spent online during pandemic and lockdowns, the shape of online communities has changed and evolved, according to Florencia Lujani, senior strategist and editor of Cultural Patterns.

Writing exclusively for WARC, she explains how they have adopted new forms of practice that are niche but significant.

“They are fluid, decentralised, sometimes anonymous, mostly private, yet capable of mobilising in highly-coordinated efforts to influence others and drive positive impact,” she says.

“Today, online communities are spaces at the forefront of cultural innovation.”

Why does that matter? Well, brand communities have often played a crucial role in collective value creation – think of how Harley Davidson was saved from closure or how Emily Weiss built Glossier as a brand.

Consumers also rely on brand communities as a source of information – and even “experience normative pressures to remain loyal to the brand and the community”, says Lujani.

She also cites evidence that suggests higher levels of participation and longer-term membership of a brand community not only increase the likelihood of adopting a new product from the brand, but also accelerate the time that this adoption takes while decreasing the likelihood of adopting new products from competitor brands.

Then there’s the use of communities to identify insights around emerging practices, unmet needs, and desires, which have led to new product development and innovation efforts.

But now, as new practices of online culture emerge, new challenges arise for brands interested in creating communities with business impact.

“Emerging platforms like Discord, Patreon, TikTok, Triller, Clubhouse, OnlyFans and Substack are introducing new dynamics of user participation and content distribution, while creating new economies,” Lujani observes.

“Influence is moving in all directions and impacting other verticals, with much more fluidity than before.”

Any brand that thinks its official Facebook or Instagram page constitutes a community really doesn’t get it, she suggests – brand pages play a different strategic role from communities which have very different dynamics.

“Brands should think of communities as spaces where they can gather people around an interesting story and where they can curate content that brings the brand’s point of view to life, while also leveraging social as a powerful media channel that drives reach,” Lujani advises.

But to do that, “it is critical to understand the shape of online communities in an ecosystem that never stops changing and evolving”.

For more on what online communities look like today and what brands can do, read Florencia Lujani's article in full: The new shape of online communities.

Sourced from WARC