How to Build Successful Online Communities

Community Building

Despite a global pandemic that shook the economy, investment in community platforms only continued to rise with people finding unprecedented value in communities. This year, online communities are only expected to keep booming as a growth strategy, as brands and businesses seek better ways to connect and collaborate with customers, peers, and co-workers.

Today, organizations that can transition from simply offering a product or a service to also building a vibrant community can unlock an extraordinary competitive advantage, creating a superior business model offering benefits such as:

  • Reduced dependency on paid advertising
  • Increased customer retention through ongoing engagement
  • Voice of the customer
  • Reduced support tickets by connecting customers with loyal brand advocates
  • Increased customer lifetime value
  • Lower acquisition costs

Growing a community requires a delicate balance. Since you are competing in a fierce attention economy, it’s important to reflect and analyze what will make a mark for online spaces and communities in the year ahead.

So what trends can you expect exactly? Here’s what we think.

Be accessible

With everything being virtual nowadays, it’s more important now than ever to make sure your community is accessible to your target audience. The key to doing this is to choose a software that lets you build a browser-based community.

Consider investing in a platform that offers a Progressive Web App (PWA). PWAs are extremely fast and work offline or on slow networks. You don't have to download the PWA unlike a mobile app, and therefore it’s always up to date. You can start a PWA using a browser and install an icon on the home screen for easy access (similar to a native app). Having a PWA also helps boost SEO, resulting in a higher Google ranking for your community.

In terms of maintenance, a PWA means less work since the content is now delivered only to a single web-based platform. On top of all that, you don't even have to deal with the requirements and possible geographical restrictions of app stores.

Don’t fall into the Discord problem

In the heat of the pandemic, Discord grew to be one of the most popular online spaces in the last 2 years. The most significant growth came in 2020, when it doubled its number of monthly users from 56 million to 100 million, before continuing with another 50% increase in 2021.

As a community owner, it can be tempting to host your community in a fast-paced platform, but don’t be so quick to do that. Why? Take note that if you build your community on Discord, you’ll be competing for attention vs. millions of other servers out there. Apart from this, you won’t own or have direct access to your community or follower data. In essence, you are dependent on Discord’s (or any social media provider, for that matter) users to spot and join your community. You are dependent on the rules and algorithms they have in place.

Ask whether your project or community is better suited in a dedicated platform where members are opening the app specifically for your community and your organization. A dedicated platform gives you complete ownership and control over your community, plus more customization options to fully brand everything from your design settings to your custom domain.

Don’t silo

We know it can be tempting to organize people into niches. Niche communities are brimming with opportunity because they’re the sort of groups people join and immediately find belonging in. But if there’s anything we’ve learned these last few years, it’s that communities thrive on exposure to new ideas. When people with diverse expertise interact with each other, they learn, and there’s exchange of value.

Although your members share a common connection to the community, it's natural for them to form smaller groups that are centered around more specific or even off-topic discussions. And that's actually good for the community! As an owner, you want to have certain subforums to accommodate different types of people, content, and resources.

Some community owners love organizing more than engaging—don’t fall into this trap!

Put a price on it

Building and growing an online community is no joke. You have to invest in content creation, marketing, and community management so people will actually engage with what you’re doing. Not only does it take up several hours of your day, it can also significantly eat up your resources.

For anyone who’s put in that work into their community, knowing how to translate the value of your efforts can be difficult—but it doesn’t need to stay that way. If you’re putting your time and energy into creating an online network of people, its important to figure out how those connections will keep the community sustainable over the long haul.

If your community is driving exceptional value, consider charging for it. Not every group should be gated, but we believe that community work should be rewarded. And in order to for you to do this, you need to invest in a community platform that actually supports your monetization initiatives. That could be through paid member subscriptions, paywalling valuable content, or selling online courses.

Make way for smart moderation

The internet has over 4.9 billion users and growing, generating billions of content every day. Before, companies have traditionally relied on community managers for their content moderation needs, but as usage and content grow rapidly, it’s no longer cost-effective or efficient to solely rely on people. And this is where AI and automation come in.

Smart moderation is not only going to be helpful, but it will be a necessary feature that you’ll need for your growing community. Of course, we won’t see communities being taken over by machines anytime soon, but the idea is to invest in machine learning (ML) tools that help moderate content automatically.

Gamify your community

Central to the success of every online community is, of course, a good engagement strategy. Most community platforms out there suggest that the main problem for brands is setting up community tools, but really, the struggle is keeping members engaged and coming back.

This is why community platforms like put great focus on built-in gamification features. Games are incredibly appealing, and they help us feel positive emotions like curiosity, perseverance, and creativity—making it the best and most unique engagement strategy out there.

In communities, we use gamification to drive user engagement and increase member retention. Users get to mod their profiles, level-up, complete quests, earn badges, unlock rewards, and so much more. New members even get special access to the Rookie Questline, which helps introduce them to the community and its features.

And those are top community trend predictions for this year. Do you predict something different? Let us know in the comments!

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