Online Communities are Popular in 2022
Have you ever visited a website that offered a private membership community in addition to products and services? Many brands have started to offer their customers a place to connect with each other, get unofficial support, and get access to exclusive perks.
Online communities are largely popular in the business and marketing industries, where many sites generate six figures. However, online communities can be found in any niche.
Educational course communities are just as popular, but fewer in number. And there are dozens of other communities built around niche topics such as yoga, blacksmithing, gardening, and more.
If you search hard enough, you’ll find an online community dedicated to any topic you can think of. Outside of business topics, people love connecting over their favorite hobbies and interests.
Online communities mirror real-world communities
An online community is a great way to meet people all across the world and stay connected in real time. It’s like the global version of a local community.
There’s almost no difference between a real-world community and an online community in terms of how it works. The only difference is the manner in which people communicate – on the computer versus in person.
People feel comfortable in online communities
In online communities, many people share more openly than they do in person; perhaps because they can be anonymous and/or avoid the awkward nature of silence and stares.
Anonymity is a huge benefit for people who join internet communities. While most people still interact as their true selves, anonymity is appealing. When someone is anonymous, they don’t have to worry about being recognized by someone they know and finding out they’re a Star Wars fan or into knitting.
It’s easier to share your thoughts in detail using a keyboard because you can take your time and edit your communications without feeling any pressure. Nobody knows you’re going to post a comment until it’s posted, so you can take all the time you need.
Why are online communities on the rise in 2022?
There are several reasons for the rise in popularity and expected growth through 2022. Those reasons begin with accessibility and move into the nuances of what a community provides for businesses and customers.
What online communities provide for businesses:
- Accessibility. There was a time when online communities were reserved for big brands with large budgets, but that’s not the case today. There has been a strong demand for internet communities for a long time, but they weren’t always easy to create. Today, they’re everywhere, now that it’s easy to build a website and membership plugins are easy to get.
In the last ten years, a growing number of small businesses and individuals have launched membership websites, mostly on the WordPress platform. WordPress makes it easy for anyone to create and edit their own website.
- A wealth of feedback. There’s no better place to get feedback than from conversations in an online community dedicated to your products and services. You’ll get a range of positive and negative feedback, but also suggestions for making improvements.
- Market research. If you don’t know exactly who your market is, an online community can help you get some of the market research you need.
For example, say you have members who bought your product and then complained on your discussion forum that it didn’t do what they expected. This might be a reflection on your product, but it could be a mismatch with your target market and/or your advertising. You can figure that out by reading and analyzing the comments.
You can also find out who is using and enjoying your product by collecting certain demographic information at sign-up.
- Brand ambassadors. Brand ambassadors are customers who love your company so much that they take it upon themselves to be unofficial spokespersons by promoting your products and services every chance they get.
If you already have brand ambassadors, they’ll flock to your online community. If you don’t have any yet, your community will help you find them.
- Revenue opportunities. With a private online community, you can set up different membership tiers and charge a fee for each level. Each tier would be given a different level of exclusive content only available with a membership.
What online communities provide for customers:
- Access to information. Everyone loves tips, tricks, and advice. That’s why advice columns in the newspaper have never gone out of style. In an online community, members have access to more information than they would on their own.
Online community conversations offer a form of crowdsourcing for just about anything the members discuss. For example, members often post new ways to use a product, hacks to make it work better, and troubleshooting tips for beginners.
- Support. Online communities provide support, but not just for your product. It’s common to have a section where people can discuss anything. People enjoy talking about life and personal matters with others they feel connected to. Your members will bond through a shared interest in your brand, and that’s what will make people stick around.
- Perks. Members always get perks. Your existing and potential customers will enjoy whatever perks you provide for joining your community.
- A sense of belonging. People want to feel like they belong. Online communities provide a space that makes people feel like they’re part of something, even if it’s just casual conversation.
Examples of membership sites
Are you thinking about creating an online community? Check out these examples of successful membership sites spread across a variety of niches like education, fitness, music, food, and more.
You’ll find plenty of inspiration from looking at successful sites. Once you have an idea of what you want, it’s time to build your site.
Building a budget-friendly membership website in 2022
If you’re on a budget, the best way to build your site is by using BuddyBoss for WordPress. As the predecessor of BuddyPress – a free membership WordPress plugin – BuddyBoss includes a theme designed specifically for use with a membership site.
If you’re not familiar with WordPress, or you’d rather hire someone to do the work, we can help. We are a full-stack WordPress development team that specializes in building membership websites.
Contact us today so we can discuss your project and create a plan to build your ideal membership community.