Because Of The Benefits They Provide, Specialized Online Communities and Brand Communities Have Begun To Overtake Traditional Platforms
Aside from the monumental success they’ve realized, social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube all have one thing in common: they’re incredibly broad.
These traditional platforms don’t focus on one particular element of the social space; they try to cover everything. Facebook, for example, offers tools for communication, marketing, social sharing, networking, e-commerce, photo and media sharing, polls, user-generated content, and much more. It’s a comprehensive social network.
But that’s exactly the issue: we’re currently seeing a shift towards more niche offerings which puts the focus well beyond major players in the online community social space. While traditional platforms like Facebook use some personalization features and attempt to become more contextually relevant to each individual user, these efforts aren’t enough. People want tools that are going to provide relevant content or experiences right from the start. It’s too time-consuming to sift through a wealth of information to find what they’re interested in.
As a result, people across all channels — B2C and B2B included — are flocking to niche communities that cater to their specific interests. It’s not just about the usability and convenience, though people have grown wary of large platforms. In the wake of events like the Cambridge Analytica scandal, data privacy and security have become a huge concern.
Users are interested in more than just a tailored community. They also want platforms that can offer better privacy and security — think Telegram, a cloud-based instant messaging service designed with privacy as a primary feature. It means there’s plenty of room for new platforms to thrive.
Other platforms, including some big players, are starting to buy into the idea of a niche community as well. Quora, the question-and-answer website, has recently announced a new feature called “Spaces”, which is meant to create discussion groups around specialized topics. Meanwhile, LinkedIn has announced a new feature called “Pages”, which will allow businesses to share more types of information, engage employees and make it easier to build online brand communities. These changes illustrate the magnitude of this trend.
Online Communities Are Going Niche
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Online communities and interest groups are currently undergoing something of a revolution, thanks to the demand for more niche offerings. Things are changing rapidly.
Reddit’s co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, discussed the coming change during Business Insider’s IGNITION conference. “We’ve hit peak social,” he says. “Where the platforms that are one too many, where we follow individuals, have [...] run their course, and we’ve reached the ceiling.”
“What people seem to be clamoring for more and more now is community.”
This shift has allowed a plethora of new platforms and apps to take hold in the current market, including WhatsApp, Athlinks, Dribble, Dpadd, Snooth, and even something a little more silly like Stachepassions.
Gina Bianchini — founder and CEO of Mighty Networks and Ning — said it best, “there is no Facebook Killer.” No single company, app, service or platform will take the crown. Instead, the biggest success will be reserved for a mix of communities and platforms — specifically the ones that cater to niche interests.
People from all walks of life are coming together as a community to embrace more specific interests and activities. Nextdoor is an excellent example, as it’s a free and private social network built specifically around the idea of local neighborhood communities. Through Nextdoor, people that live near each other are literally coming together to form an online and digital community, right alongside their real one.
This presents an incredible opportunity for marketers and businesses alike to really hone in on the idea of a like-minded and supportive community. Digital brand communities are more valuable now than they’ve ever been.
All Types Of Companies Are Participating
Niche social platforms and communities are cropping up in the B2C and B2B spaces as well. LinkedIn’s previously mentioned Pages feature is the premier example of this. However, there are many other platforms seeing huge growth.
For instance, Bank of America has established more meaningful relationships with local companies thanks to their Small Business Community. Via the platform, business owners can pour through useful tips and advice from experts, engage in discussions with other community members, and even ask more relevant questions through a connected forum. It’s a powerhouse for local and small business owners who are often looking for guidance and support from similar professionals.
Here are some of the more prominent brand communities:
Barclaycard’s community is all about insider travel stories and experiences, where members share first-hand insights and tips. They also earn participation points which can be redeemed for free miles, e-gift cards and other rewards.
A key feature is the real-time interactive map that displays member travel points alongside their write-ups. It’s exactly the kind of dynamic, engaging experience that keeps users returning time and time again.
CIO.com’s Executive Council
CIO’s community is meant for CIOs, IT leaders and like-minded executives. It’s a safe-haven for all involved, allowing them to share experiences, communicate, and gain insights from others within their industry.
Believe it or not, the community has already been around for 14 years and it’s still going strong. Global leaders love the support it provides, which also trickles down to their organizations.
The Lenovo Experience community was developed for the company’s data center group — called LenovoX. People join the community to hear about rising trends, innovative tech, current events, and information from ‘difference makers’ or major influencers.
Through the platform, users are delivered news about Lenovo as a brand, data center events, modern security, and cloud computing. It’s Important to note that there’s no marketing or discussions centered around Lenovo’s products specifically. Only devices or tools that would aid in direct communication — for press, analysts, customers and partners relating to data center solutions — are ever featured.
This means that, while Lenovo is the driving party people are still willing to participate and engage because it’s an open community on a specific niche topic.
So, What’s the Takeaway?
We’ve been saying it forever.
A mobile mindset paired with content and experience relevancy and convenience for the customer are necessary components of any business success strategy, especially if you want to thrive in today’s landscape. The ideal solution for delivering these disparate elements is to establish a digital community. Keep in mind it’s not enough to just throw together an app or digital community space - you must provide something that is actually relevant to your target audience, as in the examples we mentioned.
The rise of niche communities and digital online networks supports this idea and provides a glimpse of things yet to come. We predict the future will be all about these community-oriented, user-serving platforms. After all, no one is going to use a network that doesn’t offer them the best value in return.
What will you do to keep up?