Have you ever wondered how fast the world economy has grown after the arrival of digitization? With computers to take care of automization and super-human efficiency being reached, industries shifted to programmable and logical controls from a manual mode. Tim Berner Lee’s creation of the World Wide Web in the 1990s and the subsequent birth of the Internet further bolstered economies world over.
Today, the Internet dominates every sphere of our lives. Connecting people in a vast and distributed network of computers has not only increased the amount of data being generated on a daily basis but has also led to numerous new ways of getting value out of it, unleashing many new enterprise applications and a massive number of start-ups. The level of growth seen in the last 30 years is unprecedented, mainly because of the rise of online domains that have grown and created a separate niche for themselves. Be it e-commerce (which started when a young Jeff Bezos decided to take his Seattle bookstore online with Amazon in 1994), or social media (that evolved from Zuckerberg’s attempt to build a site for checking the ‘hotness quotient’ of college girls in 2008), search engines (we know the Google garage story from Palo Alto) or most recently, the messaging platforms (from WhatsApp to Telegram to Signal and Slack).
In the midst of the two domains – social media and messaging platforms – another sapling blossomed in the early 2010s, which has evolved in leaps and bounds, to become the next big thing on the block. Online Community Management.
The Origin & Industry Growth
About 36 years ago, back in February 1985, the first virtual community in the world — and now the oldest, continually run virtual community — was launched. It was called the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, aka The WELL. Around the same time, most people were introduced to real-time online chat with something like CompuServe’s CB Simulator (introduced in 1980), Internet Relay Chat (1988) or AOL’s chat rooms (1989). From there till now, has been a long stride. Back in the day, a handful of geeks held online conversations by posting and commenting individually on each other’s posts and messages on bulletin boards or chat groups – the earliest form of online communities. Look where the trend has gone now.
Today, we have millions of communities present on a plethora of platforms to do the exact same thing. Reddit threads, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, Slack groups, Telegram groups and a thousand others. The extent to which the industry has grown and the exactness of implementations warranted have led to the establishment of dedicated community management platforms like Tribe, Commsor, Circles, LikeMinds, etc. for effectively enabling community participation, engagement and monetization.
In the Google age, everyone surfs the Internet to research everything, from which gadget to buy to where to eat dinner. This rise in the demand for information-based technology has been a boon to information-based communities that exist for disseminating facts, figures, statistics, reviews, etc. On top of that, the social aspect of Internet use has been the single biggest reason why online communities are growing. More businesses, large and small, are taking advantage of this trend and looking to the Web to boost their social impact. Community forums are not only a great way to garner marketing data, gather momentum for an idea or cause, but also a great place to interact with potential customers. At the same time, consumers too are using the online communities to engage with a company’s culture, before they buy. As the world of social media and online businesses grow, so are online communities.
The worldwide online communities’ market revenue grew from $392.95 million in 2014 to $1.2 billion by 2019, representing a CAGR of 24.3%. The social business market, which runs largely on community platforms, reached $23 billion by 2019, with compound annual growth of 26%. The significant growth registered by the online community industry came mainly because of the effectiveness of online communities in sustaining marketing campaigns, brand-building, driving sales and customer retentions, and increased usage in data analytics. According to a Michigan University study, customers spend 19% more after joining a company’s online community in comparison to third-party sites like Facebook. This is probably the reason why a 2019 Forrester report found that 60% of businesses own a branded online community with 77% of companies believing that an online community significantly improved brand exposure, awareness, and credibility. This belief is further cemented by the ‘Keys to community readiness and growth report’, published by CMX Hub, where it was found that 23% of companies admitted that their branded communities grew 100% or more in the last few years.
As recently as this month, one of the earliest pioneers of community revolution through bulletin boards, Reddit, raised a stunning $250 million in its targeted Series E fund-raise of $500 million, valuing the company at $6 billion. Even a young community management platform like Commsor raised $16 million in a series A round of funding in January — at a valuation of over $100 million.
The community management industry is a uniquely positioned industry. On one hand, it allows individuals to interact freely, collaborate and build networks, while at the same time it offers businesses the chance to market products, brand, service customers, take feedback, and accumulate data to drive company goals. Community Management is a vital resource used by many industries like software, healthcare, FMCG, sports, journalism, volunteering, education, etc – making it all-pervading.
Do not miss out on riding this new wave. Register yourself for the LikeMinds Community Bootcamp to learn from the best.