Making the most of online communities


Digital technologies have provided a plethora of ways to observe customer behaviors and listen to their conversations. They also introduced methods for marketers to interact with customers in their natural surroundings, if they dare.

Online communities are taking one of the internet’s first ideas – message boards – and wrapping them in smart digital front-ends, increasing their functionality and making them easier to use.

The largest platform for online communities is Facebook, with 2.89 billion users, well ahead of the professional community LinkedIn and its 740 million users. There follow a multitude of communities specific to interests, regions or languages, many of which still have their users in the tens of millions.

Each community platform gives marketers an opportunity to listen to public conversations relating to their brands, products and industries, including the ability to hear the thoughts of people who are not their customers. They also provide an opportunity for marketers to join the community and offer their voice to the discussion.

But as some marketers have learned, leaning into a community conversation with a poorly thought out message can quickly make them wish they had it.

Community spirit

With over 50 million active users, Reddit represents a very engaged community of online users who engage in discussions on almost any topic imaginable in over 100,000 communities. The vast majority of Reddit communities are user-driven, although the platform also hosts brand-moderated communities such as r / FidelityInvestments and r / XboxInsiders.

“There really is a community for everyone on Reddit – all interests, hobbies and passions,” said Jack Koch, global head of Marketing Science at Reddit. Marketing director. “What made Reddit unique, and why it’s become such a big part of people’s lives, is that you can engage however you want – text, video, audio, even, whatever it is.” .

“But what also makes Reddit really powerful is that it’s as easy as upvote / downvote technology, which ensures that the most relevant content will be highlighted. And depending on your interests, this will be the most important content for you.

In 2021, Reddit expanded its presence in Australia to attract more brand engagement, offering both straightforward advertising opportunities through promoted posts and banners, and community engagement advice through its Karma Lab service.

While examples abound of brands fumbling with their community engagement across platforms, Koch says Reddit users want brands to participate in conversations, with 69% of respondents responding to her. Community power report saying they respect when brands make the effort to be on Reddit.

“On Reddit, what consumers are looking for are honest and genuine interactions,” says Koch. “We have seen brands really succeed in taking on a human tone. It can be difficult, but it’s the human and authentic tone that really builds the brand’s confidence and humanism.

A successful example occurred with Heineken craft beer brand, Lagunitas, which in August of this year worked with Karma Lab to host an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session in the r / beer community. The company’s master brewer spoke to beer enthusiasts about what it takes to brew an IPA and listened to their thoughts on product innovation.

Other brands that have successfully engaged on Reddit include Netflix, which provided suggestions to community members on what programs they might like, and cryptocurrency trading platform, Coinbase, which provided information to Reddit users ahead of its IPO.

Koch warns, however, that it’s critical that brands come to Reddit in a spirit of honesty and authenticity.

“We’ve seen a lot of brand loyalty come from transparency and honesty,” Koch said. “We ask brands to understand aspects of the community they engage with. Every community has little quirks.

“When brands are genuine, honest, transparent and caring, and when they engage with the community, that’s something that benefits them. It increases everything from loyalty to voice sharing, conversations and anything that gets people to buy and review the product. ”

Next Step: How brands like Review and Spotlight are connecting with the community, and how digital communities are driving brand responses and actions around social causes

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