Community engagement—whether physical or online—is a key component of the customer experience mandate that consumers have placed on brands and businesses worldwide, but new research from community powered marketing firm Vesta finds that eight in ten consumers believe the term “community” is being overused by brands that aren’t providing a real community experience.
The firm’s new Big Online Brand Community Study uncovers trends in online community activity and what consumers want, revealing that online community participation has risen sharply in the past three years, with 56 percent saying their participation has increased. As such, many marketers are turning to online community marketing to foster engagement.
Eighty-four percent agree the online community surrounding a brand impacts brand opinion. Additionally, belonging to a brand community makes them more likely to try new products/services from the brand (78 percent), leave a review (74 percent), and trust the brand (64 percent). Brands must be careful, though—68 percent say they would feel negatively about a brand that fails to deliver a true community experience, and 37 percent have experienced a brand falling short of community promises.
“Community-building meets the needs of the moment, but you must deliver online community marketing with value, engagement, and connection.” says Susan Frech, CEO of Vesta, in a news release. “Whether you’re a legacy or challenger brand, consumers are paying attention. When community is done right, consumers are more willing to recommend, create content, and buy more often.”
Other findings from the survey include:
- 56 percent say they are active in 4+ online communities, with 38 percent anticipating their involvement to increase in 2023
- 88 percent say they share content and offers from the online communities they are a part of, with almost half (49 percent) saying they share often
- 74 percent agree that online brand communities are just as important as other social clubs
- Consumers are looking for activities to participate in (62 percent), member-exclusive content/offers (60 percent), rewards/incentives for participation (57 percent), and discussion between community members (43 percent)
Research was conducted via an online survey issued to the peer influencer community, Smiley360, by 4,909 U.S. respondents between November 2 – December 14, 2022.