Technology and the rise of social media has enabled people to form groups more quickly, on a greater scale and without the need for physical proximity – but the fundamentals of human psychology still sit behind all successful online communities.
The reality is that many online communities fail and it’s usually due to one of three crucial elements not being addressed; the needs of the brand, the needs of the members plus a fundamental “reason for being” in the first place.
At a brand level, we build communities for customer engagement – to keep customers for longer, persuade customers to spend more, acquire new customers or reduce service or marketing costs. But if you only satisfy what the brand wants, you’ll probably end up doing something more akin to content marketing or a direct marketing campaign.
Understanding psychological needs is at the core of human engagement across all domains. Members’ needs might include solving problems, seizing opportunities they believe exist, pursuing interests, enhancing their own social standing or simply finding a sense of wellbeing.
The final (and perhaps most important consideration) is that, as entities, communities want things and to be successful there must be some benefit in members banding together into groups to achieve these things. This might include the exploration of a topic together, mutual support, greater influence over our environment or even just a sense of belonging.
Whilst we have a massive range of digital community tools and platforms at our disposal, we must never forget that successful online communities cannot be manufactured for the purposes of business alone and must address all three community success factors simultaneously in order to thrive and survive.
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