Online communities have for years played a pivotal role in connecting individuals and businesses.
However, the importance of online communities has grown exponentially in the months following the start of the global pandemic. There has been a clear acceleration in the demand for digital technology solutions.
How has this increased demand affected the thoughts and behavior of consumers and businesses who utilize online communities? And are these shifts in technological adoption permanent or merely a fleeting trend?
Read our comprehensive guide to online community statistics in 2021 to discover the full impact of the global pandemic on the use of online communities and explore the trends in community engagement, adoption, and usage, which have emerged over the past year.
Let's dive in.
What are online communities?
Online communities are one of the most effective ways for brands, consumers, employees, and individuals within specific industries to engage with each other.
An online community can be anything from a small Facebook group hosted by an independent yoga teacher, to a popular subreddit for companies using Zoom, or a troubleshooting forum for the new M1 Macbook Air.
1. 76% of internet users participate in an online community: one industry study
found that almost everybody is a part of at least one group, event, page or forum.
2. Reddit is home to more than 130,000 active communities (subreddits): Most of its users are from the States that imposes restrictions on the international projects and users to communicate.
4. Facebook has 2.91B monthly active users:
according to Statista
in Q3 2021 Facebook had 2.9 active people using it on a regular basis.
5. More than 10 million Facebook groups are in existence: social network is a true monopolist in this sphere.
With the next point it looks even more impressive.
6. More than 1.8 billion Facebook users engage with online communities monthly:
according to the Facebook data
on 2020. It's almost a quarter of the whole population of the planet Earth, which is insane.
7. More than 50% of all Facebook users are members of five or more active groups: that means 0.9 billion people are members of the online community groups, and 684M people participated at least once in them.
When it comes to social media, it can be extremely challenging for users to find content that resonates with them, does not offend them, and fulfils their reason for logging on in the first place. That’s where internet communities come into play.
8. Users mostly feel like they have meaningful conversations participating in online communities: according to the survey
every 1/3 of respondents say they have constructive communication, every 1/4 mention they feel respected by others and can be themselves, every 1/5 say they feel appreciated, that their voice is heard and have a sense of belonging.
The natural pet care market is generally a small, tight knit group with quite a bit of overlap. Building our own community has enabled us to connect across a large market while maintaining that small community feel. Our clients love being able to connect with each other and professionals that align with their views thanks to our community.
10. Almost half of users believe online communities become more important to them over time:
when offline communication faded away, online chats and communities came
to the fore.
11. 70% of internet users who have not visited community websites in recent times are at least familiar with them: communities have a great brand awareness effect.
12. 77% of millennials and Gen Z internet users who have not visited community websites in recent times are at least familiar with them:
among most active digital population communities whose age is smaller than 24, online communities are known
by almost 4/5 of all users.
13. Almost 4/5 of large companies have at least one internet community:
big whales understand the trend and 75% of big corporates have online communities according to the study
Building a community around our brand has been at the core of our business strategy from day one. By producing a large amount of useful free career-related content in various formats (videos, interviews, articles, webinars, etc) we have managed to build a 110k online community and gained loyal clients, partners and brand ambassadors.
Founder & CEO, EP-Advisory
15. Every 1/3 internet user has mistrust in social media content:
fake news made their job and people stopped believing every content they see according to the study
16. 45% of social media users were frustrated with the problem of bullying and offensive language pervading many social media platforms: the style of communication is the biggest blocker for many people to start the communication and engage more actively.
18. The U.S. Gen Z population trusts community sites at a rate of 48% — almost as much as they trust traditional news sources (51%): young generation trusts communities
the same as the main mass media with big names and reputation.
19. 66% of survey respondents said the main reason they love online communities is because they provide the ability to connect with others with similar interests: the exchange of views and real opinions
becomes especially relevant in the Covid era.
20. People are 44% more likely to click on posts that resonate with a niche personal interest: relevance remains the main trigger for users to engage socially.
21. 50% of respondents indicated they would be willing to join dedicated communities that represent their passions:
understanding the true needs of the target audience and understanding when to offer them an interaction with the community of like-minded people gives a high chance of engaging
a potential community member.
22. 55% of internet users in the U.S. were comfortable with the anonymous nature of some internet communities: anonymity is the norm of the modern Internet
, nevertheless, people have learned to identify truthful information and are ready to trust it, even without knowing their real name.
23. 40% said they believe anonymity in online groups is generally a good thing: people are not bothered by not knowing someone’s real name on the Internet.
People log on to the internet for many reasons, but one enduring reason is connection. Everyone wants to engage in meaningful ways with people who have similar interests and passions. Brands can harness that desire to make their customers feel like they belong to a real community, rather than feeling like one in a sea of millions trying to reach a brand on social media.
24. 81% uptick in online community engagement from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic: companies reported
their clients started to communicate much more often than they did 2 years ago.
25. The top five online community membership groups in 2021 are customers, developers, influencers, volunteers and employees:
almost half of all participants of online communities are consumers of brands according to the industry study
26. 82% of community site visitors said they would be welcoming of brands who choose to participate in communities: people want to interact with the brand community and 4/5 are ready to immediately become a part of them.
27. 77% of respondents identified internet communities as their most important groups:
communication between people with the same interests has become especially important in the time of restrictions and almost every 4/5 is engaging with online groups
28. 36% more community site visitors felt they could have meaningful conversations in communities, 28% more felt they were respected, 24% more felt they could be themselves in communities: to be heard and to be yourself is important for people more than ever.
29. Most respondents identified online communities as their most important groups: people spend more and more time in online communities learning valuable tips, advice on life and shopping, reading reviews of other people.
30. Members of online communities 57% feel they are seen, 63% feel they are being heard, 70% partake in providing solutions, 78% tend to ask questions:
natural communication and learning is the main goal for community members with different variants of engagement
31. 45% of social media users were frustrated with the problem of bullying and offensive language pervading many social media platforms: disrespect and insults haunt every user in their online communication, and internet communities are no exception.
32. 94% of community members said they have used communities to get more information about new topics:
online communities have a huge impact both at consideration and retention stages, helping to dive deep
into the new topic.
There are countless reasons for brands to create an online community. A space for users to interact — one that isn’t a public social media account — makes people feel more comfortable engaging with brands and each other.
33. The top three advantages to branded online communities are сustomer loyalty, reduction in support costs, branding and awareness: 2/3 community members are loyal to the brand
where they participate, almost half getting answers to their questions.
Our community is the cornerstone of both human and creative connection which is the foundation of our business.
Creative Director, Creatopia
34. Among the benefits of online communities are increase in the website web traffic, SEO, customer experience and help to develop new products and services:
online community is a powerful catalyst for user attention and activity, which increase behavioral factors that increase the click-through rate of the website on social networks and have a positive effect on the traffic
and positions in Google.
35. 27% of customers say usage of online communities plays a part in their buying decision process when contemplating the purchase of a product or service:
almost every 1/3 is checking what is saying
online about a product or service before buying it.
36. Passion brand community apps have a 33% 30-day retention rate compared to 4% for non-community apps: strong active communities strongly influence retention and return of people to the brand during the first month after purchase.
37. The average member in an advanced community contributes $67 worth of value yearly, but receives $614 in value over the same time period:
the more developed the community the more people are involved
in it, trust it and, as a result, spend money.
38. 66% of branded online communities believe that the community has a significant impact on their ability to retain customers:
as the cost of acquiring a potential customer increases, the role of retention becomes more critical and the online community is helping with retaining customers
39. 90% agree that suggestions from members are useful in improving products or services:
online groups are the easiest way to collect and monitor public opinion
and users of a single product.
40. 58% of internet communities believe there is an improvement in brand loyalty as a result of customers being part of their community:
participation in the life of a brand generates people’s trust and over time loyalty
which is then converted into recommendations and profit for the brand.
42. 85% business owners believe their community positively impacts their business: 4/5 of entrepreneurs speak positively about some positive aspects of an online community for their business.
43. The return on investment for the organization adds up to 4,530% ROI overall. Broken down, the average is 1,967% for internal communities and 6,130% for external communities: investments in the development of the community have a large Return on Investment (ROI) indicator.
45. Top benefits to internal communities are cultural and organizational change and improving efficiency in communications:
the presence of an internal platform for communication increases the involvement of employees
in corporate events and increases the speed of solution of business and personal questions.
46. Thriving internet communities cost an average investment of $153 per member for the organization and generate a value of $682 per member annually: investments in online communities pay off 5 times.
47. 92% of marketing professionals say they believe their online communities are making an impact on their businesses — but more than 35% said they don’t have the metrics to measure this success:
analytics for obtaining basic business metrics from communities is one of the main blockers
48. 55% of community professionals identified difficulty in consistently engaging members as one of their biggest frustrations with running online communities:
the main challenge in community management is audience engagement
49. Only 7% of members in online communities perform actions and answers, 52% are generally inactive:
activity within internet communities remains low and only a small group takes an active part
50. The average community ROI increases with age, reaching as high as 5,315% after 10 years: a good community is like a good cognac, it only gets better over the years.
52. 44% said it was hard to put a quantity to the value of the community: internet communities generate revenue indirectly, so it is often difficult to assess its impact.
53. Every 1/4 say they do not have enough staff: a quite big percentage of specialists claim that there are not enough human resources for full-fledged work.
54. 65% of community professionals believe their organizations will be increasing their community budgets over the next 12 months: more and more money is allocated to the development of the internet communities from businesses and brands.
How are online communities formed?
57. 80% of customer success teams have grown in the last year: more and more questions people solve in social networks and online communities which act as open platforms for communication among buyers and brands.
Online communities have distinct benefits both for consumers and brands. But those aren’t the only people in these communities.
Managing customer experience is all about taking control of how customers interact with your brand at every touchpoint. Leading brands have been looking to develop strong online communities as a means of understanding and helping their customers succeed. However, until recently, Customer Success was more of an abstract goal or industry buzzword.
58. Communities accelerate impact on Organizational value:
59% directly impact business objectives, 74% positively impact brand and culture according to the industry study
61. Communities accelerate impact on 83% have full-time staff
: 54% receive training
, 3.5 full time staff, 1.7 part-time roles.
63. 61% of consumers say they are more likely to trust recommendations from friends and family than celebrities and influencers: this statistic continues to grow.
64. 86% of U.S. citizens agree that transparency from brands is more important than it ever was: ecological materials, no animal testing, lack of gender, racial and age prejudice all remain on the agenda.
65. 36% of companies currently use branded online communities within their customer experience channel mix, 18% plan to incorporate it within their activities and beyond:
findings from Aberdeen’s Customer Experience study
confirmed that trend continues to grow.
66. Almost all (99%) of Customer Success teams work with other teams across the company: customer success is more important and no longer an organizational silo.
67. Customer Success teams are expanding with nearly 55% of Customer Success teams consisting of more than 10 members (in 2018 it was 5 people only):
Customer Success teams are growing in size alongside coverage models
that scale to cover a broad base of customers.
68. Customer Success teams continue to prioritize reduction of churn, customer renewals and product adoption: more work needs to be done to enable a proactive approach to Customer Success.
69. The majority of Customer Success teams are still using tools such as CRM, Microsoft Excel/Google Sheets and Help Desk/Support tools: technology adoption still needs to mature to enable a Customer Success mindset, although digital transformation is imminent.
70. Half of Customer Success teams are responsible for revenue targets: responsibility for revenue is growing across Customer Success teams and is the main goal now.
71. 65% of Customer Success teams are in operation for over 3 years, and 29% have been in operation for over 5 years:
Customer Success organizations continue to mature and evolve
72. Mature branded online communities have a transformational impact on their members and as a result, outsized value for organizations that launch and cultivate them: Community maturity correlates to increased value.
74. Communities accelerate impact on Networked Governance by 79%:
communities provide network enablement
75. Communities accelerate impact on Executive Support
: 83% have positive perception, 60% of budgets approved by senior executives, 62% see increase in executive engagement, 67% include executives in strategic decisions according to the study
2022 is the year of internet community building. Branded online communities help companies keep track of consumers’ changing expectations, assist people in finding communities of like-minded people who share their interests, and serve as valuable resources for product users with a question.
76. Thanks in a large part to the visibility of online communities driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, 83% of executives have a positive perception of community potential:
in 2021, executives have an overwhelmingly positive perception
of community approaches.
What is the purpose of online communities?
For SMEs, building a community around the business, especially one that is driven by a common purpose, allows them to tap into the community and its champions for ideas and feedback. The conversations within the community can help SMEs to discover blindspots, to test hypotheses and to help the company keep up with what the customers want.
Founder, Managing Director, BYKidO
77. Facebook Groups and Slack channels are the most common platforms people use for hosting internet communities:
29% of survey respondents selected Facebook Groups
, 23% selected Slack, 15% selected internally-hosted groups.
78. 71% of communities saw their visibility increase over the last two years, 67% of them with an added increase in urgency: the COVID-19 pandemic, tipped branded online communities from a nice-to-have to a must-have.
79. 74% of community programs report an increased recognition of their value during COVID, 62% experienced an increase in engagement with 17% of those seeing a significant increase:
over the last two years, the place of community in organizations has shifted
, with internet community becoming a more commonly required investment, particularly in the start-up space.
80. 84% of companies that work to improve their customer experience with community programs report an increase in their revenue: this mentality might require a culture shift within your organization, but it will be worth it, considering that customer-centric companies with branded online communities are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers.
81. Impact of Covid-19 Crisis on Community Plans:
significantly stalied plans 9%, stalied plans 26%, Little or no change 24%, Accelerated some plans 28%, significantly accelerated 12% according to the industry study
82. Employee Objectives Addressed by Internal Communities are faster answers 87%, professional development 70%, networking 72%, new ideas 68%, trust & confedence 58%, inspiration & perspective 57%, less frustration 49%, mentoring 45%: the advantage of internal business online community.
83. Empowered Members Adopt New Behaviors. External Communities Deliver a Range of Customer Objectives: according to the Customer Engagement Playbook
networking is 80%, faster Answers 76%, inspiration & perspective 61%, new ideas 60%, professional development 54%, product expertise 53%, trust & confidence 53%, less frustration 37% are main benefits of online communities for business.
84. Advanced Communities create generative value by 54% organisational and cultural change: increase in employees’ loyalty to a company mission and goals is one of the benefits of an online community for business.
85. Advanced Communities create generative value by 67% Customer loyalty: customer retention and a word of mouth is one of the benefits of online community engagement.
86. Advanced Communities create generative value by 49% Communications Efficiency: fast replies for the company's representatives is one of the main advantages of online communities.
87. Advanced Communities create generative value by 48% Lower Support Costs: created infrastructure within the online communities platforms is one of the benefits for business.
88. Advanced Communities create generative value by 43% Awareness and Branding: branded online communities work on top of the funnel and can be a great touch-point for leads and future clients.
89. The longer the community exists the higher is ROI: <1 - 1469%, 2 - 2778%, 4 - 4136%, 7 - 4782%, 10 - 5315%, long existence is among the online community benefits
90. Top 5 Community Internal Use Cases: 76% Collaboration, 72% Community Practice, 70% Networking, 59% Corporate Initiative, 56% Community Interest are among the main branded online communities advantages.
91. Top 5 Community External Use Cases: according to the study
use cases are Customer Support with 71%, 59% Networking, 48% Community Practice, 45% Marketing, 42% Innovation are great online community benefits.
92. Strategic planning 37% have advanced strategies 29% have funded roadmaps: companies put community development into their plan.
93. 83% have positive perception 60% of budgets approved by senior executives 62% see increase in executive engagement 67% include executives in strategic decisions:
communities have an executive support
94. 59% directly impact business objectives 74% positively impact brand & culture: communities are increasingly influencing organizational values after Covid.
95. 77% increase workplace efficiency 64% support culture change 52% increase speed of innovation: communities make an internal impact as well.
96. 75% deliver faster answers 60% prompt new ideas: communities provide big member value.
98. 83% have full-time staff 54% receive training 3.5 full-time staff 1.7 part-time roles: community development team is growing after Covid.
99. in 2021, 37% of all communities reported having an Advanced Strategy; one that isapproved, operational, and measurable; up from just 22% in 2020:
the strategic maturity of online communities has improved significantly
The importance, role, and complexity of online communities has evolved significantly in the past few years and will continue in 2022. Organizations were already concerned about adapting to the digital and knowledge economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has, in fact, prompted many community programs to accelerate plans.
101. Revenues from the internet communities market was estimated to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.3%: revenue increases 1/4 times every year.
102. 59% of organizations worldwide reportedly used online communities in their market research between 2014 and 2018:
to understand what people are really thinking about, you just need to go to the online community and read what they write there - this trend on market research
is stable over the past seven years and will only grow after Covid.
103. More and more organizations are recognizing the long-term value of communities, with 42% of communities having been in existence for five years or more: brand habit and trust builds up over time, which affects retention and revenue.
For me, being active on social media has become about much more than absentmindedly sharing a generic image or statement. As a person centred brand, platforms such as Instagram enable me to engage with my audience, build my community and nurture long term customer loyalty. Rather than prioritise instant sales conversions, growing my community over time builds trust and devotion, generating substantially more lifelong value for my brand.
104. Spending on AI technologies is expected to grow to $97.9 billion by 2023:
artificial intelligence is increasing its presence in our lives and will generate revenue
in online communities exponentially in the next years.
105. AI adoption in communities will help to steer user conversations, as well as community management automation:
25% confirm they do not have enough staff and wish to use extra technology
We hope this stats report helped you get a better understanding of the numbers around the online communities topic.
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