2018 is already in full swing! If you’re managing an online community, you’re probably fine-tuning your strategic plan while the months fly by. As you adjust your strategy, it’s important to know which online community trends you can still expect to see in 2018.
Online Communities on the Rise
Online communities are becoming more popular. It's one of the best practices for connecting employees, mobilizing people, organizing events, and connecting those with similar interests.
It’s also one of the best strategies to avoid online clutter that we deal with every day. Honestly, it’s a miracle that we can even take away useful information from the constant stream of emails, social media, news, tips, promotions, ads, etc. Not to mention the recent drastic fall in trust in the social media giants with #DeleteFacebook. Online communities, on the other hand, offer an online ‘get-away’ with trustworthy, relevant news and the potential to create real involvement.
Online community software has also become more affordable thanks to trends such as open source technology and agile development. This gives smaller organizations the chance to build and support their own communities. In fact, Open Social doesn’t only offer a basic, affordable package for online community software but our code is available for anyone to download and use.
Five online community trends
Online communities, just like the rest of the digital landscape, are always evolving. In 2018, there are a few trends (we definitely have not covered all of them) that are shaping the online community evolution. unfolds. Let's dive into these five online community trends in 2018!
1. Platform Convergence
Online communities will become a center point for communication. Many companies currently use multiple tools to delegate tasks and communicate, resulting in collaboration fatigue. You probably have one or more of these open right now:
- Social Platforms (Intercom, Facebook, Twitter, Open Social, …)
- Email (Google mail, Outlook, …)
- Instant messaging (Whatsapp, Slack, ….)
- Video Conferencing (Google Hangouts, Skype, …)
- Ideation tools (Google Drive, Trello, Jira, ...)
The question is: when does the number of tools we use start to hinder our productivity? Many suggest that these tools both waste time (research shows that apps account for over half of the time people in the U.S. spend on digital media) and have affected our ability to keep track of information.
You can expect online communities to become the place to converge multiple communication tools. This means there will be just one platform for activities, rather than many.
2. Automation of Community Management
We can only expect more advances in the areas of artificial intelligence and application program interface (API). These advances are creating opportunities for community managers to give, for example, virtual agents the task of familiarizing new users with the community. Eventually, these tools may even be able to help users at an individual level.
3. Blockchain Technology
Real life cases of blockchain technology in the community world are not hard to find anymore. New developments have made it possible for creators to decentralize operations on social media platforms with new monetary models and audiences. Essentially, removing the middlemen from the social media equation.
For example, DTube is a blockchain platform that is similar to YouTube. Only instead of advertisements, users can monetize through direct contributions to the platform. Matchpool is equally embracing the blockchain model, and their decentralized matchmaking technology connects users with similar interests. They even have their own native currency called Guppy.
Open Social has also recognized the enormous potential for blockchain and communities. We are currently experimenting with decentralized technologies to see how to improve community experiences. Stay tuned for more information.
4. A Rise in Ideation Communities
Online communities are increasingly used for ideation; people come together to share ideas, collaborate, and push innovation forward. Online community features such as open/closed groups, private messaging, and integrations with various tools allow for a creative and collaborative process.
Ideation is also very common among companies and their customers, leading to the co-creation of products and services. Customers are invited to community platforms to help design product and services according to their needs. For example, Lego invites their customer to contribute ideas for new playsets on their Lego Ideas platform.
Open Social launched the Crowd Innovation feature for just such cases. The crowd innovation feature lets you solve challenges within your community via a crowdsourcing process. This feature consists of three main components:
- The challenge poses the question that has to be solved by the community members.
- The phases, which have a start and end date, move the ideas through the flow and include idea creation, editing, viewing, commenting and voting. This is where the evaluation takes place.
- The ideas are created by users to suggest solutions for the over-arching challenge to suggest solutions. As users, you have the possibility to vote on your favorite ideas.
5. Data Will Lead to Actionable Insights
The last online community trend in 2018 is a thing that everyone working with online tools can’t get enough of: data. This trend is spilling into the world of online communities. Company executives want to know whether their investment in community platforms has generated sales or increased creativity. Community managers want to know whether engagement is increasing or how many new members they have acquired. Many community platforms now offer analytics tailored to community life: sentiment, vitality, engagement, etc.
These next years will be more about how we can use this data, instead of just collecting it, to streamline strategies and provide valuable insights into the community culture.
Each of these trends will impact various types of online communities differently. Whether or not these trends will affect you personally, it’s important to realize that online communities are on the rise. We can't wait to see what else this year will bring!
Read more about Open Social's powerful community analytics here.
What kind of trends are on the rise? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!