January marks the beginning of the new year. Many of you are back at your desks with new vigor and are working hard at New Year’s resolutions. If you’re managing an online community, you’re also probably fine-tuning your strategic plan. But before you finalize your strategy, it’s important to look at what kind of trends you can expect 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. Online communities 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.
Online communities, just like the rest of the digital landscape, are always evolving. In 2018, we predict that there are a few trends (we definitely have not covered all of them) that will shape how this evolution unfolds. Let's dive in!
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. 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.
4. Data Will Lead to Actionable Insights
There is one 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.
This next year 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 this year will bring!
What kind of trends do you expect to see in the next year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!