Communities are no longer just hyperlinks and text.
They are images, animation, short videos, flashy graphics, ads, pop-up windows, gaming, and more.
And, communities no longer only serve information. Rather, they serve connection, exclusivity, entertainment, support, and more. Having said that, virtual communities have altered the way we communicate. They offer a home to people with shared ideas to connect and form long-term associations (both personal and business).
As organizations realized the benefits of customer interaction, they started leveraging communities. And, that’s how communities became an indispensable B2B asset. After that, communities started advancing and became what it is today. So, how did virtual communities evolve and come this far?
Let’s understand the concept of communities 2.0 and what role they play in the B2B arena!
Transition from Communities 1.0 to Communities 2.0
The first era of communities or communities 1.0 was about how we fetch, process, and consume information. With only a handful of content creators as compared to the volume of content consumers, it was mainly dominated by static, personal web pages. So, communities 1.0 was mostly about broadcasting or one-on-one interactions.
Read all about the journey of Communities 1.0 here.
Web 2.0 has given rise to unparalleled interactive communities that bring information, services, and digital goods under one umbrella. Web 2.0 is a revolution because of its ability to support user-generated content (UGC), interoperability, and multi-media content. And, that’s how online communities became a dynamic space that’s responsive to user input. Additionally, it brought immense economic benefits through the ad-based model. As a result, many subscription-based communities emerged that offered immense value to their members. WeBlog, Wiki, Folksonomy, etc. are some examples of early communities 2.0.
As communities made their way to business use cases, many dedicated community platforms started emerging like Higher Logic, HiveBrite, etc. These platforms offer many conventional and non-conventional community-oriented features that cater to unique business requirements. As a result, more than 60%[i] of businesses own a branded online community.
However, the complicated ad-based infrastructure of communities resulted in unequal content distribution and ambiguous data ownership. While UGC, economic benefits, and highly responsive infrastructure became the strengths of communities 2.0.
How Online Communities Became the New B2B Superpower
Today, 70%[ii] of internet users are a part of one or more communities at least. And, as communities 2.0 are growing more social, organizations are also exploring their potential to interact with customers for business growth. And in a short span of time, online communities have become a powerhouse for B2B space by offering –
Exclusivity and Value-Packed Experiences
Be it eMagazines, webinars, or panel discussions, customers appreciate exclusive interaction. And, that’s why many organizations leverage their communities to provide exclusive content and information to their consumers. Not only are they intuitive and aesthetically pleasing, but they offer valuable insights that keep the customer engaged.
Reliable, Accurate Customer Data
A thriving community encourage members to speak their mind. And, members keep the community active by posting opinions, feedback, ideas, etc. That’s why a sustainable community requires minimal activity from the management as it is majorly run by members. And, communities can get honest, reliable feedback from their customers which they can leverage for product development or improvement. Having said that, most of today’s businesses are community-led and based truly on this model.
Quality Customer Engagement
In this engagement economy, consumers expect a persistent sense of engagement from businesses. And, online communities have the potential to fulfill this desire. Many brand communities encourage their customers to share their positive and negative experiences through communities. This is an excellent way to get your customers involved while building connections with them.
Communities 2.0 empowers peer-to-peer collaboration for a more welcoming environment. When done right, they have the power to scale businesses through effective collaboration, communication, and experiences. Learning from communities 2.0, industry leaders are all set to take the leap and enter the next phase. Community space is only expected to be more dynamic and value-packed from here.
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