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2022 it’s (almost) a wrap

Reflections on the rise and rise of community.

Before we turn our attention to 2023, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the happenings within the community sector over the last 12 months.

Community seems to be going mainstream

When people talked about community in the past, often they were actually referring to a newsletter mailing list or social media following. With the continued privacy policy changes, ad tracking restrictions and general priorities shifting away from the social media giants this year, many brands have been walloped by a depressing combo of declining engagement rates and rising spend (and we are not even starting to discuss what has happened on Twitter). As a result, community in its more direct and authentic sense is starting to gain traction with a wider range of brands. It’s now not uncommon for brands to embark on developing an ambassador programme, we are hearing more discussion around customer advisory boards, forums seem to be making a bit of a comeback, and customer-led event series are rising in popularity. In summary, community is shifting from being something for the innovative early adopter brand to mainstream use. Big wins for community

There were some big win stories in the world of community too. Acquirers know it’s no longer enough to focus solely on product innovation as functionality and build can readily be copied. What can’t be copied is a brand’s community and committed customer base and acquirers seem to be willing to pay a premium for this. Take the examples of the acquisition of Figma ($20Bn) or the recent valuation of Notion ($10Bn). These are great products, of course, but there are lots of similar great products. The differentiator is their community. Community Platforms everywhere

Not surprisingly, given this increased interest, more and more community platforms came to the market. At our last count there were around 40 options available – some for big enterprise offerings, others for smaller, more niche groups. Some free, some with big bills attached. Overall, it’s becoming more difficult for brands interested in this space to differentiate one from the other. Will 2023 see some consolidation as the market matures? Metaverse not gaining significant traction - yet

The start of 2022 saw a lot of chat around the opportunities Metaverse could bring for communities. Quite a few brands piled in, but so far results have been underwhelming. Having noted the lacklustre response, brands are now being much more cautious. It will be interesting to see if investment in platforms will help turn this tide, or if Metaverse is not going be the answer after all. AI has arrived

One area that is having a much bigger impact is AI development and the resulting opportunities for the community space. You couldn’t miss the hype around ChatGPT over the last few weeks. The sector is recognising that a service like this could be a game-changer for community players worldwide. Gone are the rather clunky formatted responses we might have seen in the past - now we see the start of something so nuanced and seamless it’s almost spooky.

So, what’s in store for 2023? Share your thoughts below on what you think we’ll be seeing in the brand community space next.

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