Online communities are one of the best ways for businesses to engage with customers and build loyalty. On the other hand, they also provide a great way for customers to engage with each other, and learn about a topic or a brand.
If you are planning to build an online community, there are a lot of useful pieces of information that you can study and analyze.
In this article, I have compiled a list of useful online community statistics that should help you plan your online community better.
To make it simpler, I have categorized the list of statistics into five sections:
- Online Community Industry Overview
- Online Community Business Impact
- Online Community User Preferences
- Online Community Management
- Online Community Challenges
Now, let’s take a deep dive into the top 42 online community statistics.
Online Community Industry Overview
- The global online community market size was expected to rise to $1.2 Billion in 2019 from $392.95 Million in 2014, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.3%.
- On a similar note, online communities’ usage among internet users has been on a steady rise, as 76% of global internet users engaged with an online community in 2019.
- Moreover, organizations are increasingly using online communities — 59% of organizations worldwide had an online community in 2018 compared to 50% in 2015.
- When compared to offline communities, the use of online communities in organizations has become extremely prominent.
Nearly 38% of communities operated by organizations are online-only communities, whereas 58% of communities exist both online and offline, and a mere 4% are offline-only.
- On average, larger companies are more likely to have online communities than smaller companies. 74% of large companies have an online community, whereas only 40% of small companies have an online community.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has made a neutral impact on the plans of online communities. While 40% of organizations say it has significantly accelerated all or some of their plans, 35% of organizations state that it has stalled their plans.
Online Community Business Impact
- In advanced online communities, where well-defined and measurable strategies are in place, everybody gets more value than they contribute.
On average, community members get a staggering 9.16X ROI on the value they contribute, whereas organizations get a 4.46X return.
- Communities are increasingly being seen as playing a pivotal role by organizations.
88% of community professionals admit to communities playing a critical role in achieving their company’s mission, and 64% admit that online communities have helped them improve business decision-making.
- Online communities also directly impact a company’s revenue, as customers spend 19% more with a company after joining its online community.
- On the marketing front, communities seem to be playing an important role as well, as 77% of companies believe that online communities would help them improve their marketing for current and prospective customers.
- Moreover, the direct impact of branded communities on sales and marketing is also well understood by industry professionals.
66% of professionals say that their online community has positively impacted customer retention, 68% state that it has helped them generate new leads, and 55% say that they have seen increased sales.
- Online communities are also being used in the industry for conducting research and collecting feedback and it can led to significant cost reduction as well.
90% of professionals say that they use suggestions from their community to improve their products and services, and 78% said that communities helped them build new products and services.
To share an example of an online community leading to cost savings, Dewalt, a power tool company, saved $6 Million in market research costs by creating an online community.
- When it comes to employee-facing communities, 54% of them positively impact organizational and cultural change, 49% improve communications efficiency, and 43% improve awareness and branding.
- In a survey of brand managers at Fortune 500 companies, 54% of managers stated that using online communities helped them change how they think about collaboration, and 46% mentioned it helped them change how they think about customers.
- The prominence given to communities by organizations is also being reflected in their budgets, as 65% of professionals the budget for communities over the next year will see an increase.
- More importantly, businesses are investing in online communities for the long-term. In a 2020 study, 42% of online communities started by business organizations have existed for more than 5 years, whereas the number was 28% in 2017.
Online Community User Preferences
- According to a study, 27.3% of customers use online communities in their internet buying decision making, while considering a product or service.
- Internet users increasingly prefer to participate in online communities over social media due to various reasons.
36% of users prefer online communities because they believe that they can have more meaningful conversations over there.
28% of users did so because they felt they got more respect in an online community, and 24% because they could be themselves in an online community.
- Most internet users are happy with the anonymous nature of communities. 55% of internet users don’t mind the anonymous nature, and 40% even think of it as a positive thing.
Moreover, 60% of people think that people are more likely to be honest in online communities when anonymous.
- Online community users also have specific expectations when they interact with brands in a community. Reliability is the most important trait community users expect from a brand, with 57% of users expecting that.
The other most popular expectations were trendy/cool, funny, exclusive, and bold, expressed by 36%, 29%, 29%, and 27% of community users.
- Internet users engage with online communities for a wide variety of reasons. According to a study, helping others by sharing information, ideas, and experiences was the most popular reason, stated by 78% of users.
On the other hand, participating in a community with their peer group was stated as a reason by 66% of users.
- Online communities are also a quite popular way of learning new topics and 94% of community members admit to using communities as a way to learn about new topics.
- Moreover, online communities also foster social learning, which can significantly improve learning outcomes and course completion rates. HBS online saw a completion rate of nearly 85% across all courses due to interactive, social learning.
- By 2025, 72.6% of global internet users will only use their smartphones to access the internet, so it’s important for community owners to design mobile-responsive communities.
- 55% of social media engagement happens over mobile devices, which suggests that the growth in usage of mobile devices is playing a key role in the popularity of online communities.
Online Community Management
- Community professionals tend to measure an online community’s business value in several ways. 54% of community professionals report measuring customer retention to prove their community’s value.
Besides, customer acquisition, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty were measured as a way to prove their online community’s value by 37%, 37%, and 31% of professionals.
- Measuring their community’s value has helped community professionals in a variety of ways.
59% of professionals stated that it helped them grow their community team, 90% said it helped them get increased support from management, and 73% said it helped them get an increased budget for their community.
- Organizations are also increasingly focused on scaling their existing online communities, with 59% of community professionals stating that their primary focus is scaling their existing communities.
On the other hand, 32% of professionals state their focus is revitalizing an existing or dormant community. And other focus areas account for merely 9%.
- In line with that, organizations are also investing in hiring full-time employees as part of their online community team.
Nearly 57% of companies with online communities have at least 2 full-time team members in their community management team, and 34% of companies have 1 full-time member.
- Most communities run by organizations are customer-centric, with 43% of community members being customers. On the other hand, developers, industry members & influencers, and volunteers account for 12%, 8%, and 6% of members, respectively.
- When it comes to securing funding for online communities, 56% of online community professionals mentioned that the most successful approach was getting top management support.
On the other hand, 45% of professionals saw identifying important business needs a community could serve as the most successful approach for securing funding.
- When it comes to comparing online communities with in-person communities, online communities seem to have many advantages.
79% of community professionals believe that online communities are easier to scale, and only 12% believe the other way round.
Moreover, 47% believe that online communities are easier to manage, and only 19% think that in-person communities are easier to manage.
- Facebook Groups and Slack are the most commonly used online community platforms among organizations.
They are being used by 29% and 23% of organizations respectively. On the other hand, internally-hosted groups and Linkedin groups are used by 15% and 11% of organizations.
- The most popular metric for assessing an online community’s success is monthly active users, which is used by 57% of companies.
On the other hand, new user sign-ups, daily active users, and new user-generated content are the next 3 most popular metrics used by 43%, 39%, and 37% of companies.
- On average, 48% of online community members are active within their communities, in one way or another. In contrast, only 0.5-5% of social media followers are usually engaged.
- There is a strong case for organizations to introduce more gamification elements in online communities to improve employee motivation.
According to a study, 83% of employees who go through gamified training see an increase in motivation levels.
Online Community Challenges
- Online community professionals face a wide variety of challenges in managing their community. Difficulty in keeping their members engaged was the most popular concern, as stated by 55% of professionals.
On the other hand, 44% see quantifying the online community’s value as a challenge, and 40% are challenged by the fact that efforts involved in managing the community are largely manual and not automatic.
- Although customer loyalty is one of the primary objectives behind running an online community, only 28% of companies connect their community data with their CRM.
- Another concern is the lack of career development opportunities for community professionals, as a clear career path for community professionals is clearly laid out in only 19% of organizations.
Moreover, only 49% of community professionals have ever received a promotion, and only 8% of community managers have received training for their role.
- COVID-19 has adversely impacted the hiring of community professionals. While 20% of community programs have put further hiring on hold, 10% of programs have reported or expect lay-offs.
- Lack of structure is another challenge faced by the majority of online communities. Only 25% of communities involve executives while making decisions, only 34% have formal roles, and only 16% have a funded roadmap.
- Whenever there has been a lack of success with online communities, it has been attributed to a wide variety of factors, with lack of internal support and resources being the #1 factor mentioned by 31% of community professionals.
On the other hand, lack of engagement and community not addressing member needs were stated as primary reasons by 24% and 17% of professionals.
I hope you enjoyed reading the article. If there are any other online community statistics that you’d like me to add, please feel free to share them in the comments below.