Top 42 Online Community Statistics & Trends for 2021

Online Community Statistics

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

  1. 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%.
  1. 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.
  1. Moreover, organizations are increasingly using online communities — 59% of organizations worldwide had an online community in 2018 compared to 50% in 2015. 
  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 
  1. 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 

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. Online communities also directly impact a company’s revenue, as customers spend 19% more with a company after joining its online community.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Branded Community Business Impact
Source: Vanilla Forums
  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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

  1. According to a study, 27.3% of customers use online communities in their internet buying decision making, while considering a product or service.
  1. 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.

Reasons to Join Online Community
Source: GlobalWebIndex
  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.
  1. 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. 
  1. 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.
  1. 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 

  1. 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.

Community Business Value Measurement
Source: CMX
  1. 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. 

  1. 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%.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Online vs In-Person Communities
Source: CMX
  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Filed Under: Membership Sites
Scroll to Top