We’re always talking about building community and how engaged communities can have an undeniable impact on our organizations. However, sometimes the concepts behind an online community can feel a bit abstract.
Aren’t communities built in person? How can an army of strangers online make a customer feel seen?
To make the idea of an online community and its benefits more concrete, we used our internal employee community to crowdsource 12 of our favorite examples of thriving communities around the web.
These examples can help us answer the question: What really makes a community a community?
Let These 12 Online Community Examples Inspire You
These online communities might not operate in your same industry, but don’t dismiss them too quickly: there’s a lesson to be learned from every community.
Sometimes, seeing someone else’s approach, whether their community is about software, home-sharing, or beauty, can help you see your own community in a whole new light and remind us all of the basics of why we do this thing called “community.”
Example 1: Sephora Community
Starting a community around beauty was a genius idea by Sephora and received instant praise. Members can ask questions about certain products, share feedback with staff, and submit ideas about how to use products. The community gets more eyes on Sephora’s brand, connects customers to answer each other’s beauty questions, and, we assume, results in more product sales. (Glossier’s community is a similar example. The company relies on its online customer feedback to drive success.)
Example 2: Airbnb Community
There are a few communities out there for home-sharing hosts, including company-sponsored and unaffiliated communities (where the talk gets #real), but we decided to feature Airbnb’s official community.
Airbnb recognizes that its most valuable support comes from its users, so it brings hosts together to swap ideas on how to be better hosts, problem-solve, and suggest ways to improve their businesses. The community also capitalizes on gamification strategies by awarding badges and levels.
Example 3: City of Hope Community
City of Hope, a nonprofit providing training to medical professionals working in the field of cancer genetics, uses its community to engage its audience. The nonprofit leverages its community to encourage course attendance and discussion, and uses the community as a virtual conduit to discuss the latest research and collaborate with each other on cases.
Example 4: Jama Software Community
This software company’s community has been called “the best resources for all things Jama.” That’s pretty high praise - and Jama deserves it. Jama’s customers work in a highly technical product development field, and they needed a place they could go to get help at all hours. The software company met this need with a community that customers could rely on as a knowledge base and a comprehensive destination for support.
Example 5: Orangetheory Fitness Reddit Community
Although the Orangetheory Fitness Reddit doesn’t live in a traditional community software platform, its community is still thriving organically. The community is a great resource for members who want to see the exact workout for the day. With members across the globe, members can even get a sneak peek at the workout from members in an earlier time zone.
Example 6: Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity Community
Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity worked hard to align its community’s design and structure to the needs of its users. Since many of its daily users are college students, the community’s design focuses on excitement, energy, and ease of use to draw students in. The fraternity curates personalized content and provides a live chat feature to assist its members in real time.
Example 7: GolfWRX Community
The GolfWRX community is the perfect online destination for golf aficionados. Community-specific programming provides users with golf education and reviews from other golf players, while user-generated images and discussions give other players reviews of new equipment.
Example 8: The Daily Carnage Community
Started in late 2017, the Daily Carnage Facebook group arose from a marketing agency’s (Carney) daily marking newsletter. As the agency’s newsletter began to take off, Carney had the idea to connect their fans in a community. The Facebook group seemed to meet a real need for marketers to connect and share advice, memes, and strategies, and engagement is high.
Example 9: FabFitFun Community
Similarly to Sephora’s beauty community, FabFitFun’s community is the perfect accompaniment for its beauty, fitness, and wellness subscription box. By joining the community, members can preview upcoming items and share recipes, beauty tips, and product reviews with each other. Involvement in a community like this encourages adoption and makes it more likely that consumers will continue to subscribe.
Example 10: CFP Board Community
The CFP Board’s mission is to grant a certified financial planning certification. It launched its community in mid-2016, and recently won “most successful online community” at our annual conference, Super Forum. Its community has seen a steady increase in engagement this year, achieving a 12 percent growth in unique contributors since 2018, with members jumping in to network and grow in their professions.
Example 11: Mr. Money Mustache Community
The lively Mr. Money Mustache forum sprang up from Mr. Money Mustache’s blog, where he shares tips on how to achieve financial independence and early retirement. He’s created quite the fan club, dubbed “Mustachians,” and they use the forum to share financial advice, talk investments, and swap ideas on how to save. Mr. Money Mustache makes an effort to build in-person community too, visiting his fans and their fan clubs and writing about it on his blog.
Example 12: The Customer Success Forum Community
The Customer Success Association’s online community is consistently filled with discussions on best practices for customer success, ranging from topics like how to measure churn, how to structure your team, or how to be an effective voice of the customer at your organization. Never promotional, this community is filled with posts from engaged members who are focused on learning and growing into better customer success leaders.
Communities Grow From Shared Purpose
After looking at all these examples, we can look back at our original question: what makes a community a community? Shared purpose, or people coming together to achieve a goal or solve a problem. Golf players want to know which clubs to buy. Sephora consumers want the latest beauty tips. Marketers want inspiration for new campaigns.
Your organization may have a larger goal for your community, like ticket deflection, member retention, or increased revenue, but we always have to come back to the basics. We create communities for people, people who want to connect and learn about something together.
How can you get back to your shared purpose this year?
For more on online community strategy, check out The Community Roundtable's annual report: The State of Community Management Report 2019, available below.
Editor's note: This post was originally published by Nick Davis in December 2015 and has since been refreshed to make sure we're bringing you the latest and greatest.