The Future Is Social. The Future Is Community-Driven.
Communities have always been the lifeblood of brands. They're the dedicated fans who are always in the loop, always engaging, and always sharing. But only recently have brands started to fully leverage this power with community-centric marketing strategies.
So, why now? And what does a community-based marketing strategy look like?
Three major trends are guiding both consumers and brands towards community:
→ Traditional marketing is losing its charm. Consumers are bombarded with ads and information, both online and offline. The younger generations no longer connect through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Brands are finding it increasingly difficult to compete for their customers’ attention.
→ The internet is evolving. The new evolution of the web is centered around sharing information and ideas. It’s not just about brands extracting value from their communities (and thus consumers), but it’s about adding value to the consumers’ everyday lives.
→ People are seeking connection. In a world where loneliness is a real issue, people are desperate for connection and community—not just more ads or mindless shopping.
The conclusion? People need communities to feel connected, and brands need communities to stand out from the crowd. Enter community-driven marketing. Community-based marketing is when brands proactively build and manage communities to fulfill their and their customers’ needs.
According to research from McKinsey, a community marketing strategy is the method of choice for the remainder of the 2020s. Companies have moved on from personalization (which can still be valuable) to focus on speaking to people as part of a united community; to allow people to truly participate in your brand actively. Not just as bystanders and consumers.
This shift in marketing isn’t the first time strategy needs to be adapted to the realities of the world. Just cast your mind back to the early days of social media, when the role of “social media manager” was invented.
For a while, it was all about building community around Facebook pages, managing comments, and hosting discussion forums.
But then things changed. Social networks updated their algorithms and added new features for mass broadcasting ads. Social media became corporate, automated, and algorithmic, where it used to be personal, intentional, and in the present moment.
That's not to say that social media is over. It’s still an essential part of your marketing mix. But we need to get back to that earlier, customer-first, community-focused approach.
This is where virtual worlds come into play. Social platforms like Roblox, Fortnite, Horizon Worlds, and Spatial offer a unique opportunity for brands to build and engage with communities in a more immersive and interactive way. These platforms allow brands to create unique experiences for their customers, fostering a sense of belonging and community that goes beyond traditional marketing strategies.
They offer a unique opportunity for brands to engage with younger audiences. With a user base that is primarily made up of Gen Z and Gen Alpha, brands can tap into a demographic that is notoriously difficult to reach through traditional marketing channels.
But building a community in these virtual worlds is not without its challenges. Brands need to be willing to relinquish some control and allow the community to evolve organically. This might mean that the community goes in creative directions that the brand didn't anticipate.
This is part of the beauty of community-based marketing in virtual worlds. It allows for a level of user engagement and co-creation that is not possible in traditional marketing channels. User-generated content (UGC) in social platforms like Roblox and Fortnite is a billion-dollar industry and will continue to explode.
Are virtual worlds the only option? No.
But Gen Alpha's digital behavior today makes them hard to ignore Tomorrow.