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The Impact of Online Communities on Consumer Behavior

Online communities are influenced and driven by their members. Literally, every feature introduced or activity conducted in a community is to offer them more value. In the case of brand communities, understanding the needs and desires of the brand’s target audience is one of the basic steps for a successful community. I mean, why would you even join a community unless it has something worth it, right? 

But is that the only relationship between a community and its members?

Just as the members affect the core elements of an online community, a community has a subtle, but definite impact on the behaviour of its members. Learning more about this is necessary to maximize the benefits of a brand community.

Conversations Drive Real-World Actions

Members often talk to each other about any news related to the community that is buzzing in their industry or common areas of interest. They hold real discussions and create bonds with each other. As members value each other’s opinions, these discussions held in an online community can have a potent effect on real-world actions.

If a brand ambassador or an influential person in the community shares his/her opinion, it is not just any other opinion that’s being shared in the group. There’s a good chance that it will have an effect on the perception of other members. This is also why brand communities are an ideal avenue to understand the gap between intended positioning and unintended perception and trigger conversations influencing a change in customers’ attitudes towards the brand.

Customers Make Informed Purchases

Customer communities can act as the perfect grounds for information distribution. They are literally the hangout spots for the fans and customers of a brand. A single announcement makes it easy for an organization to spread any information effectively.

Also, brands can create resource bases and guides for customers in an online community for users to refer to whenever they face any difficulty with the product or service. At the same time, members of the community can always talk to each other if they wish to look for solutions.

In short, online communities also function as information databases for a brand. Customers can use this to their advantage to learn more about a brand, arming themselves with any information they need before making a purchase.

Customers Make Confident Purchases

Brands personally take care of their customer communities. Whether it is by holding brand-related events and activities related to the brand or by providing customer support, it is possible for an organization to interact with its consumers on a regular basis. This also instils a sense of confidence that customers can always approach the brand through the community.

Customer communities also create a sense of fraternity amongst their members. They can rely on each other for any assistance in the future as well, especially if it has anything to do with the respective brand or its product. It also creates a feeling within an individual, that they are not the only customer of the brand. This is twice as effective for users who do not have many other people in their personal circles who are consumers of the same products as them.

Finally, brands can offer discounts and deals to customers in their community through this platform. As customers are confident that they have the best deal that they can receive, they are much more likely to make a purchase from the brands.

Boosts Brand Advocacy

As customers are a part of an online community, they feel a sense of belonging to the brand as well. The biggest motivation to be a part of a brand community is receiving special treatment by the brand, whether it is in the form of support, events, rewards, updates, or exclusive discounts. Customers value this exclusive treatment even if it is not monetary, and respect the brand in return.

A brand can make a community self-sufficient by giving members a level of authority. This allows them to take part in the management of the community. While this ensures that the community is truly run for the people and by the people, it also keeps things transparent between the brand and the members. Another attribute that members respect.

As consumers are more loyal to brands, they become the best ambassador and advocates for them. Building a strong brand community should be every organization's first step towards increasing brand reputation and loyalty.

Online communities are the virtual home of people on the Internet. They are a place where people get together to socialize, interact and find solutions together. It is not really a surprise that the environment in an online community has an impact on its members. This explains why brands take extra efforts to make sure that an online community is kept healthy throughout its lifetime.

Sheldon Chorattil
Mar 21, 2022
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