What is an Online Community? Why Every Business Needs One

Dori Gray

As the world becomes increasingly digital, businesses are realizing the value of online communities for both internal and external purposes. But if you're not familiar with the concept, you might be wondering: what exactly is an online community? Simply put, it's a digital platform where customers, clients, or employees can interact, share knowledge, and collaborate, making it a vital tool for organizations of all sizes.

Internally these communities are often used for knowledge sharing, problem-solving, and idea generation. Externally they are commonly used for customer support, market research, and networking.

Organizations of all sizes own and manage online communities for two primary business uses:

Internal Online Communities

Internal online communities, also known as digital workplaces and employee experience platforms; serve as a company’s modern intranet, knowledge management hub, and collaborative platform for their employees. An internal community revolutionizes how employees connect and collaborate and will evolve with your organization.

For years businesses have realized the value of having a collaborative tool available to their employees. Retaining legacy information as people change roles, crowdsourcing decisions, and knowledge-sharing, are vital to the growth of any organization. Empowering employees with an integrated hub that enables collaboration beyond a physical office space improves productivity and overall satisfaction.

Typically Corporate Communications, Information Technology, or Human Resources own the community platform. These communities are often part of the company’s digital workplace or productivity strategy to help modernize how employees work.

External Online Communities

Businesses also implement externally-facing collaborative platforms (customer communities) in order to better interact with their customers and partners. External online communities provide two-way conversations for product marketing, customer support, and partner engagement to build brand loyalty.

Externally facing communities go beyond traditional customer service, enabling businesses to connect with their customers and prospects in real-time. With a customer community, businesses can improve call deflection rates, reduce overall support costs and drive sales while significantly increasing customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

Now more than ever, brands and organizations are looking for innovative ways to engage their customers and partners. This provides companies with a competitive edge by improving how they can connect, communicate and collaborate with their consumers. Customer communities allow organizations and brands to enable their own customers and partners with the power to help themselves. Customers are also able to interact with other community members who have the same questions they do, or perhaps additional insight around a product or topic.

Online communities are a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes to implement. At Social Edge we work with leading software platforms to build both internal and external communities. If you would like to book a discovery call, contact Social Edge today.