2018 was a meaningful year for the community industry. We’ve seen older forum software companies acquired, making room for new and modern community solutions. We’ve seen top social media platforms committing to investing more in empowering communities. We’ve seen a backlash from users raising their standards and asking for better solutions, more humane tech approach and stricter data usage.
For us at Mobilize it was a busy year too:
- After long and deep research, we narrowed our focus from serving over twelve community verticals to focusing on member-driven communities.
- We launched Mobilize 2.0, which provides professional network members a home online.
- We launched CommunityAcademy.co - the first community-sourced database of content samples to empower community leaders.
- We joined forces with Dave Hersh to continue growing the business in a sustainable manner and building an infrastructure to serve large enterprise customers too.
The new year is just getting started but so far it seems like the year of “Community-first” everything :) Here’s what we (Sharon and Dave) are seeing and what we believe will play out this year. Thanks to David Spinks and Rachel Happe for their predictions, which fit in nicely with ours.
- The conversation will shift from the value received by the organization (Return-On-Investment) to the member value (return-on-involvement). Accordingly, analytics around member health and satisfaction will take center stage with organizational ROI being a direct result of member value.
- Companies will begin to collaborate, sponsor or acquire leading professional communities as they recognize the thought leadership opportunity inherent in a powerful professional network - the epitome of the “value-exchange” era of marketing. For the companies, these communities will drive lead generation, advocacy programs, support and sales; for communities, it will open up new monetization avenues and added value for members.
- Individuals will seek professional networks outside of the large social networks as the awareness and frustration surrounding data usage drives the need for more private opportunities to collaborate and learn.
- A growing understanding of how the need to belong is driving individuals to communities and how that need can be better supported by online interactions.
- The rise of the Chief Community Officer! We will see the first few high profile examples who have a seat at the big table, and who take a multi-disciplinary perspective, including business strategy, recruiting, event planning and data analysis.
- Similar to Rachel’s prediction, we are seeing a growing rise in board involvement around community as board members can now directly connect the dots between community health and growth, innovation and larger organizational missions.
- Human-centered design will become a MUST for platforms that want to serve communities, with a focus on "time well spent,” calm tech and humane tech.
- Community platforms will provide richer interactions and value to members - beyond many-to-many tools like feeds, forums we will see more 1:1 conversations, calendars, opportunity sharing boards, etc.
- Forward-thinking offline communities, like major conferences, will become larger, powerful online, year-round communities as they develop the capacity to keep members engaged.
- Similar to David’s prediction, we believe community vendors will continue to be more solution-driven rather than generic, one-size-fits-all platforms.
- (Bonus and perhaps the most unabashedly self-serving prediction) A continued migration from older, forum-driven platforms to more modern, communicate-from-anywhere, human-centric solutions that members love.
We see big things ahead and are already seeing some of these changes in our client base. Most importantly, we see a huge opportunity this year to help people feel a genuine sense of belonging - not a divisive or false one driven by social media algorithms, but a true sense of connection to people and purpose.
Here’s to the new year 🥂