What Differentiates A Brand Community?

Welcome to my attempt to explain how an online Brand Community differs from social media communities, or other types of digital communities. In my professional opinion, it comes down to three differences:

Peer-to-Peer Interaction Style

This type of style is unique and even presents in a different visual format than social media communities. A Brand Community allows for peers to ask questions or kick off discussions at any time that they like, and a response can be posted at any time as well. In social media communities (think Instagram, Facebook Page, LinkedIn page, etc), the brand has to post first, and only then can followers respond and begin to interact with one another in the replies. This represents a one-to-many interaction style, while the Brand Community represents the peer-to-peer approach. For example, in a Brand Community, a member could post a question whenever they like, such as, “Could someone help me understand the best way to use product XYZ?” This approach also tends to instill more trust since it’s proven that people place more credibility on getting information from “a person like yourself”. (Edelman Trust Barometer 2021)

I admit, the wording for all of this can be confusing in our field. Some people like to refer to this interaction style as forums, but I prefer to say “peer-to-peer” since people question the effectiveness of forums. When they question them though, I believe they are thinking of old versions of forums. Today, forums have come a long way, and many platform versions of them offer a UI experience and features with more bells and whistles than we’ve ever seen before.

Inclination to Help

In every community, there is a subgroup of members who joined because they feel so passionate about the product or service that they want to HELP someone else. Without the motivation to want to help others, there is no community aspect. This special subgroup becomes responsible for most of the replies and solutions that make up your brand’s valuable content. (You’ll also want to recognize and thank this group for their help. I’ll elaborate on ways to do this in a future All-Things-Community post.)

The Experience

When a user joins a brand’s social media community, they become a follower of that account. Sure, they may make a connection through conversation in the comments of a post, but we now have conclusive data that shows users have more significant experiences in a Brand (online) Community:

Compared to social media platforms, online community site's conversations were regarded as more meaningful, its atmosphere judged more respectful, and users felt more able to be themselves and respected by others in turn. ~ The era of we: online community users (Report from GlobalWebIndex and Reddit, 2019)

In later posts to All-Things-Community, I’ll be exploring this topic deeper, including:

  • The Benefits of a Brand Community vs. Social Media

  • The Structure of Brand Communities: Decentralized vs. Centralized

What do YOU think differentiates a Brand Community? Also, what else would you like to hear from me on in regards to Brand Communities?


Monday Pep Talks for Community Professionals

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