Why Your Customers Crave Online Community Engagement


The Gist

  • Community bonding. Brands build loyalty and retention by fostering online communities for shared interests.
  • Customer voice amplified. Online platforms enable direct feedback, shaping products and enhancing satisfaction.
  • Peer-to-peer support. Communities offer a space for customers to find solutions, reducing service pressure.

A throwback to the beginnings of the internet, online communities have emerged as a powerful tool for bolstering customer retention and engagement. These digital platforms not only offer a space for customers to connect over shared interests and experiences but also enable brands to build a sense of belonging, loyalty and continuous interaction. Through the collective power of these communities, businesses are transforming casual customers into loyal advocates and collaborators in the brand’s journey.

This article will examine how online communities, through building dialogue, support, and shared learning, are resurfacing as a powerful collaborative tool for customer engagement. 

Introduction to Online Communities

The concept of brand success and customer engagement has undergone a significant transformation, which has both contributed to and been affected by the rise of online communities. These platforms have become more than just a meeting ground for like-minded individuals; they are integral to how brands cultivate loyalty, foster customer engagement and differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. 

Online communities provide a unique space where customers can share their experiences, challenges, and solutions, not just with each other but with the brands they patronize. Additionally, customers use communities for self-help, to find solutions to the problems they encounter with a brand’s products or services. This interaction goes beyond the transactional nature of traditional customer service, offering a sense of belonging and a deeper connection to the brand’s values and mission.

Heather Foeh, senior director of customer marketing & community at 6sense, an ABM platform provider, told CMSWire that a thriving community allows customers to co-own the brand and shape their shared experience. “When a community grows organically, it becomes a vibrant tapestry, with each member adding their unique threads to create something truly special,” said Foeh. “This analogy beautifully captures the interconnectedness and strength of a strong community.”

The significance of online communities in enhancing customer retention cannot be overstated. They serve as a vital channel through which brands can listen to and learn from their customers, thereby aligning their products and services more closely with customer needs and expectations. By engaging directly with their communities, brands gain invaluable insights into customer preferences, pain points and potential areas for innovation. These communities also provide a platform for customers to become brand advocates, sharing their positive experiences and influencing others in their network. This not only amplifies the brand’s reach but also reinforces customer trust and loyalty.

Foeh said that online communities are transforming traditional customer engagement models. “Creating space for our customers to connect, learn from each other, and share ideas, allows them to be in charge of their own experience on their timetable,” said Foeh. “This is about enriching the old one-to-one model of a customer just speaking with their customer success manager.” Foeh explained that customers now have the opportunity to grow their skills from the much wider pool of knowledge of their peers as well.

Related Article: Tips to Build a Highly Engaged User Community

The Rise of Online Communities

The phenomenon of online communities is not merely a product of the digital age alone; its roots can be traced back to the early days of the internet, where dial-up bulletin boards, and later, Usenet newsgroups (shown below) and discussion forums formed the basis of digital interaction. These early iterations provided a glimpse into the potential of digital spaces for bringing people together around common interests or issues. 

Mark Gadala-Maria, co-founder and CEO of Post Cheetah, an AI-driven SEO platform provider, told CMSWire that be it social networking sites (Facebook, Reddit, X, Instagram) or a customized company forum, online communities have made revolutionary changes in customer retention and engagement. “Rather than having physical meetings to gain information about clients and manually putting them on CMS, the latest data analytics software can be connected and directed to social media handles, and the marketing team can get real-time analysis about buying behavior, payment methods, and expectations,” said Gadala-Maria.

Post Cheetah

Over decades, as technology advanced and social media platforms emerged, online communities significantly evolved. This evolution was marked by an increased emphasis on interactivity, multimedia content, and real-time communication, making these communities more vibrant and engaging than ever before. From community discussion forums, to Reddit groups (subreddits), to Facebook groups, online communities provided places for people to engage with others about their hobbies, passions, professions, and finally, the products and services they regularly used. This opened up an opportunity for brands to create a community presence that would allow their customers to directly communicate with them, as well as their other customers. 

This created a shift from traditional customer service to community-driven engagement and represented a significant change in how businesses approach customer relationships. Traditionally, customer service was a one-to-one interaction, often reactive and limited to addressing specific issues or queries. However, with the rise of online communities, the paradigm shifted toward a more proactive, many-to-many model of engagement.

In these digital spaces, customers not only seek solutions to their problems but also share experiences, offer advice, and provide feedback directly to the brand and each other. This has allowed businesses to transition from being mere providers of products or services to becoming facilitators of an interactive community experience. NikeTalk, pictured below, debuted in 1999, and allows Nike customers and fans to discuss their favorite Nike products, becoming a central hub for all things Nike.


This transition underscores a broader trend toward valuing and leveraging customer input, recognizing that the collective wisdom of the community can drive improvements in products, services and overall customer satisfaction. It also reflects a move toward a more transparent and authentic form of brand communication, where businesses can engage openly with customers in a shared space. 

Related Article: Want to Build a Customer Community? Here’s How to Get Started

Benefits of Online Communities for Brands

Online communities provide many opportunities for brands, ranging from enhancing customer loyalty, providing solutions to customer service issues and providing valuable feedback directly from the customers themselves. These digital communities allow brands to cultivate a sense of belonging among their customers, building a community that’s engaged not just with products or services but also with each other. This sense of belonging is crucial for building long-term brand loyalty, as customers feel more connected and invested in the brand’s success. The Salesforce subreddit, shown below, is a place where Salesforce users come together to ask questions of each other, and just enjoy being around other Salesforce users.


Direct interaction and feedback from the community also play a significant role in enhancing customer engagement. Through these online communities, customers can voice their opinions, suggestions, and concerns, providing brands with real-time insights into their audiences’ needs and preferences. This feedback loop can lead to more informed decisions, product improvements, and personalized marketing strategies, ultimately enhancing the customer experience. 

Lindsay Sanchez, CMO at Khoros, a digital customer engagement platform provider, told CMSWire that online brand-owned communities go beyond static FAQs and offer robust, personalized digital forums for customers to find resolutions to their customer service issues quickly, connect with like-minded peers, and access engaging and educational content. “By developing a platform that increases online community logins, posts, unique visitors, service request resolution rates, and customer satisfaction scores, brands can create a better customer experience and drive loyalty,” suggested Sanchez.


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