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Beyond the Screen: 5 trends in Online Communities in 2024

Community strategy consultant, Michelle Goodall, outlines the key community based trends that media organizations need to know in advance of 2024, as well as recapping this year’s key developments.

Community is core to successful publishing and media business models today. Whether you view your communities as social media followers, paying members, subscribers, comments sections or letters pages, your customers are no longer “just” readers or audiences – they’re active partners in a conversation with you and with each other.

But the world of community is fast-moving and never more so than in 2023.

A host of global community strategy experts have helped me pick out the key trends in community for 2024.

Here is a selection that publishers and media businesses need to know about, especially if you’ve invested in building communities to support your brand and drive your commercial goals.

Community Everywhere

This term in community strategy highlights the many and varied spaces where brands are discussed. You’ll also hear this referred to as ‘Community Ecosystems’. It is the need for brands – including publishers – to identify and engage across various digital and physical community and gathering spaces, beyond your owned platforms.

Tapping into diverse community dialogues can help you create richer, more nuanced stories, develop a better understanding of your audience’s pain points – and reach more people. Don’t overlook less obvious or new platforms.

As I mention in the community trends article, this community driven conversational data at scale is marketing and innovation ‘gold dust’;  “These insights can power highly relevant campaigns, content and events – the content that resonates best with customers and prospects uses words they’ve said out loud.”

Getting to grips with community ecosystems requires a strategic approach to stakeholder mapping and engagement, but it can pay off. Community expert Ed Giansante, Head of Community at Persona, emphasises how technology is encouraging seamless conversations: “The rise of platform-agnostic communities is a trend I find exhilarating…I start a conversation with a friend on WhatsApp, move to Instagram DM and suddenly find myself commenting in a specific tool or forum as if we were having a pub crawl online….Companies that optimize for cross-platform will win.”

Nano, Micro and Small Trusted Community Spaces Flourish in 2024

As social media becomes less ‘social’, there is a trend towards smaller, specialised, trusted groups in community building, and we expect this to continue in 2024 and beyond.

A number of community specialists have witnessed first-hand a rise in in-person, small, niche, highly curated ‘concierge’ type communities of senior decision-makers, convened in small, private communities, either as a part of a membership offering, or as a smart customer retention or business development tactic by technology vendors or agencies in 2023.

Big isn’t always best when it comes to community. It’s the company that you keep and how you convene it.

The Impact of an Unravelling Twitter and Social Media Shifts

The disruptions in major social platforms like Twitter have led to a fragmented digital landscape. Meta’s Threads launched in July 2023 with record numbers of new users. We are all figuring out how to build ‘Twitter equivalent’ audiences on the platform. The recent addition of hyperlinked hashtags without the # is a very welcome content discovery feature. 

Innovative publishers are dabbling with Threads and other new platforms like Bluesky and the decentralised Mastadon to create branded ‘servers’ and access a wider range of sources and perspectives.

Community builders are making constant decisions about whether to ‘stick or twist’ on social media platforms like X and Facebook. Expect to see more of the same disruption in 2024. As always, you should be guided by what resonates with your audiences and subscribers.

US community strategist Laura Zug notes: “People yearn for spaces that promote understanding, empathy, and genuine connections, free from algorithmic manipulation…. By embracing the ethos of genuine community and curated belonging, we pave the way for a more humane and intentional digital world.”

Community Tech Evolution

As community platforms evolve and social media goes in multiple directions at once, there’s a trend towards smaller, agile tech tools that can cope with change. Community managers are increasingly becoming tech stack operators, integrating various tools for optimal performance.

The good news for publishers is that this means you don’t have to build everything yourself or find a platform that does everything. It’s easier than ever to integrate different tools and build what works for you.  Content creators can use these nimble tools to engage audiences, amplify content and analyse conversations.

Keeping up with the rapidly evolving tech landscape will pay off. Venessa Paech, Director & Founder of Australian Community Managers, highlights how “bloated and inflexible” platforms can be costly and predicts: “Smaller, DIY and stacked tech tools will grow their market share as community owners look to craft customised, affordable, ‘community everywhere’ experiences for their people.”

Hyper-Personalised Community Experiences

Leading community platforms are baking AI into their technology so that communities can offer more tailored experiences and content for their members. AI-driven community content discovery and adapting community UX to an individual’s interests and needs will increase engagement, loyalty and retention for publishers who have invested in community. These tools can help publishers understand audience preferences better, leading to even more engaging and relevant content and experiences.

A challenge is in balancing personalisation with privacy concerns, but transparency around the use of data means community owners can create a fair exchange between their needs and those of their users.

Users expect personalisation and it’s worth getting right – as Katy Howell, CEO of immediate future, observes: “2024 is the year where one-size-fits-all communities are as outdated as dial-up modems… Imagine a community platform that knows you’re a vegan, a parent, and a tech enthusiast. It curates content, conversations, and even product recommendations based on these multi-layered facets of your identity. Brands that get this right will see engagement rates go through the roof.”

Enhanced Trust and Safety in Community Moderation

Community moderation, helping to manage misinformation and maintain safe spaces for discourse, has never been more important. It’s another space where AI will have a big impact. Again, many community platforms are adding improved AI-driven moderation features to reduce the ‘load’ for community managers.

And it couldn’t come at a better time. In 2024, there will be 70 elections and more than half of the global population will be able to vote in them. Community professionals around the globe need to prepare for heightened emotions and an onslaught of fake and AI generated content. The challenge of ensuring digital communities remain safe and free of misinformation will be acutely felt.

US community strategist Marjorie Anderson explains: “With the continued rampant spread of disinformation in online spaces, community professionals have a responsibility to their communities to ensure that the information they receive is credible and that the spaces that their community members inhabit allow them to engage in conversation/discourse without causing harm.”

These trends in community highlight how publishers need to adapt content and audience engagement strategies to keep up with the changing dynamics of community building.

In a rapidly evolving media landscape, enhancing the stories you tell and fostering meaningful connections in an increasingly fragmented digital world is becoming a business imperative. Community building is complex, yet rich with rewards and opportunities for those who navigate it thoughtfully and strategically.

This content has been adapted from Community Trends 2024 – read all 11 trends here.

Michelle Goodall
Community strategy consultant, speaker and trainer

About the author: Formerly Chief Marketing Officer at Guild and now a community strategy consultant, speaker and trainer, Michelle Goodall has 25+ years of experience in marketing, community, digital and communications, working with the world’s most recognisable brands including BBC, Penguin Random House, Paramount Global, Direct Line and London2012.

About Guild: Guild is a platform that is purpose-built for creating groups, communities and networks. Thousands of businesses including publishers, membership organisations and consultancies use Guild’s intuitive and mobile-first platform to create GDPR-compliant, ad-free communities with access to custom branding, admin and analytics. See for more information.