Why online community is driving real-life action for brands 

Jack Koch, Global Head of Marketing Sciences at Reddit, explains how consumers have turned to online communities for support during the pandemic, and the opportunities this trend presents for brands who can insert themselves sensitively into the conversation.

At Reddit, we like to say that passionate online communities drive real world action and we’ve long known this to be true. Whether it’s rallying thousands of people from our r/skincareaddiction community to send care packages to healthcare workers or inspiring a group of underdogs to take the financial world by storm, the power of online community reaches far beyond the corners of the internet. 

The events of the last few months have catapulted this to a much larger scale, and now even more people understand that the conversations, advice, and recommendations that take place within online communities have the power to proliferate to the real world.  

While the rise and value of online community is not in itself new, the last year has seen a significant increase in people turning to these spaces for information, advice, companionship, and all-important distraction in a time of unprecedented physical disconnection. 

User behaviour
During the early stages of the pandemic, we observed a shift in user behaviour on our platform, as online communities started to prove their worth in a whole new way. What began as fear and information-gathering quickly evolved to a sense of “settling in to a new normal at home – and despite being at home, the need for real-time interaction was more important than ever. Whether it was to seek advice on home-schooling, learning how to cut our own hair, or navigating the complexities of dating in a pandemic, as the world reacted to such unprecedented change and uncertainty, it became clear that online communities were filling a void for social expression. 

Amidst all this change, it also became clear that online communities were emerging as integral to the consumer journey and path to purchase. These are spaces for real people to unite around products and services they really care about, in a trusted environment. And without the freedom to touch, taste, and try on products in real-life shopping environments over the past year, it’s no surprise communities have increasingly become a place for people to research, discover, and recommend products – with no sign of slowing down.

We recently partnered with Verto Analytics to analyse almost 1,500 online purchase journeys for actively-researched products on Reddit. We found that compared to other social platforms, consumers who use Reddit are more informed as they research and evaluate 2x the number of brands during 4x as many research sessions; are more confident purchasers, making their final purchase decision 9x faster, and ultimately spend more money; and have stronger brand advocacy with a 12% higher NPS (Net Promoter Score) post-purchase. They’re also 13 per cent more likely to talk positively about the brand on and offline after they’ve made their purchase.

Brand purpose
While community engagement can be extremely valuable for advertisers, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about letting the users do the work. There’s room for brands in these conversations and in fact, it’s never been more important. Where brand purpose was once an aspirational marketing ambition, it’s now a necessity, as consumers are more savvy and socially conscious than ever, and expect the same from the brands they use. There’s a heightened need for brands to humanise, as consumers crave more authentic, intimate, and meaningful interactions, and this is amplified by a decline in trust of social media and influencers. Online communities have become synonymous with authenticity and some of the most genuine interactions on the internet – it’s important for brands to abide by these values as well. 

Brands that can tap into this mindset and successfully insert themselves in these spaces have the power to not only drive product purchase, but can also unlock meaningful, life-long advocates who are genuinely invested in their success. The potential is immense, and we’re just getting started uncovering the impact these audiences are having on the cultural zeitgeist.