The Value of Online Communities

By Irina Ghazazyan

In recent years online communities have increasingly become more involved in content “curation” than “creation”, as users engage in more linking, reposting, retweeting, and reblogging. This trend has emphasized the need for professionals, businesses and entrepreneurs to differentiate themselves by original content on their website. Developing, maintaining, and growing online communities are all key to forging strong brand relationships. The larger and more dedicated the community, the greater its value. Not only do individuals, bloggers and journalists want dedicated followers to consume their content, thus increasing its value but companies also want to keep and attract new users and subscribers who may ultimately buy and promote their products.

In our time, companies produce product or service related content, create and distribute public releases and other publications in much the same way as traditional news organizations do. There is now a much larger overlap between the work of journalists, marketers and entrepreneurs than ever before. Regardless of the fact if the content is created by a professional journalist, sales-oriented marketer or sole entrepreneur it should uphold the highest standards of ethics and relevance, otherwise it will be useless to the brand because the target audience will not consume it.

Nowadays, audiences expect the content to be personally relevant and valuable, irrespective of the fact who produces it. To create anything less than that would not be sustainable to anyone interested in maintaining and building an audience. Content has become central to determining the success of a website, blog, online publication or a brand. Owing to data and such tools as Google Analytics, Quantcast, and Google Webmaster Tools it is possible to determine in real-time the frequency and duration of visits to a website or page. Moreover, visitors’ geographic, demographic information and the way they interact with the content can also be accurately determined.  Web analytics provide essential feedback to those who create and direct online content: data help decide which content is appealing to the target audience and should be promoted, and which content is not appealing and should be discarded. Such insights allow brands to better serve the interests of their target audiences while helping to meet the needs and serve the interests of more general visitors as well.

The mass media world is gone. Today we live in a global world that is composed of self-selected communities, many of them online. Dedicated communities are equally valuable to both individuals and businesses. Not only do communities serve as a built-in audience for the company’s messages, but their members are the potential brand ambassadors that could help a business grow its equity and increase its value, and not just in terms of sales.

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