With endless digital channels competing for attention, determining if an online community is a worthwhile and strategic addition to your customer engagement approach can be challenging. This article will help you to evaluate if investing in a community aligns with ten key business use cases – from brand awareness to revenue growth. 

The goal is to provide you with a practical decision framework, outlining when communities can drive strategic value vs. when resources may be better allocated elsewhere.

Brand Awareness

While communities can build intimacy with a niche group, other channels may be more directly impactful. Organic social media, influencer and affiliate marketing, and social media advertising are more likely to generate greater awareness and reach. 

Verdict: If your goal is purely about gaining greater visibility and reach, then an online community will be a luxury buy with a long term payoff. Only invest in community for awareness if your targets are a clearly defined, engaged subgroup as opposed to engaging a wide customer base.

Lead Generation

Informed, satisfied community members tend to become advocates over time, organically referring leads that will help you to grow your business. But communities will require careful cultivation to build trust and advocacy.

By fostering a culture of collaboration, appreciation, and belonging, communities can encourage members to share leads more actively and authentically. This approach not only nurtures higher quality leads but also strengthens the relationship between your brand and its customers, turning them into a valuable asset for organic growth.

Verdict: Use your online community to build your customers’ understanding of your products or services over time. Expect a lead volume bump over months, not an overnight influx.

Customer Acquisition

Communities primarily support customer experiences post-sign-up as opposed to driving upfront acquisition. While it is possible that an open community can be configured so that anyone can see the content and could subsequently pique the interest of potential customers, it’s very difficult to attribute the part that community plays with regards to the new customer acquisition.

Dedicated conversion funnels are a better way to attract new customers. 

Verdict: Communities are highly useful for onboarding and nurturing new users. But don’t rely solely on a community for customer acquisition.

Website Traffic

Provided that your community platform is open (not private) and indexable by Google and other search engines, your active member discussions are highly valuable at driving search engine results and traffic.Your community will always produce more content and ideas than your content team could ever hope to. 

Provided you’re managing the community for SEO optimization and ensuring that the community members stay reasonably on topic and relevant to your business, the benefits can be powerful.

Verdict: Communities offer a big opportunity to incrementally grow branded search traffic.

Industry Leadership

Becoming a thought leader requires in-depth, exclusive community content, and dialogues tailored to your niche.

If you are in a competitive industry vertical, creating an online community hub where all of the top professionals in your field come for thought leadership and network is a secret weapon. Just about any industry segment you can think of has its share of online communities, but by studying them and building a uniquely valuable approach you have the opportunity to become the place where the top, most talented professionals go to share and gain industry insights.

Not only does this bring accolades to your organization for hosting important professional discussions, but it’s also a wonderful place to recruit the next leaders for the company. For extra lift, you may want to incorporate the online community with one or more conferences or events and use the community as a place to keep the energy and ideas flowing throughout the year.

Verdict: Build an online community that caters to thought leadership. Communities are a place where industry experts can stand out, but you will need to focus on providing high-quality content and incentives to participate.

Customer Retention

Engaged customers who find useful, relevant information about how to use your product or service to get work done or to achieve some goal are far more likely to renew their commitment to you for many years. This engagement with timely and relevant content is key to increasing key metrics like customer loyalty and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

Be sure to benchmark customers who are active in your online community against those who choose not to participate. What you find may put a smile on your face.

Verdict: Online communities, if done right, can keep customers coming back to spend time with your brand for years. Communities can have a significant yet slow-burn impact on retention metrics. Expect gradual improvements over 1-2 years.

Brand Engagement

Boosting brand engagement is something online communities do extremely well. Through peer support, Q&A, events, networking, behind-the-scenes product previews, customer spotlights and more–online communities are a powerhouse of tactics for energizing your customers.

Keep in mind that your brand engagement results will depend on the quality of facilitation and incentives you provide. Organizations who adopt a “set it and forget it” attitude towards their online community implementation are guaranteed to falter. 

It’s not just about tasking a site administrator to squash spam and reset passwords. The success of communities at driving brand engagement is directly tied to keeping the community managed by an active and evangelizing representative of your organization.

Further, it won’t cut it to build your community in the carnival atmosphere of a big social media platform where distractions abound. You’ll find the best and deepest interactions with your brand by dedicating an intentionally planned community platform over which you exercise control.

Verdict: Communities are an impactful way to increase brand touches but require investment in community managers and a suitable technology platform that can manage recognition and incentives.

Revenue Growth

When it comes to increasing revenue, direct and indirect, online communities can be leveraged to good benefit. Customers may visit your online community to read about a product or service from you that they haven’t yet tried. 

If your community provides easy ways to move from curiosity, to engagement, to purchase, you can end up directly attributing sales to the online community itself.

Verdict: A community’s influence on sales can be challenging to attribute. Focus on the long-term – community drives loyalty and advocacy, indirectly boosting revenues over time. View community as a complementary influencer along with other revenue channels.

Internal Brand

Improving your internal brand with an online community? Tricky, but yes it can be done! 

By elevating internal (employee) champions to ‘mini celebrity’ status within the community, you not only boost morale within your team but also bridge the gap between your customers and your brand. Their successes may motivate others in your organization to participate, too. 

Imagine your customers cheering when one of your internal employee champions chimes in to answer a difficult question about your service. 

Verdict: Proceed cautiously in efforts to improve your internal brand with a customer-facing community. Start with areas where employees actively want to engage.

Market Research

Your online community is an incredible resource for enriching your marketing data. 

Imagine a 24/7/365 focus group where you’re always gleaning insights, ideas, and verbatim comments about your product or service. In addition to your external marketing activities, use an online community to find out what your top customers are doing, what they prefer, and how they are using your product or service every day.

Verdict: Using communities to enrich market data is highly valuable. Apply community insights to improve UX, services, and experiences.


Online communities can provide significant strategic value across a range of business objectives but require customized builds, active management, and stay-the-course patience to maximize impact. They are rarely quick, overnight solutions but rather long-term plays that compound in benefit over time. 

With careful assessment of use cases and tempered expectations, community investment can pay dividends for years to come.

How has building an online community fit with your organization’s use cases? What results have you been able to measure?