Here’s what we’ve learned after launching more than a hundred community-building apps 

Since we founded Disciple, we’ve helped a tonne of online communities to overcome the limitations of larger social networks. During that time, we’ve launched over a hundred independent community building apps to support a wide range of missions in areas like wellness, entertainment, politics, religion, non-profit, and more. And we sure have learned a lot! So today, we’d like to share with you the biggest insights that continue to shape our journey and, what we like to call, the passion economy, at large.

What is a community-building app?

Community-building apps help bring people together under a shared purpose or interest. It’s an online space offering the familiar functions of social media, such as newsfeeds and instant messaging. The big difference is that you own and control the experience by applying your own branding and choosing the features and functions that are important to you.

Now that we’ve discussed what a community-building app is. Let’s get into our key learnings.

5 things we’ve learnt from building over a hundred community-building apps:

#1. People crave exclusivity away from overcrowded public networks

Online communities are, in many ways, digital versions of fan clubs and loyalty programmes. Social media has given us a way to grow these audiences a hundred-fold, but its biggest strength is also its crippling weakness. 

There’s little to no exclusivity on Facebook and others like it, which have long tried to be everything to everyone. After all, you can’t expect people to make friends and help and influence each other when there’s a lack of focus where thousands are all struggling to make themselves heard. 

Everyone wants to be part of something, and that means bringing them together in an exclusive environment driven by a common goal. People want smaller communities where they can gather with others they’ve got something in common with.

After all, having 5,000 likes on Facebook doesn’t equate to real engagement. They’re just vanity metrics that leave people wondering where the real action is happening.

#2. Fans come for the product, but stay for the community

Sure, people buy things because they like the product and they accept how much it will cost. But with choices aplenty and distractions all around us, it’s hard to keep the attention span, no matter how little something costs. 

For brands, that means loyalty is about more than just having a great product at a competitive price. The community they create is just as important, if not more so. 

People might be attracted by the product in the first place, but they stay because they get to interact with other customers and the brand itself. Now, they can have a say in the direction of the brands they like to do business with.

The most successful companies are those which listen to feedback. Imagine, for example, someone shares an idea they have for a new product or feature with the community. Then, it gets the support of lots of other members. If the brand goes ahead and makes it happen, they can earn loyal customers who can clearly see how useful their input is. In other cases, people start enjoying using the same products or services together, via the community. They make friends and, in becoming loyal to one another, they become loyal to the brand as well.

Customers are no longer mere transactions. They can be loyal fans as well!

#3. Communities let you earn more

Community building apps aren’t just about the social element. If you monetise your community, it can offer a whole new way to sell your products and services. Take education and wellness, for example. Universities, schools, personal trainers, and professional coaches can use their community apps to provide online trainings via live-streamed video. And, best of all, they can do it all with one app.

A community app gives them one place where they can make their materials and trainings accessible to everyone. One of our clients even enjoyed a 670% return on investment after 18% of community members decided to purchase a premium membership.

For e-commerce stores, they’re great for social selling, where people can recommend products and buy them right there in the app itself. 

#4. Less is more in the new passion economy

We’ve already talked about exclusivity, but perhaps the most important thing we’ve learned is, that in the world of social media, less is more. 

Still today, we see so many people and companies alike obsessing over follower counts. And then they find themselves wondering why all those big numbers don’t match the amount of real attention they’re getting. Here’s a cold, hard fact – only 1% of people who actually like a page on Facebook ever get around to actually visiting it!

Think about what’s better – having ten-thousand followers who never see your posts, let alone buy from you… or having a few hundred people who just can’t get enough of your community and your content. 

Smaller communities which cater towards a niche audience can offer personalised content and better support. Also, let’s not forget the fact that our social skills simply aren’t designed to be best buddies with everyone.

#5. The line between branding and community is blurring

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word branding? For many people, it’s logos, colours, and slogans. But there’s so much more to a brand than that. 

83% of buyers say recommendations from their peers influence what they buy. And today, most of those recommendations are given online in communities like review networks and social media. It’s never been clearer that a brand’s reputation is very much at the mercy of its customers!

A brand is all about personality and community. Now that people base their purchase decisions on what their peers recommend, a brand isn’t just about what it has to say about itself, but also about what its customers say and how they engage with the rest of the community.

Final words

Whether you’re building a personal or professional brand, no matter the industry, success is all about those who matter most – your target audience. And community-building apps give you the foundation you need to bring them together under a common goal.

  • People want to be part of something unique
  • Brand communities become a product in their own right
  • You can earn money directly from your community
  • It’s better to have a handful of engaged followers than a million likes
  • Your community is a defining trait of your brand

Are you ready to join us on our journey to build better online communities? Give Disciple a test run today!