Sarah joined us as CEO and Head of Community Design at Loyal, a community development studio with a weekly newsletter engaging with community professionals.

Sarah mentioned her experience working with GE years ago, just as they started paying attention to brand engagement and the priority of the community. Most brands see community part of digital strategy, which she defines as a function to help people to get from Point A to Point B on the internet.

Growth in the Industry

Sarah did some digging into the areas for growth in the coming year, and there is massive opportunity for community and community-centric digital strategy to be built for big brands.

She looked at the growth in social budget at big brands, from 9% in 2014, 15% in 2015, projected 21%+ in 2016.


Content budgets is 70% pushed to original content in 2015; 23% are spending half on digital content, with the example of Coke spending more online than television ads.

But there are challenges: 33% say that the budget is difficult to allocate, with 21% worried about the ROI with original social content.

Marketers are beginning to value community growth and stability

Examples include

  • American Express OPENforum, which focuses on the success of small business owners as their central goal
  • NRC (Nike Run Club), a blip of a community that failed from lack of targeted community
  • Lego Ambassador Network is created for adult Lego enthusiasts, helping provide immediate feedback and user testing for new products
  • Under Armour acquired several recent fitness apps to, “bring together the world’s largest digital health and fitness community.”

Sarah predicts that community will be the next phase in digital marketing. This can be seen with:

  • Employee Communities, helping to retain talent and uncover relevant insights
  • (more) User Generated Content, with an increase seen by RebelMouse
  • Owned Communities: invest internally in platforms, rather than using third-party providers

Why do brands want community?

There are three key reasons that big brands are investing in community right now.

  • Relevance: Brands want to stay close to the innovation, acquiring relevant companies and staying competitive
  • Defensibility: making big moves to stay in the game
  • Research: such as example in Lego, investing more in research communities, decreasing product development time cycle

She provides example with Loyal’s Revenue Breakdown: 20% from Product, 20% Innovation, 60% Marketing, which she predicts will be similar industry-wide.

What does this mean for the Community Builder?

Brands want and need YOU, with an increase of community roles, especially higher ranking roles in management. This can include:

  • Product: Product Management, User Research & Testing, User Experience, Product Management
  • Relationship Management: direct management with customers to glean customer stories into content narratives
  • Digital Strategy: not enough people have deep, relevant experience of community strategy, familiar with both sides of community and strategy
  • Soft Skills: includes managing up, translation, comfort with ambiguity, fluency in media
    • What html is for start ups, social media is for brands

What does this mean?

It means we should get excited because great things coming for the community industry.

Ashley Hayes

Ashley Hayes is a visionary community leader and builder in the tech and startup space, with extensive experience in crafting global community, social media, marketing, branding and public relations s...

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