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Content Is King, But Community Is the Kingdom



Digitas' Janelle Williamson and Danisha Lomax on some of the new platforms that are focused on building community, and what the opportunities are for brands and advertisers

Content Is King, But Community Is the Kingdom

A few weeks ago, we talked about why we love Reddit and why its community vibes were everything we needed this past year and a half. TL;DR Reddit changed the game for online community-building. But we really only scratched the surface in that article when it comes to community. You may have heard that content is king, and while we agree, we see that king as the ruler in the land of Community. So let’s explore the “Community Kingdom” a bit further because, while Reddit may own a big chunk of land, she’s got some new neighbours.

If this metaphor of kings and kingdoms sounds old timey, we’re making that comparison purposefully because community isn’t a new thing. And at this point, neither are virtual communities. Facebook Groups have been around for almost a decade now, and six years ago, Reddit changed the game by providing a platform just for communities. Although it took some time for brands to get comfortable on Reddit -- and some are still just dipping their toes -- brands are now part of the community conversations on Reddit. But of course, in an industry based on ever-evolving technology, as soon as brands begin to understand 1 platform, 10 new ones enter the chat. 

In one category, there are new free platforms such as Discord, Clubhouse, and Lunchtable that have popped up to create a larger space for interests and groups such as gaming, music, and artists and entrepreneurs of color. In another category, content creators have also begun to turn to subscription-based platforms such as Patreon or SFB Society in an effort to provide additional value to the communities they’ve grown on tried & true platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, or podcasts and monetize their more premium content.

It might sound like we’re just name dropping, so here are our favourite community-building platforms and the lowdown on each: (not currently in any particular order)

The Freebies

Discord: Founded by childhood friends as a way to communicate privately online with their gaming friends around the world, Discord has evolved from just gaming interests to a platform where people can stay in touch on music projects, homework, and even mental health support. Servers are dedicated to sub-channels to support ongoing, real-time conversation. As channels grew to support more broad topics than gaming, so did the number of servers needed to support a user base that grew 14x in the past 5 years. Discord now has 6.7 million active servers, chasing the likes of Slack and Microsoft Teams. Most groups are invite-only, but all conversations are opt-in, so users can feel comfortable that they have control over who they interact with on the platform.

Clubhouse: This new and elusive audio platform combines podcasts with radio with the “cool kids’ table” at the cafeteria. A members- and invite-only space where nothing is recorded, users can move around virtual rooms to discuss topics like sports leagues, criminal justice reform, or women-owned businesses, among countless others. Up-and-coming music producers are even using the rooms to test out new music, while A-list producers are joining the rooms to provide feedback in real-time. Big names like Drake and Oprah have even been known to pop into these rooms to listen for new beats or join the conversation. Thanks to these famous names joining Clubhouse, the app went from a couple hundred thousand users in November 2020 to 10 million by March 2021. If you’re interested in learning more, our colleagues wrote a great POV on Clubhouse back in March.

Subscription Required

Patreon: Launched in 2013, Patreon is not a totally new player in the field. However, as content creators further look to diversify both their creativity and revenue streams, Patreon has seen exceptional growth over the past year. Likely due to newfound pandemic hustle, 70,000 new creators joined the platform between mid-March to May 2020. Patreon supports creators across videos, podcasts, music, visual arts, writing, and more. Within music alone, Patreon reported a 150% increase in the number of musicians joining the platform in the past year. As more creators look to Patreon as a SaaS tool, the company is looking to expand its capabilities even further. Earlier this year, Patreon raised $155M in funding -- increasing its valuation to $4B (up from $1.2B in September 2020) -- to enhance both the creator and fan experience on desktop and mobile, increase international content availability, and introduce new content tools. 

It seems like there’s a lot of exciting growth ahead for Patreon, and we’re not the only ones keeping an eye out. Exclusive content is the name of the game, and both Twitter and Instagram are trying to get in on the action as well. Instagram is expected to launch Exclusive Stories soon and Twitter launched Super Follows recently, both of which require subscriptions for access to creators’ exclusive content.

The new new

Lunchtable and SFB Society: We love what these two newer platforms are all about. Lunchtable (free to sign up) and SFB Society (subscription required) have created safe spaces for Black creators, entrepreneurs, professionals, and thought leaders to share work, thought pieces, and network. We love each of their missions fully, but are still giving them a little room to grow. We’ll be following up on our thoughts on Lunchtable and SFB Society very soon, especially as we monitor the creator conversation that is happening on TikTok as we speak. 

While paid ads on all of the above platforms are still TBD, brands can certainly join the conversations organically. Whether it’s partnering with creators to test new ideas or experiment with content, or even creating new content for their most loyal customers, there’s so much that brands can start doing to engage with these additional online communities. And as creators start to get more creative, we see a huge opportunity for brands to up their game too. 

Janelle Williamson is associate director, paid social and Danisha Lomax, SVP and national paid social lead, Digitas

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Digitas USA, Fri, 16 Jul 2021 10:20:37 GMT