I recently wrote a beginner’s guide to the role of community management.

Following on from this, I’ve been looking at some of the best online brand communities out there.

Unlike areas of social community management (such as a Facebook page or a Twitter channel) these tend to be the dedicated forums or websites where online communities share and discuss their interests.   

So, let’s take a look at some of the best examples.

Lego Ideas

Alongside Lego message boards, Lego Ideas is a creative online community for enthusiasts of the famous toy sets, allowing users to find and submit ideas for new designs. 

As well as promoting the sharing of ideas, it also incorporates a competition element whereby fans can vote and offer feedback. If a design receives 10,000 votes, it will be considered by Lego to become one of the brand’s official sets, even giving the creator a percentage of the final sales.

Championing creativity, this example rewards loyal customers and gives them a reason to truly invest in the brand.

Made Unboxed

Furniture retailer, Made, launched an online community that connects undecided buyers with previous customers. The aim is to allow shoppers to see what Made's products look like in real life, as well as share ideas and inspiration. 

It is built on the idea that furniture shopping is a typically physical experience, yet not everyone has the ability to visit a showroom.

By enabling consumers to envision the set-up in a natural setting, it bridges the gap between online and physical stores and gives people a reason to connect.

Figment

Figment already existed before Random House bought it in 2013. Since then, it has continued on in the same vein, predominantly as a community for aspiring writers of YA (young adult) fiction. 

It acts as a sort of social network for 13-18 year olds, including both discussion elements and the chance for writers to express their own ideas and submit stories.

By keeping the original community and using it to subtly promote Random House books (as well as titles from other publishers) – Figment is a great example of a subtly-branded online community, and one that provides real value for consumers.

Playstation Community

The Playstation community has flourished in recent years, boosted by the popularity of the online gaming community in general. 

It allows gamers to talk to each other in forums, with dedicated channels for different games as well as general topics.

There’s also a competitive element in the form of ‘Trophies’ – a rewards system that recognises gaming accomplishments – allowing users to compete with friends online.

Combining gaming elements with discussion and competition, the Playstation community is a great complement to the everyday experience of playing video games.

BeautyTalk

BeautyTalk was created in response to the thousands of online reviews and consumer queries left on Sephora.com.

An online community for beauty fans, it is now a thriving forum whereby consumers can share tips, advice and reviews – as well as merely talk to one another about whatever topic they like.

One reason it has become so successful is that it is incredibly helpful for answering product-related queries. By simply entering a question or keyword into the search bar, users are likely to be met with multiple existing threads, instantly reinforcing whether or not they should buy a specific product.

Building on the need for unbiased opinions in the world of beauty, it has become a thriving community for beauty fanatics as well as a valuable resource for occasional Sephora shoppers.

Harley Owners Group

The Harley Davidson community is more than just an online forum. In fact, the ‘online’ aspect is pretty minimal, merely serving as a way of connecting with fellow riders and letting members know about the group’s perks, meet-ups and events. 

Unlike the aforementioned examples, membership isn’t free, and you can only join if you own a Harley Davidson motorcycle (or are a family-member or friend of someone that does). 

From dedicated motorcycle tours to access to the members-only website – there are many benefits to joining HOG. More than anything, it reinforces members' dedication to a particular lifestyle.

By building an online community based on the experiences that come from riding one of its bikes - rather than just the actual product itself - Harley Davidson has managed to attract over 1m members worldwide. 

To improve your knowledge, check out Econsultancy's Online Community Management training course.

If you're looking for a new role within community management or social media, you'll find plenty on Econsultancy's jobs board.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 23 January, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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