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The Era of We and the Rise of Online Communities

This week we are sharing a joint report from GWI and Reddit, The Era of We and the Rise of Online Communities. The report focuses on the trend of emerging online communities and sites where like-minded users are sharing their life experiences, opinions about topics, and reviews of brands & products. These users drive trust and impact beyond the realm of social media platforms and popular influencers/celebrities — developing a highly engaged and powerful audience for any business. We’ve attached the report and provided a summary plus implications for Samsung below.

Online Communities are on the Rise

Online community sites have emerged as the go-to platforms for the increasing amount of user-generated content and their perceived importance is growing as internet users move away from me-centric social sharing to more we-centric conversations online. Community sites like Reddit allow people to feel united in an accelerating world of fractured media, with 66% of US users seeking out community sites to connect with people who share their interests.

The Modern Community

Internet users still want to express who they are, but in a more communal & personal environment. Community sites are felt to be more welcoming and offer meaningful, respectful peer-to-peer connections compared to social media platforms. When asked what they would improve about social media, 45% of users reported being frustrated with offensive language or bullying and 36% desire a more genuine connection with others. A third would prefer less pressure to project a certain self-image.

Creating Trust with Online Communities

Internet users trust the consensus and wisdom of community sites more than social media platforms or influencer recommendations. At the same time, the number of those who perceive well-known, established media sources as “trustworthy” has declined from 63% in 2017 to 59% in 2019. Trust varies across age groups and will continue to change as the credibility of online communities becomes even more powerful, especially for younger generations. In the US, Gen Z trusts community sites (48%) almost as much as traditional news sources (51%) and notably more than social media sites (36%) making them a key audience for online communities.

Anonymity Fuels Authenticity

Authenticity within online communities is interpreted as a genuine connection between like-minded people sharing in some sort of bond. Many users in these community sites actually keep their profiles anonymous, removing the pressures of perception that come with conventional social media. Most internet users don’t mind the anonymous nature of online communities (53%) or they think it’s a good thing (40%). Gen Z trusts the recommendations found in online communities more than specialist review sites (on par with Millennials). In an industry plagued by influencer fraud, more niche “micro” influencers or everyday consumers show the most exciting potential in establishing authenticity.

Brand Relationships are Wanted Too

Since 2015, consumers have become more keen to advocate for brands that make them feel involved, like they’re in a one-to-one relationship. Brands are invited to join communities, but have to behave like committed members. Site visitors want brands to act like real people, champion an authentic persona and contribute to the collective nature. 82% of community site users would be receptive toward brands participating, wanting them to be reliable (57%), trendy/cool (36%), funny (29%) and bold (27%).


• Look to engage specific communities, known as “micro-tribes”, that align with key passion areas (i.e. photography/gaming/fitness/productivity for IM, entertainment/sports/interior design for VD, pets/food/smart home for DA) given their potential brand loyalty and advocacy versus a mass market audience.

• Partner with active micro influencers, who have significant engagement and impact across many online communities and platforms, to advocate for Samsung. Their collective voices will add humanity, warmth, cultural relevance and authenticity to the brand and grow an organic following over time.

• Ensure a more offbeat tone, champion an authentic persona and contribute to the collective nature of the group when communicating within online communities - on Reddit or equivalent platforms and forums around the globe. They can add insight and richness to campaign specific conversations or help Samsung lead purpose-driven causes, i.e. defying barriers to progress in education.

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