Why Join An Online Brand Community?

October 17, 2013

UM-Reasons-for-Joining-Brand-Community-Online-Oct201343% of online Americans between the ages of 16 and 54 have joined a brand community online, per results from UM’s Wave 7 study provided to MarketingCharts. The survey finds that brand communities are more popular among women (47.2%) than men (38.6%), and that 16-24-year-olds (54.6%) are much more likely to have ever joined one than 45-54-year-olds (33.4%). While those results aren’t terribly surprising given previous research into social engagement with brands, it’s interesting to see what motivates these internet users to join a brand community.

Asked how much they agree with a list of reasons for having joined a brand community, a leading 32.8% of respondents agreed that that they did so to receive a discount, coupon or product trial. That also happens to be the leading reason why Americans use brand’s mobile applications.

Essentially on par with discounts as a motivator for joining a brand community is a desire to learn more about it, cited by 32.7% of respondents. This was actually the leading reason among some demographics, including men, 16-24-year-olds, 45-54-year-olds and African-Americans.

Slightly behind that, 31.3% agreed that they have joined a brand community in order to get advance news about products, while 29.9% have done so to get free content.

While loyalty counts as a leading reason for liking brands on Facebook, it appears a little further down the list of reasons for joining an online brand community. Slightly fewer than 3 in 10 respondents said they joined one to support a cause they like, while 26.6% agreed that sharing their appreciation with others was a reason, and 26.5% had done so to associate with something they think is cool.

Some brand community participants are motivated by a desire to engage directly with the brand: 23.5% agreed that they’d joined a community to contact companies and influence development, and 19.9% have done so to get a personal response to an issue or complaint.

While for the most part the order of reasons were similar among demographics, there were a couple of notable differences. For example, while female brand community participants were more likely than males to agree with almost all of the reasons for joining a community, males were actually slightly more likely to agree that they had done so in order to develop their skills. Also, supporting a cause showed up as a relatively more important reason among 16-24-year-olds, who ranked it their second-leading reason for joining a brand community. No other demographic ranked it higher than 4th.

An impressive 82.6% of branded community participants would be willing to become advocates for the products and services of companies whose communities they joined, according to research released last year by Incyte and Get Satisfaction that also found recommendations playing a larger role in participation than the UM study.

There’s room for brands to improve in fostering advocacy, though, according to a more recent study from ComBlu. According to that late 2012 report, only 19% of tracked brands had an advocate program, representing no increase in adoption from 2011, when that rate stood at 20%. Of 33 best practices identified in the report, use of an advocate or experts program ranked 31st in adoption. That appears to represent quite the missed opportunity: the brands that scored highest in ComBlu’s ratings of their branded communities had an 80% adoption rate of brand advocates.

About the Data: Wave is an annual social media study conducted by UM, a division of IPG Mediabrands. Wave retains the same methodology from Wave 1 to Wave 7, enabling comparison across Waves. UM has surveyed 48,945 16 ”“ 54 Active Internet Users in 65 countries, representing the views of over a billion people. All surveys are self-completed and the data collected is purely quantitative.

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