Get inspired by these 6 successful online communities built by Salesforce, Stripe, Sony and others
Marketing & Growth
January 10, 2023
Online communities are a powerful way to drive leads, engagement, and sales. While powerful, it can be challenging to design a thriving community without examples. We’ve reviewed a combined B2C and B2B online communities. These communities have been active for years and show sustained engagement.
A growing number of consumer-focused brands have created thriving communities. These efforts usually involve a combination of social media and the brand’s website. There are lessons to model in each case, even if you don’t have the same product. For example, a cosmetics brand might share the audience profile as your clothing brand. Let’s examine how three different consumer companies have created digital communities.
Founded in 2014, Glow Recipe is a skincare beauty brand. The business started by importing Korean beauty products into the United States. After a few years, the business launched its own products. By 2021, CNBC reports that the company has an “estimated $100 million in sales.”
The Glow Recipe approach to forming a digital community involves content and a rewards program.
The skincare company has a significant amount of video content and blog content to attract customers. With over 85,000 subscribers, the Glow Recipe YouTube channel includes tutorials, product videos, and media appearances. The brand’s blog is notable for its themed interview series “Boss Babes,” featuring successful women entrepreneurs and creative professionals.
The company’s content helps to attract customers, but what about inspiring repeat business? That’s where the company’s loyalty program, “Glow Rewards,” comes in. For each dollar spent with the brand, customers earn points that can be redeemed for products.
In addition, Glow Recipe’s founders had a fresh idea to bring Korean skincare products to the US market. The Glow Recipe approach is largely focused on the online world exclusively. Let’s see how Lululemon integrates digital and offline experiences to build its community.
Based in Canada, Lululemon is best known for its yoga apparel and related products. The premium brand has attracted a significant following. The company’s focus on community building is a key driver for its success.
Many stores sell athletic and leisure apparel, but few have created event experiences like Lululemon. The company’s Flatiron store in New York alone has hosted over 30 events, including fitness instruction (e.g., kettlebell basics) and events with guests (e.g., the mindful creative series and book release events).
Lululemon has a significant selection of inspiring customer stories called the Sweat Collection. This content includes interviews and instructional content on desk stretches and yoga routines from coaches, personal trainers, athletes and other fitness professionals. The company’s stories are brilliantly illustrated with high-quality photos and videos.
Ever thought about starting your own streaming service? Take inspiration from Lululemon Studio. The service includes more than 10,000 workouts. In addition, Lululemon Studio app users get a discount at Studio Partners’ locations. The paid version of the plan is currently priced at $39 per month with a twelve-month commitment
Lululemon’s success with community building shows that brands can build events, group experiences, and more around physical products.
Sony’s Playstation has transformed into a thriving digital community. According to Statista, there are over 100 million monthly active users on the Playstation network as of September 2022, up from 50 million in 2014.
A key reason for Sony’s success is the shared gaming experience. By building a networked experience, players can find other people to play with worldwide. Social features and experiences are quickly becoming an everyday experience.
While successful in many respects, Playstation offers a cautionary tale. In 2021, Sony announced it was shutting down the Playstation 4 communities. Accessible via the Playstation and a mobile app, this community feature gave players an interactive message board. ArsTechnica points out that unmoderated communities became a problem. At the same time, it’s clear that many Playstation enthusiasts are disappointed by the company’s decision.
Learn from Sony’s experience as you build brand communities. Moderation and oversight are important to maintaining the quality of community experiences. The continuing rise of online hate speech and other inappropriate content means that brand communities must remain vigilant.
Building a community around a B2B community is often considered more difficult than building a consumer community. It’s typically easy to find consumers who fit a broad profile, like men under 30 who love fitness. With B2B audiences, it can be more difficult to tap into.
Salesforce has grown into one of the most successful business software companies. The business started by tightly focused on software for sales teams. The company has recently developed products for marketing, field service, and other teams. Throughout that growth, the Salesforce focus on community has been a constant.
The Salesforce annual conference, known as Dreamforce, has become one of the largest technology conferences in the world. In 2022, the event attracted over 40,000 attendees to San Francisco. To extend the conference experience, Salesforce has made recordings of many sessions available online via Salesforce+.
The company doesn’t put all of its event eggs in the Dreamforce basket either. The business has also run a series of regional events through its Trailhead program, with gatherings planned in Phoenix, Austin, Portland, Minneapolis, and beyond in 2023. This regional approach is a smart way to reach more people unable or unwilling to travel to the Dreamforce event.
Salesforce software is complex, with many different settings and customization options. This is a common challenge facing many business software companies. Salesforce solved this issue by leveraging its community in two ways. Rather than building up an extensive professional services division, the business has focused on developing a network of consultants. To demonstrate their expertise to clients, consultants also have the option to earn Salesforce certifications.
As of late 2022, Salesforce offers certifications for several career roles, including administrators, developers, architects, marketers, and consultants. These programs have become so popular that an industry of authors, trainers, and other experts has emerged to help people earn their certifications.
Salesforce is no stranger to content marketing either. The company currently has podcasts dedicated to marketing trends, trends in the professional world, and IT. Further, the Salesforce YouTube channel has more than 240,000 YouTube subscribers. The company’s videos include interviews, how-to content, and company news.
The Salesforce approach to content includes significant training resources for its users. The company’s Trailhead website offers in-demand videos, networking opportunities, and social media-style experiences.
The Salesforce approach to creating a highly engaged community has paid dividends. In 2022, it is estimated that nearly 100,000 people have earned Salesforce certifications. Whether you look at the company’s events or digital experiences, Salesforce has achieved tremendous engagement with its community efforts.
Where should you go if you have a passion for analytics and engineering? The dbt Community has used several strategies to build community engagement for their technical users.
The centerpiece of the DBT community, which is organized around several themes: help, show and tell, and in-depth discussions. The community provides immediate value by allowing users to post code and questions.
In addition to the discussion board on the DBT website, the company also offers community slack. To keep discussions focused, the slack has multiple channels like #leading-data-teams, #jobs (to post job postings or job hunt for people knowledgeable in dbt), and #analytics-craft.
The technology business also participates in the open source movement. The dbt-labs GitHub page has plugins, scripts, and other documentation. Choosing to offer open-source participation may not fit with every company’s goals. However, it’s wise to look for opportunities to collaborate with technical users to make your product more valuable.
Stripe, a major payment software provider, has taken a different path to online community building. In 2017, Indie Hackers was acquired by Stripe. The Indie Hackers brand includes a very active discussion forum, interview-style podcasts, and rich data. Cortland Allen, the founder of Indie Hackers, explained his decision to sell the company by discussing the burden of running the business:
“However, filling ad inventory every month has come at a cost. It was starting to occupy a large chunk of my time, and I found myself spending less and less time producing great content for the interviews, the podcast, and the forum — the very reasons I created the site in the first place.” - Acquired by Stripe.
The Stripe approach to buying an online community is significant in two ways. First, it shows that organizations don’t always have to create digital communities from scratch. Second, it shows the power of thinking more broadly about your customer base and community. Indie Hackers isn’t focused on payments - the core business of Stripe. That said, Stripe realized that online entrepreneurs need to get paid and can use Stripe to meet that goal.
Whether you are selling to consumers or large businesses, an online community is a powerful strategy to generate leads, increase sales and sustain growth. These examples show different ways of using content, events, and other tactics to foster community growth. It’s also important to have the right technology for your online community. Learn more about building your digital community with Arena.