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Predictions for Community in the 2020s

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Software is eating the world, and community is eating software

In no particular order, a few predictions for community in the 2020s. A thread 🧵

💪 Community will continue to be a broad term, but finally people and companies will fully grasp that an audience does not mean the same thing as a community.

🪑 Community will finally get a seat at the table, following in the footsteps of customer success from a decade ago. Community will become its own department within orgs, leading to more Heads of Community, Chief Community Officers, and other community leadership roles.

✨ Continued specialization of roles in community. Community Manager will turn into Community Engagement, Community Marketing, Community Support, Community Success, etc.

🙋 And then we’ll see other roles start to merge under community. Community, customer support, and customer success will overlap and start to blend together. Traditional CS roles will still exist, but more ‘low-level’ support will be offloaded to communities and community teams.

💼 The unbundling of LinkedIn. What Dribbble is to designers, we’ll see for nurses, marketers, community managers, and every other career vertical, providing community, ‘portfolios’, and better job hunting experiences tailored to the specific type.

🎁 The unbundling of Reddit. Every subreddit will get its own dedicated community app, built specifically to serve the unique needs of that vertical. Vertical specificity will win out over general community platforms.

🚗 Community-driven versions of existing products and services will continue to be built, eventually taking over those who built without community. See Public vs Robinhood.

📣 Interactive audio and audio communities will continue to grow. Spotify will enter the market with their own offering, or acquire an existing player similarly to when they initially entered podcasting.

🕺 We’ll see innovation in the community platform space. Everything right now looks like some form of forum or ‘Slack for community’. We’ll see platforms that rethink the idea of community from the ground up, in less structured ways than ‘forums’.

🌍 The explosion of remote work will continue to drive a greater need for community at every level, online and offline, locally and globally. Expect more companies to build verticals in Nextdoor’s space.

🤑 Companies will continue to acquire communities as starting points for their own. See Outreach + Saleshacker, Stripe + Indiehackers, and DigitalOcean + Scotch.

💡 More and more companies will build communities of interest, rather than just customer & support communities. This will enable their communities to reach a wider audience, and ultimately be seen as revenue generators rather than cost centers.

💬 A number of independent communities will turn into full-fledged businesses and media ‘empires’ as they grow beyond the community they started with.

🛠 Consolidation of tools. We’re currently in a golden age of community, engagement and event tools, but over the next decade we’ll see major players start to lead, acquire competitors, and ultimately ‘win’. We’ll also see existing companies (Salesforce, Slack, etc) invest more in community by acquiring companies that are being built right now.

🙊 Increased innovation will occur in the moderation space. As community gets elevated in organizations, companies will finally want to invest in tools to help make moderation easier and less dependent on pure manpower.

🏢 Companies will treat their internal teams more like communities, and there will be an expansion of internal community teams, especially at cos with 1,000+ employees. Remote-first companies will set this trend, needing to be more intentional about fostering internal community.

👋 Continued normalization of internet friends, people that you met in online communities rather than in-person. This has been normal for a decade or more in the gaming world, but it will bleed over to professional friends and relationships.

🏃‍♀️ In-person events will come back quickly post-Covid, but they will be smaller and more intimate, focusing on genuine connection. It will be a while before we see large 500+ person events and conferences again.

📆 Companies will continue to invest in online events and engagement as they realize how much larger of a reach they can achieve for lower cost and overhead. In-person conferences will adopt hybrid models, offering virtual access in addition to their physical locations.

Have any predictions of your own for how community (especially within organizations) will evolve over the next decade? Let me know!