2020 was a pivotal year for the community industry.
Since we launched our annual Community Industry Report in 2017, community has become essential to business. Year after year, community programs continue to mature as organizations in our study increasingly see the return on their investment.
This year, community proved its unique competitive advantage as traditional ways to connect were disrupted during COVID-19. Yet despite a stronger understanding of the value of community, fundamental challenges remain.
The 2021 Community Industry Report is a look back at the year in community to provide community professionals with the data you need to plan your 2021 strategy — and help your organization leverage this momentum to make community an irreplaceable part of their business.
A sure sign communities are providing value? Companies are hiring more people. This year, 67% had at least 2 full-time people on their community team, up from 57% in 2020. Nearly nine in ten have at least one community manager.
While marketing is the most common department for community teams to report into (30%), 15% have a dedicated community department.
Every year, more and more organizations agree that community helps them hit their objectives, and even more “strongly agree.” This year, 86% also said that community is critical to their mission, and 69% plan to increase their investment in community next year.
Despite all the challenges of 2020, investment in community continued to reach new heights. Community teams reported an increase in members, head count, and recognition from leadership during COVID-19. A majority of businesses in our study viewed community as more essential during the pandemic, not less.
Communities have come a long way since we started our research. But some of the fundamental challenges still remain. 45% still struggle to quantify the value of their community, and just 12% of all communities in our study were “confident” in their ability to quantify value.
Community platforms may play a role in this: 56% are somewhat or not satisfied with their community management platform, despite new options.
Unsurprisingly, 80% of communities reported hosting more virtual events due to the pandemic. What did surprise us was the value unlocked by virtual events. 80% of community professionals said virtual events are becoming a more critical part of their business strategy, not a temporary stopgap.
Despite challenges like virtual engagement and Zoom fatigue, there’s plenty of upside to virtual events: Lower cost, more accessibility, no geographic limits. Whatever the reason, this year has shown many the role virtual events could play in their future.
Community professionals are invested in speaking up for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) — 79% believe their organization should take a stance about DEI-related issues. However, just half have specific policies related to DEI in their community, suggesting there is still work to be done to combat bias.
The 2021 edition of the Community Industry Report includes responses from 528 community managers who completed our online survey between November and December of 2020. Our results include community professionals from 42 countries (see the top 10 above), representing a range of industries and company sizes. For more details on respondent demographics, please download the report.