This article is based on a presentation given by Andrew Claremont at #GTM24 Online. Catch up on this presentation, and others, with GTM OnDemand. For more exclusive content, visit your GTM Blueprint dashboard.

Thanks for joining me today to discuss a topic that’s near and dear to my heart - building a community around your business. 

As I started thinking about today’s topic, one quote really stuck out to me. It comes from the Harvard Business Review in 1996

“Businesses have been slow to make use of the Internet's community-building capabilities.” 

That was written quite a while ago. Yet, nearly 30 years later, we're still having those same conversations about leveraging community for business and go-to-market strategies. More people are discussing the implications of communities, but how do we prove their business value? That’s what we’re going to explore today.

Firstly, let me introduce myself. I’m Andy Claremont, and I oversee our community and ecosystem at Glide, a no-code, low-code platform for creating custom business apps without writing code.

Defining community

Now, before we go any further, let’s define what a community is. 

For me, communities are connected groups of people with something in common. They interact with each other, not just your brand. Communities are made up of people – real individuals – not companies. Their shared interests are the community’s focal point and reason for being.

The rise of community-first platforms

In recent years, we've seen a shift in consumer behavior, especially among Gen Z, aka Zoomers. They’re gravitating to online communities. For a good chunk of their formative years, when they couldn't go to school or see friends, it was their only real social outlet. Gen Z is the most connected generation. 

This is a preview of where we're all headed. As more Zoomers enter the workplace and gain buying power, we can expect their community-driven behaviors to continue rising.

Changing consumer behaviour. 24% of social media users have actively participated in an online community. A bar graph lists the top 7 benefits of online communities, with "Learn new things" at 39%, "Ideas and inspiration" at 31%, and other benefits following. 22% of Gen Z joined an online community in the past three months, and 36% actively participated, higher than other generations. Source: HubSpot.
Source: Hubspot

Alongside that, we've witnessed the rise of community-first social platforms like Instagram, TikTok, X, and Reddit. Although Reddit has kind of a nerdy reputation, it’s worth paying attention to. In marketing circles, we’ve seen that more and more people are adding “Reddit” to their search queries because they crave peer conversations – not spammy SEO-driven blogs.

People are moving away from traditional social networks for content consumption towards platforms like Discord for deeper connections – with Gen Z leading the charge. We also see this with WeChat, Messenger, and other “dark social” platforms where conversations happen in closed groups rather than in public.

The value of community for GTM teams

The communities I’ve just described are largely what I like to call “communities of interest” – people coming together over shared hobbies or passions. I group these under external communities. For example, you might join the Succession subreddit if you're a fan of that show.

Then, there are “communities of profession” where people connect over their job field, like the GTM Alliance community for go-to-market professionals. These external communities aren't completely siloed, though – individuals can belong to multiple communities of interest and profession.

In addition to these two types of communities, we have customer communities – that’s what we’re going to focus on today. 

Customer communities include more than just customers, offering value even to those without a community profile. Customers join for help or to be heard, but will need additional reasons to stay once their initial needs are met. A diagram on the right shows concentric circles labeled from outermost to innermost: Audience, Users, Customers, and VIPs.

Although we label them as “customer" communities, they include more than just customers. Within them, you'll find your VIP customers – the ones who spend the most or are top contributors, but you'll also have regular paid customers, free users taking advantage of a freemium model, and people who aren't direct customers but are users through a company account.

Essentially, customer communities encompass anyone who crosses paths with the community, content, and work surrounding your customer base. 

These rising external communities and customer communities provide two key kinds of value for go-to-market teams:

  1. Context and insights: You'll learn a ton just by lurking and listening to members discuss their interests, needs, and their pain points.
  2. Awareness and referrals: You can share resources in your customer communities that will be valuable not just for existing customers but also for potential customers. Resources created by the community can also be great sources of inspiration for GTM assets and sales enablement material.

Working with external communities

Now for the tactical side: how do you get value from external communities? Let me guide you through it step by step.

Step one: Find the communities your customers are in 

You need to figure out which communities you should be paying attention to. So, ask your existing customers what communities they already belong to. A good rule of thumb is to go where your customers go.

Reddit is another excellent resource for niche communities. You'll find subreddits for all kinds of industries and professions. As you explore different subreddits, check the sidebars and FAQs – they’re often packed with valuable information and links to off-site groups. 

Find the right communities. Talk to existing customers to find out which communities they belong to. Check Reddit for niche communities, exploring sidebars and FAQs for off-site group links. Use SparkToro and SimilarWeb to discover popular websites among specific audiences. A screenshot of the r/marketing subreddit is shown, highlighting its Discord server and links to related Reddit groups.

Another helpful tool is SparkToro. It’s an audience research platform that’s great for finding where your target customers hang out online. SimilarWeb can also surface more relevant websites once you have a few that resonate with your audience. Keep these platforms in your toolbox.