Audience Engagement Guest Columns
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Why Passion Communities are flourishing during lockdown (and what this means for social networks)

OPINION

The COVID pandemic and its ensuing lockdown measures have presented us with great opportunities to discover – or rediscover – our passions online. With months spent in lockdown, there has been a need for individuals to move from physical spaces to virtual ones in performing, practising or discussing their hobbies. From watching your favourite sporting team play to seeing your favourite DJ perform live, the need to physically distance has propelled passionate individuals into online spaces where they can connect and engage with like-minded individuals.

With this shift, we’ve witnessed an incredible increase in passion community apps being set up during lockdown. And the retention rate for these apps – defined as the percentage of users who still use an app 30 days after install – sits at a staggering 33 percent. This is hugely significant when compared to the benchmark set by AppsFlyer who, in their recent survey of 15,000 apps, found the average retention to be just 4 percent. With audience retention six times higher for passion community apps than the industry standard, now is a pressing time to ask how passion communities are able to create such a high level of engagement – and to ask what this means for traditional social media giants. 

What Are Passion Communities?

First, it may be useful to define what a passion community is. Simply put, passion communities are niche groups built around shared interests and hobbies. Passion communities eschew the dynamics of large scale social networks where content is typically broadcasted and focus on delivering highly-targeted content for individuals with shared interests. In this sense passion communities present a viable alternative to traditional social media networks through their appeal to the genuine interests and dialogue with individuals rather than simply seeing them as ‘customers’. 

So why have passion communities become so popular recently? The surge in popularity of passion communities largely boils down to two factors: time and opportunity. In the first instance, people are now finding they have more free time to spend pursuing their passions as a result of lockdown measures. With more time at their disposal, individuals want to find new ways to perform or improve at their hobby while also connecting with like-minded people to discuss these efforts. Say for instance that you have an avid passion for photography, joining an online community may help you figure out how to pursue that interest without compromising social distancing measures. 

This leads to the second factor: opportunity. For many hobbyists, lockdown measures have been prohibitive. For instance, those who enjoy camping as a hobby will have been impacted by the closure of the UK’s camping sites. However, online passion communities provide a forum to discuss viable alternatives with other aspiring campers or stay in the loop until they can head outdoors again.

Should Traditional Social Networks be Concerned?

With passion community apps achieving a retention rate six times higher than the average, it seems pertinent to question what this means for traditional social media networks. One thing is for certain: it heralds a significant new trend in the market. 

Brands and creators have spent years building communities of followers on social media. But many are starting to become disillusioned with the social giants, as concerns about privacy, internet bullying, and data ownership become more prevalent in the media.

Lockdown has highlighted the desire of individuals to be part of a community which places an emphasis on real connection and engagement. By delivering apps that are specifically geared towards creating a sense of community which centres around shared passions, as opposed to a revenue driver and a space to share non-descript content, passion communities are providing clear value for their members. 

Today’s audiences are aware of what a genuine community looks like and will respond strongly when they discover one, especially now when finding communities online might be the only way to continue practising and engaging with personal passions.

And for publishers in particular, this technology is especially exciting – because so many have passionate, highly engaged audiences. The potential is genuinely huge.

Benji Vaughan
CEO and Founder of Disciple Media

About: Disciple Media specializes in building independent, digital communities where people can coalesce around a single passion. The company has come to the fore by creating a community for music acts like the Rolling Stones, as well as a number of publishers including Forbes.

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