Do B2B media brands need an online community?

B2B media is facing a tough time ahead, but online communities could be the answer to retaining subscribers, attracting new ones, and generating much-needed revenue.
 Do B2B media brands need an online community?

It’s a tough time for B2B media and the information industry. Advertising budgets are declining and editorial staff are shrinking, yet they are expected to continue to reinvent and evolve their offering, adding new digital features to keep their audience engaged and interested. B2B media teams are increasingly expected to do more, with less – or face obsolescence in a crowded digital market. Add rising production, energy and materials costs, alongside a cost-of-living crisis that has already seen two-thirds of the UK cut non-essential costs and 37% of US adults saying their finances have been hit. 

To survive, B2B media brands and information providers need to think about how they can engage their audience to offer a unique experience that they can’t find elsewhere, whether that’s from competitors or open platforms like social media. While the old phrase ‘content is king’ still applies, there is more to it than content alone, particularly with so many blogs, videos and articles currently available online, both from competitors in the subscription market and free to access sites.

For B2B media and information providers, attracting and retaining subscribers in the months ahead will rest on how they deliver value, and communicate it. Online communities will be valuable tools as they explore their offering to their subscribers and their revenue generation opportunities.

Here, we look at some of the benefits online communities can bring to B2B media:

Nurture your audience

In recent years – and particularly since Covid – B2B media businesses have started to see that their business is not about ‘products’ but ‘audiences’. When face to face events disappeared overnight, B2B media found a gaping hole in its offering that needed to be filled urgently, raising the question of what value those businesses could offer to their readers and attendees outside of the products they sell. The truth is the product is only a fraction of their value: their real selling point is the community, the conversations, the connections that build around them. Online communities offer a way to nurture this audience relationship, creating a relationship rather than a series of sales transactions.

Extend your events

A live event brings people together for a day or a week, but an online community can extend its benefits throughout the rest of the year. Why limit networking just to the event itself, for instance? Why not create a space where attendees can collaborate and converse long after they’ve handed back their name tags? Why not keep those debates and conversations running until the next event, keeping the conversation alive and relevant? This approach can strengthen attendance to events – generating excitement, showing value, and keeping the date front of mind throughout the year – but it also allows you to keep a constant line of communication open with your audience – which brings us to our next point.

Act fast and break the mold

A thriving online community should spark conversation. If you listen to this communication, and act fast on what you hear, you have an opportunity to deliver content, events or resources that are at the cutting edge of what your audience are discussing. It allows you to give them what they need in the here and now, creating valuable real-time support. For this to be truly successful, you need to think about how your community and editorial or events teams work together: the more collaboration, the better.

Increase advertising revenue

The decline in traditional advertising revenue continues for B2B brands, and it’s not just print advertising that is suffering: digital display ads are also on a downward trend as businesses look to more measurable and controllable methods of advertising, like social media. Online communities are an excellent way for B2B media brands to counter this trend, as you can offer sponsors opportunities to interact with, not just sell to, your audience.  

Add depth to content

The best type of content elicits a reaction. Who hasn’t read a brilliant article and thought, ‘I wish I could speak to the author’ or ‘I must talk about this with someone’. With an online community, you can make this a reality for your audience, adding depth to articles or videos through ‘behind the scenes’ content, author profiles or even spaces in the community created to discuss specific content. This depth and context give your content a competitive advantage: it’s interactive, not static, and draws the reader or viewer into a conversation that they want to be a part of.

Support subscription renewals (and attract new ones)

An online community can add a sense of exclusivity to subscriptions and memberships. Rather than just buying in to the content you share, your members can become part of a community, leveraging a network of their peers for advice, expertise and support. A community transforms your offering from a product, to an experience: one that has the power to enhance your members career and skills. A post from someone well respected in their field is interesting – but offering people the chance to connect with that person and discuss their contribution with others makes it valuable. It’s these experiences that spark word of mouth recommendations, too, not only improving retention but encouraging existing members to invite friends and colleagues.

Should you invest in building a community?

An online community can be a simple but effective way to add value to your B2B media products and create an experience around your brand – one that will offer tangible value during the tough times ahead. For advice on getting started, speak to the Zapnito team: we can answer your questions and show you how to activate the community around your B2B brand.  

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