Levellr's predictions for community in 2024
Welcome to 2024. It's a crucial year for brands trying to squeeze decreasing value out of social media - and in a new year that they're already calling the era of the 'cozy web', it'll be more important than ever to follow the fans.
As social declines and superfans get cozy, these are the trends in the world of community-building that all musicians, sports teams, creators and brands need to know.
1. Old becomes new
Social media isn't really 'social' anymore. It's broadcast media, a place where you consume media by scrolling through content. And ads. Lots of ads.
As social media loses what made it exciting, Gen Z and soon-to-be Gen Alpha (!) are finding and defining their own spaces. Like the many iterations of social media from Myspace and Bebo to Twitter and Facebook, these habits will become the new norm. Less toxic, more real. Marketers have given these platforms and spaces a label: 'the cozy web'. You're going to hear about it a lot in 2024…
The cozy web will define the next era: conversation over content, connection over algorithms, genuine engagement over sponsored ads.
That’s why today's online users are moving to communities that coalesce around shared passions, using messaging apps and private communities like Discord, WhatsApp, Telegram, Roblox and Fortnite. These spaces allow for more of a two-way conversation than social media, giving everyone a microphone. That drives real results in metrics from engagement to e-commerce success with merch and ticket sales.
This may sound familiar. Before social media took over, the 2000s were largely about private communities coming together in fan forums. So this shift may not be new, but it is real. 35% of Gen Z are on Discord - more than Reddit or Twitch, according to Insider Intelligence. 65% of Gen Z say they feel more comfortable using community-focused social apps like Discord and Twitch over feed apps like Instagram and Twitter/X, according to data from Impero research.
2. Sport comes to Discord
Gaming was first. Music followed. Sport comes next. We've seen sports follow gaming and music in other new media and technology formats, from virtual reality to Roblox to AI, and we've already seen the same thing happen on Discord.
With 200M monthly active users, Discord has become the de facto modern-day fan forum. It first saw a meteoric rise with gamers: 70% of Discord users use the platform in relation to gaming. Seeing this, the music industry spotted an opportunity. Labels and artists have lots of experience in building and working with fan clubs, so it’s a natural progression to turbo-boost the same idea on new platforms, building supercharged community spaces for superfans.
Now sports brands are getting in the game. Major players like Manchester United, FC Barcelona, Red Bull Racing and McClaren are already attracting superfans on the platform. Expect 2024 to be the year that sport communities arrive on Discord in earnest. Having partnered with sport industry network Sports Loft, we're excited to be launching many of them at Levellr!
3. WhatsApp channels explode
It didn't take long for WhatsApp channels to start getting pick-up from major brands, artists and rights holders. Real Madrid has 33 million followers on WhatsApp, Netflix over 30 million, Bad Bunny 20 million. It's still broadcast media - fans can't actually join the conversation - but the fact that major communication platforms are putting ‘community’ at the heart of their product development speaks volumes. We expect to see many more channels springing up in 2024.
Watch this space for Levellr tools to assist with data and analytics for WhatsApp channels!
4. More brands come to Discord, but not owned communities
Some of the biggest brands in the world are on Discord. Gucci, Netflix, Louis Vuitton, Nars, Vogue, GQ and Levellr’s client Starbucks are just some of the global brands that run Discord communities. More brands will launch and build their own communities in 2024, but alongside that we’ve spotted a less obvious but no less important trend: the swathe of brands which want to tap into the scale and reach of Discord communities but don't feel ready or don't have the resources to build their own server.
This is where automation comes in.
Any of the 19 million active servers on Discord can use bots in their community for a variety of different purposes, from engagement to safety. Smart brands leverage this by building value-add bots that any user can drop into a community. In other words, rather than trying to attract users to a brand-owned server, a brand creates a bot that shares automated updates, giveaways and mini-games and can be dropped into any server. The brand's message is communicated to any space on any subject, helping the brand tap into the platform at scale without having to build its own community.
5. Connecting gaming to community
Discord is the home for gaming communities, and yet it often sits as a separate island for chat, unconnected to the particular game that players are talking about. We expect this to change in 2024 as gaming starts to focus more on the ownership and retention of player data to counteract the increasingly expensive and complex area of customer acquisition.
What does this gaming connection look like? Discord users will be able to get unique skins and in-game products by being part of a community related to a game. They'll be able to show off their XP points from the game in-server, and subscribers will get automated access to spaces in-server for unique content and rewards to increase loyalty. Play and conversation become part of a genuine ecosystem instead of sitting in silos.
6. AI to assist (but not replace) moderators
There are some significant AI-focused communities on Discord and Telegram, discussing Midjourney and Levellr customer Suno AI to name just a couple. But AI's functionality hasn't yet found its best use case for assisting community building and moderation.
The thing to bear in mind is that communities exist for superfans, and superfans can smell authenticity better than anybody. So even if AI is used for community moderation, we don't expect moderators and community content to be completely replaced by AI.
But AI has a lot of potential in this space and we'll see the technology making community management that little bit easier for community managers in 2024.
7. UGC brings non-endemic brands to Discord
We've crunched the numbers and each community using Levellr tools acquires, on average, 56 pieces of user-generated-content per day. In a year, that's an incredible 20,000+ pieces of what we call community-generated-content.
With brands spending $150 on average per piece of UGC, Discord provides a massive opportunity to turn customers into micro-influencers. We expect to see direct-to-consumer businesses spotting an opportunity this year to bring a smaller but highly engaged customer base into one space and tap into product feedback and UGC.
8. Sports, music and entertainment get comfortable with Telegram
Over 700 million people use Telegram. That puts the secure messaging app in the top 5 most-used apps in the world, but bigger brands still aren’t comfortable pairing with the Telegram brand. Brands like The Sun and The New York Times and creators like Steven Bartlett, The Anfield Wrap and Not The Top 20 (who use Levellr tools with their Telegram community) have founded thriving communities on the platform, but the dam hasn't broken yet.
As Telegram continues to scale, particularly in key markets like India, Indonesia, Brazil and Germany, we expect brand concerns to dissolve.
9. Spotify builds community features
Spotify rules music streaming, has conquered podcasts and is rapidly scaling around e-commerce. But how do users connect and engage with other people on Spotify - not just with other fans but with artists and podcasters? The app's features for seeing friends' listening feel like they’ve been neglected since they were introduced years ago.
We've found that across Discord servers powered by Levellr tools, 62% of fans in those communities have Spotify connected to Discord. That shows a massive listening habit and a clear connection between music and community.
That's why we predict Spotify will build their own tools to tap into this engagement and to keep users on the platform in 2024.
10. Community Managers in hot demand
Among our clients, we've started to see an evolution in roles, as audience managers become community managers and social teams add a community specialist into the mix. With the rise of the 'cozy web', community managers are going to be in hot demand in 2024. Levellr can help with our team of community management experts and tools on hand to drive real marketing and monetisation results from your community in 2024, with the ability to turn community options on and off as campaigns ebb and flow.
It's going to be a massive year for communities. Contact Levellr today to find out how you can build a community which works for your brand.