Posted 07.03.2024 by Josh Krakauer

B2B Communities: The Guide for 2024 and Beyond

Join us to explore the best ways to start, improve, and operate a B2B community that brings value to brands and members alike.

Great B2B communities are hard in every sense of the word. They’re hard to create, hard to maintain, and hard to come by.

At the same time, they’re especially valuable, allowing people to find their tribe, marketers to “build brand”, and salespeople to convert and upsell.

In addition, company-backed communities can leverage them to improve search engine rankings for highly coveted keywords that drive tons of website traffic (more on this later).

But then again, many answers to questions about B2B communities remain ambiguous (or even unanswered), so we’ll dedicate this guide to covering as much ground as we can, including:

To conclude, we’ll also share our advice on whether social media is the best option to build and maintain a B2B community – and the answer will probably surprise you.

What is a B2B community?

A B2B community is a gathering, network, or ecosystem where businesses and professionals within a specific B2B industry connect to share their expertise, discuss industry trends, and collaborate on solutions.

Nowadays, when the term “B2B community” is brought up, it almost always refers to online B2B communities – either website-based ones or within a larger social media network that supports forum-like spaces for community interactions.

For instance, a LinkedIn group for supply chain managers where members exchange insights on logistics challenges, share best practices, and discuss logistics technologies and services would be an example of a B2B community.

B2B communities vs. product communities: What’s the difference?

The main difference between product-oriented and B2B communities lies within their primary purpose.

B2B communities gather professionals within a B2B industry to share knowledge, network, and discuss a more or less broad number of topics.

Product communities, on the other hand, center around a product, and the people who use it. They’re focused on sharing usage tips, providing support, and offering feedback to improve the product.

However, it’s important to note that sometimes the lines blur.

For example, an official product community (that is, created and managed by the company that owns the product) may leverage this space to promote new features and plans to existing users.

This is an example of a B2B tactic that takes place within a product community.

It can work the other way around as well: A B2B community that features spaces for discussing product-related topics.

Aside from these two, you’ll also find other types of B2B communities where the purpose of each serves as the main differentiator.

For instance, some B2B communities are oriented to offering learning resources or driving people toward a common goal, while others prioritize industry news.

Examples of B2B communities

Time to pause the theory and move into the real world of B2B communities.

The first example is perhaps one of the best ones out there: The Trailblazer Community by Salesforce.


Also doubling as a Salesforce product community and an official company channel, it’s still one of the most complete B2B communities we can think of, bringing together users, partners, and developers to share B2B commerce knowledge and solve problems.

As you probably noticed, the Trailblazer community is a website-based one.

Other companies, however, choose social media as the “home” for their communities. For instance, ad tracking software Hyros relies on a private Facebook Group to host its community – a practice that is common among B2B startups.

Finally, there are more generalistic B2B communities to be found as well, such as the b2bmarketing community on Reddit, and Online Geniuses, which gathers thousands of B2B marketing experts on Slack.

Why are B2B communities important for businesses and brands?

The short answer to this question is something we’re all aware of: Promotional one-way marketing is a thing of the past, and people expect personalized experiences instead.

Oftentimes, they want conversations and genuine connections with the brands they use – which is what communities are good for.

For example, before SAP became a $200+ billion business, they knew they had to bring users together, and created an online community to achieve that purpose.

Today, the SAP community has over 3 million members who create and share content, organize events, innovate, and help each other. Community engagement has been critical to their success.

So, what are the benefits of B2B communities for brands? We’ve identified the four most important ones:

  • Building stronger connections, loyalty, and brand awareness.
  • Increasing customer support, retention, and lifetime value.
  • Providing feedback and sentiment on user experience.
  • Having a flexible, but direct communication channel with users.

Let’s briefly analyze each one, starting with loyalty and brand awareness.

Community benefit #1: Connections, loyalty, and brand awareness

Communities help your brand’s customers connect with each other and with the brand, explore helpful resources, and get helpful feedback.

All of these strengthen customer relationships and boost the value customers derive from using your products.

Loyalty leads to referrals and brand advocates, which are about 3x more effective than regular customers in motivating others to purchase.

Besides referring other people, they also help increase retention and improve products by providing high-quality feedback.

Community benefit #2: Customer support, retention, and lifetime value

A community is an effective way to scale customer support without compromising the customer experience and to save both users and brands valuable resources.

For example, users of workflow automation products like Zapier and Make often find answers to technical challenges in their respective communities, saving themselves hundreds of dollars in specialized consulting fees.

Community building will also increase customer lifetime value (CLV) by boosting cross-sells and upsells. A study showed that customers spent 19% more after joining the brand’s online community.

Community benefit #3: User experience feedback

Feedback opportunities are endless with online communities. They provide a perfect platform for customers to report glitches, provide user experience feedback, and suggest ways to improve.

Moreover, you don’t always have to wait for feedback. You can ask for feedback using polls, questionnaires, and even AMAs.

Everybody wins if you’re making your customers happy with quick fixes and investing in product improvements.

Community benefit #4: Direct communications

Communities and forums offer a type of transparency that is hard to achieve elsewhere. They are a platform where feedback, support, and engagement can occur in real-time.

For example, when there’s a serious issue (like an outage in the service a SaaS provides), communities are often used as the primary channel of communication between the company and the users, and where detailed updates on the situation get posted.

How to measure the success of a B2B community

The success of a B2B community involves tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics, including:

  • Active users: Number of members who regularly participate in discussions.
  • Post frequency: Volume of new posts, comments, and replies.
  • User contributions: Amount of user-generated content such as articles, questions, and answers.

On top of this, you’ll want to track membership growth (i.e. new members), and retention rates, which is the percentage of members who stay active over a defined period.

These represent the most important metrics. In addition, there are other measurable aspects when managing a community, such as views, number of marketing-qualified leads generated (MQLs), and conversions.

Please note that these are not primary in the context of a community – in other contexts, they’re far more important.

Finally, in the case of web-based communities where the brand owns the web property (unlike one hosted on a social media platform) it’s vital to track SEO metrics like organic traffic, time on page, and click-through rate.

Communities have a hidden superpower, which is ranking fast – and high – for searches and keywords that are vital for a brand.

In some cases, a relevant question and a quality answer posted on a community board are enough to outrank articles that took weeks to produce and publish.

Ultimately, this is one of the key reasons why Google partnered with Reddit, isn’t it?

Is social media the best place to build a brand community?

While social media platforms offer convenience, a vast audience, and the possibility to launch without spending much, they are not always the best place to build a brand community for several reasons, including:

  • Platform dependence: At the end of the day, you’re at the mercy of the platform’s rules, algorithms, and changes. You don’t own the space, and significant changes can happen without your control or consent.
  • Content ownership: The content created on social media platforms is technically owned by the platform. This limits your control over how content is used and distributed.
  • Limited customization options: This restricts your ability to tailor the community experience to fit your brand’s needs.
  • Limited access to analytics data: You get what the platform offers, limiting your ability to gain insights into community behavior and preferences.
  • Distraction-rich environment: Social media platforms are crowded distractions, diluting the focus on your brand.

For brands that are just getting started or that are not sure about their community efforts in the long run, social media will be more than enough (although a migration will certainly be in the books if things turn the way you want).

On the other hand, if there’s a critical mass of customers already, a dedicated web-based community will always be the best option.

Building a community using a tool like Discourse and Mighty Networks is how you get control over the content and the data flowing through it, and also how you provide a better experience to your users – which, in the end, is what matters the most.

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Josh Krakauer

Josh Krakauer is the CEO of Sculpt, that B2B social media agency you just discovered. Josh has launched social media campaigns for best-selling books, publicly-traded corporations, and early-stage startups. Josh works from Washington, DC, but still thinks Iowa City is the best city on earth.

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