How brands can help build online communities (without ruining things)

In the next generation of digital culture, brands will no longer be the centre of the universe. We look at how they can build communities on social media without crashing the party

“The sense that things are always changing is just very much the nature of what it is to participate in culture in any way now,” says Lore Oxford, a researcher and strategist specialising in digital culture, who also works on strategy at Reddit. Considering much of our lives play out online, it’s no wonder the social media landscape is similarly, as she says, “in a constant state of flux”.

The industry’s big players – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – no longer seem to be the failsafe option they once were for brands, nor do they seem to fully serve the ways in which people want to communicate now and in the future. “One of the biggest shifts that we’re seeing in the digital landscape is this move away from social ­being about personal branding, hyper-individualism, the ‘girlboss’ era, the Instagram ­influencer era – all of that kind of stuff.” Today, the billion-dollar buzzword is community.

Following the isolating pandemic years and the in-your-face influencer era, which became more demoralising than aspirational, there is a general sense of fatigue with social media platforms that reward individualism over meaningful interaction.