Community Building

Will mobile communities replace online communities?

Everything is going mobile. Look at people in the metro, at home, on the beach, at work, jogging in the park, in the bathroom… They’re all stuck with their phones in their hands.

Everything is going mobile

What about communities? Are they going mobile? Should they? Will they replace online communities entirely?

First of all, in terms of pure and simple engagement, I believe that mobile communities have a major advantage over online ones: with a mobile app dedicated to your community, it becomes very easy for the members to engage. Whether it is just to read new content, react to a recent post, or add content themselves.


  1. A mobile app is in your members’ phones, which they keep looking at throughout the day. It is accessible anywhere, at any time.
  2. The true power behind mobile apps is called (drums playing dramatically) push notifications. They literally transform the members’ asynchronous interactions into real-time discussions (more on push notifications in a later post).

For instance, in the app I’m working on, our main and most successful feature is a simple chat that is totally private to the community. You can see it as a community’s very own private Twitter. Except that when the community manager posts something, the whole community is push-notified. It means instant reactions, replies, questions,… well… real-time engagement.

And it’s not even difficult! For all the activities you usually do online, there is an equivalent you can do from your mobile app, and in the blink of an eye too. A few examples of equivalents:

  • Newsletters: weekly post in the app a link to an interesting article you read,
  • Surveys: ask a single 140 chars question and wait for the members’ reactions,
  • Highlight a profile: post a “Did you know” or a “Who do you think” question highlighting something special about a member.
  • Badges or status - can be directly applied in a mobile app.

Now, don’t take me wrong, I’m not saying mobile should entirely replace online. There are needs that can only be fulfilled behind a large screen connected to wifi. 

However, mobile applications are becoming a must to increase community engagement. I believe it is the best tool for retaining members. 

Oh and by the way: don’t think you can fool your members: a responsive website is not an app!