A community is an unbundled event

The Great Unbundling of Events is happening right now.

As events pioneers, we want to set the stage for the next industry evolution, what we’re calling the Great Unbundling of Events. Skift’s Event Technology Report 2023 touched on unbundling as a platform offering, but it’s much deeper than that.

The Great Unbundling of Events is a categorical movement that we saw early at Hopin coming out of the pandemic. We learned from millions of users across our product suite that the use cases for virtual events were beginning to unbundle. These trends are accelerating today:

From the Splash 2023 Event Outlook Report:

“Flagship events are great, but consistent communication and multiple touchpoints keep your brand front of mind and your audience engaged. Successful buyer and customer journeys require multi-touch and multi-channel approaches.”

Unbundling events gives rise to community

Unbundling means coming apart, spreading out, and becoming available asynchronously. A fancier, more corporate word for unbundling is “omnichannel.”

Unbundling an event means taking all the value packed into an event and spreading it out for greater impact. An event’s value includes learning from speakers, data collection, networking, connections, commerce, content, and various presentations of entertainment. Unbundling an event means not having all this take place at the same time and place, but breaking it apart into an “always-on” lifecycle of asynchronous and synchronous experiences.

This is how we arrive at community. What comes after the Great Unbundling of Events? What do you call unbundled events?

The Rise of Community.

Okay, time out —

What does the word “community” mean in business?

It is important to understand “community” as it impacts two major business trends happening:

  1. Demographics are changing. 72 million Gen Z-ers are entering the workforce and the way they view the world is different than how previous generations view it — they value authenticity and trust more than ever. Community is in. Digital-native to the core, Gen Z uses Social media, TikTok, and similar to connect with brands and people.
  2. Workforce norms are changing. Millennials and Gen Z, who make up the majority of today’s workforce, are finding their balance hybridizing post-COVID. Millennials and Gen Z view work and brands as being a part of something greater than the service or product itself.

These trends demonstrate community is increasingly important; but what does it mean for businesses?

The classic definition of “community” is: a group of individuals who share common interests, goals, or characteristics and interact with one another in various ways.

A bit broad, no? Community can mean different things to different people. For example, it could mean your local neighborhood, your Toastmasters chapter, your favorite Facebook group, your city or nation, your social followers, your religious affiliation, your team, your readers, your subscribers, your attendees, and on and on. 

To make the word “community” more practical for a business and specifically for growth purposes, let’s define “community” as: everyone who engages with your brand. 

This is a simple yet robust definition of community as it identifies the shared “commonality” — your brand — and yet is broad enough to encompass all the stakeholders involved in your brand, including your customers, prospects, users, employees, partners, social channels, media, and more. Each of these groups of people interact, engage, and shape your brand. To leave one of them out would be like leaving out a color of a rainbow: it would be an incomplete picture.

Okay, let’s go back to how this ties in with events.

How are events and community related? 

Using our definition above, we can now see the critical role events play in building community: An event is one of many community experiences.

An event involves the same 360-degree group of people who engage with your brand, with the addition of synchronicity happening at the same time and place. Your employees plan the event, your partners help produce the event, your customers and prospects (et al) attend the event, your influencers speak at the event, your email subscribers and social followers promote the event. They all come together at the same time and place to interact in an experience.

When you unbundle, that is, take away the specific “date and time” and “specific technology” from an event, you can see how an event is a part of a much bigger community ecosystem around your brand, a much larger opportunity to address, involving a much broader set of tools than one event platform.

This is why we call Hopin the community engagement company. You can create and engage your community through many types of Hopin experiences: streams, webinars, podcasts, recordings, virtual networking, workshops, conferences, meetings, curated videos, content creation, and more.

An event is just one of many community experiences, as a part of a much larger “always-on” lifecycle of asynchronous and synchronous engagement.

Community is different from marketing.

At this point, you might be thinking that talking about community in this way sounds more like marketing in general. There is certainly overlap, but there is an important nuance that separates community from marketing. 

Community is different from marketing in the same way an event is different from a billboard or TV commercial. An event connects people, while a billboard and a TV commercial gets a message across. Community is two-way, marketing is one-way. Community approaches the spread of ideas in a more authentic and organic way than traditional marketing, which tends to broadcast ideas loudly through crowded mediums. Marketing pushes, promotes, and flashes. Community pulls you in, listens, and lasts. Creators know this more than anyone.

This is why community is the future of growth.

  • A better way to build a brand: The community flywheel (McKinsey)
  • Community is the new moat. (First Round)

Community is the future of growth.

Many companies already know the power of an online community and have built successful multi-billion dollar businesses using it as a strategy.

Examples of companies already relying on community to grow their business

    1. Figma’s product and go-to-market strategy relied on their user community of designers.
    2. Notion’s CRO Olivia Nottebohm talks about how Notion’s entire GTM strategy is systematically organized with community at the center.
    3. TikTok is revolutionizing the creator economy with community-led growth. WhatsApp launched the “Communities” feature in their messaging app that reaches over 2 billion people.
    4. Gainsight acquired inSided, an online community platform, as a growth channel.
    5. Yelp developed a community of reviewers, Wikipedia built a community of passionate contributors, Duolingo cultivated course builders, Hashicorp fosters a developer community.

    Even more examples from Lenny Rachitsky’s newsletter:

    “Companies like Atlassian, Glossier, Datadog, Twitch, dbt, Salesforce, Peloton, and many others have succeeded in large part due to the passionate community they built around their early products. A thriving community creates a sticky and evangelical user base, becomes a great source of ideas, and can even become a clever way to scale customer support (e.g. Airbnb).”

    Further reading: Here’s a great guide to community and PLG from Growth Unhinged by Kyle Polar.

    Recap and takeaways

    • The Great Unbundling of Events is giving way to the Rise to Community, which many billion dollar companies have already latched onto.
    • Events remain a critical community experience, but only as part of an exponentially bigger and more valuable community ecosystem.
    • Community looks different for every company, but can work much better than traditional marketing.

    We’re only at the beginning of this categorical shift in how creators and companies build and market themselves and Hopin is building the tools for it.