Community Predictions


In this annual report, we reach out to some of the most recognized thought leaders in community to get their thoughts and opinions on the year that lies ahead.

Our experts provide us with invaluable insights on the community trends to expect in 2021, and how to ensure that you, as a community professional, can stay ahead of your competitors.

The Year of Action

Each year, we are presented with a new and unique set of challenges that shape the online community space. 2021, however, is a year unlike anything we’ve seen before; the political, economical and social landscape have been shaped drastically by challenges presented by the global pandemic, which have had a profound impact on the way organizations conduct business.

How will the environmental landscape of 2021 impact online communities, and how can we prepare for the challenges that lie ahead? What key trends can we expect to see in the next year, and in what ways will they shape the approach we take in our communities?

This year’s edition has all the answers. Our experts have identified seven key community trends that we can expect to see in 2021, and have provided us with recommendations on how to stay ahead of the curve.

as a Catalyst
for Action

Communities will be used as agents of social change, a place for individuals to congregate and plan action for a common cause.

Equity and
Inclusion in

Community professionals will have to consider diversity, equity and inclusion in every program or policy decision they make.

as a Strategic

Organizations who already have a community or have one in-the-works will have a strategic advantage over those without.
Vanilla’s 2021 Community Predictions – Our Annual Series Associate Director, CS Operations at Spotify

Community as a Catalyst for Action

Communities are agents of social change. As people congregate, build on ideas and create plans for action with like-minded individuals, they spark movements that empower individuals and reaffirm political positions. Due to the limitations on in-person meetings that have been imposed on the public during the past year, having these discussions online has increased tremendously as people look at other ways of making their concerns heard. As a result, communities of all sorts will see these types of conversations pop-up as they become more prominent.

In 2021, sociopolitical activities will not only be initiated online, but will also be able to gain a considerable amount of steam and support as they become online movements that anyone in the world can join.

Download Predictions eBook

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Community

Political polarization runs deep in the US, and the rise of identity-group politics and discussions surrounding racial and ethnic diversity over the past few decades has peaked. With social movements like BLM, MeToo, activism on climate change and political-ideological divides, issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have become difficult to ignore. As a result, many organizations are looking to address these issues and create more inclusive environments. Recognizing DEI and ensuring that all members are able to participate in a safe and inclusive environment is crucial to the work that community itself aims to achieve.

In 2021, our experts predict that more attention will be paid to DEI within the community space and that action will be taken to remedy these issues.

Vanilla’s 2021 Community Predictions – Our Annual Series Co-Founder & CEO of Sharehold
Vanilla’s 2021 Community Predictions – Our Annual Series Pragmatic Alumni Community

Community as a Strategic Advantage

While community professionals have been advocating the benefits of community for years, it has only recently become more common for organizations to provide their customers with this dedicated online space. In fact, over the past few years, more evidence has emerged that shows the compelling value that community offers, which not only supports what community professionals have been saying for years, but also provides organizations with quantitative proof of community impact. In short, most organizations have realized that community is a must-have; it’s a strategic program that can be used to forward objectives throughout the organization.

In 2021, our experts predict that organizations with an online community will reap the benefits, as those without find themselves at a disadvantage.

Download Predictions eBook

How Do Your Thoughts Compare?

This year, we wanted to hear from you—what did you predict would be the biggest community trend of 2021? Based on our survey results, you have identified the rise of virtual event communities as the primary trend for 2021, followed by increased executive interest/ investment in community.

Rise of virtual event communities
Increased executive interest/investment in community
Community as strategic advantage
Attention & action on diversity and inclusion
Automation and AI to scale operations
Movement from social media to branded community
Better ROI attribution to community
Rise of employee centered communities
Privacy and data management
Download Predictions eBook

The experts

Marjorie Anderson

Marjorie is the Founder of Community by Association and is the Manager of Digital Communities at Project Management Institute. She specializes in building strategies and creating programming for communities in associations and nonprofits, connecting community to organization goals to drive sustainable value. Marjorie has appeared on a number of podcasts, and has been a key speaker at numerous events on community management.

Christina Brashear

Christina Brashear is the Senior Manager of Community Experience at Oracle. Christina’s passion for and commitment to online communities is evident by her 20+ year history of building and managing thriving, engaged communities for companies such as iVillage, AOL, Disney and Gannett (USA Today) prior to joining Oracle in 2016.

Bill Johnston

Bill is the Founder of Structure3C, an organization dedicated to helping companies move beyond the boundaries of platforms and optimization-focused “best practice” to create transformational community experiences. Prior to founding Structure3C, Bill held Director positions at Autodesk and Dell, where he was responsible for online community and social media globally.

Sophie Bujold

Sophie is an entrepreneur and consultant with more than 18 years of experience in online community building, customer experience, and digital strategy. She’s helped build sustainable and memorable B2B online communities in industries such as travel, coaching, design, creative arts, and more. Beyond work, she can be found flexing her creative muscles – whether it’s exploring with her Canon SLR or creating a mixed-media masterpiece.

Holly Firestone

Holly is currently the Head of Community at Venafi, and is leading the development of their new community. Holly is an experienced community strategist who has built and run some of the largest B2B communities and community programs in the world. Previous to Venafi, she spent two years building the Atlassian User Group program and five years at Salesforce, leading the Community management team.

Courtney Howell

Courtney Howell is the Community Manager at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and has been working in digital communities since 2013. She delights in developing content, events, and community programs that support organizational goals while also providing intrinsic value to members. During the pandemic, some new hobbies she’s acquired are biking, baking, and making bad poetry videos.

Esther Heide

Esther is the Program Manager for Community and Social Media Support at TeamViewer, which operates a global cloud-based connectivity platform that enables users and customers to connect to a wide variety of devices. Esther has managed the TeamViewer Community since its inception, and she works to create lasting value by creating global Knowledge Exchange and publishing relevant information.

Carrie Melissa Jones

Carrie is an author, community builder, M.A. researcher, and community management consultant. Her work influences the world’s leading brand communities including the American Medical Association, Buffer, Patreon, Google, and She is the Founding Partner and former COO of CMX, the hub for over 20,000 community professionals.

Erica Kuhl

Erica recently left her position as the VP of Community at Salesforce, where she spent 17+ years building the iconic Trailblazer Community and programs with over 3 million members. Erica has just ventured out on her own and is now helping organizations build authentic, engaging, and empowering communities. She is passionate about transforming the way organizations team up with their customers through community.

Georgina Cannie

Georgina is an experienced community builder who has worked with companies like PWC, ESRI, and American Express. She currently runs the Pragmatic Alumni Community—A Community of Practice for Product Managers at Pragmatic Institute—and spends a lot of time thinking about how businesses can deliver human authenticity to their customers online.

Tanja Laub

Tanja is a consultant and lecturer for digital communication with a focus on community management. Her clients include the Media Group RTL Germany, Munich Airport and Vodafone. She is also co-founder of CommunityGipfel, the first conference on Community Management in Germany and chairperson of the German Association of Community Management (BVCM), which is aligned with Tanja’s passion in professionalising community management in Germany and beyond.

Sarah Judd Welch

Sarah is the Co-Founder & CEO of Sharehold, an innovation consultancy that designs and fosters belonging for teams, communities, and industry innovators, Sarah has worked with organizations ranging from Google and General Electric to The Skoll Foundation and National Geographic on community and innovation. Her work and words have been seen in Harvard Business Review, Digiday, and many more.

Allison Leahy

Allison Leahy is the Associate Director, CS Operations at Spotify where she oversees the company’s global social care and community programs. Allison realized her passion for community management when she was working as a freelance writer and spending more time composing replies to her readers than researching new stories. Prior to Spotify, she spearheaded community operations for Fitbit and Ning.

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer is the Sr. Director of Community and Advocacy at OutSystem, and a recovering developer and marketer who lives and breathes community. When she’s not tweeting about Lin-Manuel Miranda, she’s weaving Grumpy Cat into presentations, or misusing a comma. Jennifer has a unique background that took her from web development to SEO consulting to managing communities and leading teams.

Brian Oblinger

Brian leads teams focused on customer experience, community, social, learning, enablement, support, and advocacy. Brian enables customers to learn products quicker, convert to paying customers faster, expand their accounts more rapidly, and remain customers longer.

Colleen Young

Colleen is the Founder of CY Connect, which is internationally known for building patient communities that thrive, and Community Director for Mayo Clinic Connect, a virtual community connecting patients with each other and to Mayo Clinic medical expertise. Using strategic community management approaches, Colleen has developed a proven framework to help organizations build online communities that work.

Venessa Paech

Venessa is the Co-Founder and Director of Australian Community Managers, the national centre for online community management training and resources. Venessa works in several international community management leadership collectives, and liaises with industry, government and researchers to grow community management practice in APAC. She teaches online community management at University of Sydney, Future Work Skills Academy and others.

Shana Sumers

Shana is the Founder of HER, a community of over 6 million users worldwide. Shana has worked from the ground up to launch HER and grow a community that supports the wants and needs for this rainbow filled group. Shana has had the opportunity to speak on multiple panels (as panelist and moderator), podcasts, private events and stages as both a speaker and keynote speaker.

Mary Thengvall

Mary is the Director of Developer Relations at Camunda, and is a connector of people at heart, personally and professionally. She has over 10 years of experience in building and fostering developer communities. Mary is also the author of the first book on Developer Relations: The Business Value of Developer Relations (© 2018, Apress).

Dani Weinstein

Dani is a community builder, strategist and leader with more than 12 years creating great customer experiences and delivering business value to HP, and more recently, Domo (Nasdaq:DOMO) in the B2B domain. Dani has been a key speaker at numerous user groups, conferences and webinars on topics ranging from building & scaling community to harnessing the power of your super fans.

Community Predictions 2021

2020 was a year unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetimes. These challenges have pushed organizations to seek digital solutions to remain relevant and connect with their customers online. What impact has the global situation had on community and what can we expect moving forward into 2021?

Are you prepared for 2021? Download your free copy today!

Forums reinvented