Content creators working in a range of industries have found success in the connected world, with the explosion of new channels and tools increasing the opportunities for them to communicate and connect with their audiences. The Rolling Stones are a great example of this – they created a community platform to share their music and connect with over 250,000 fans around the world. The rapid growth of the influencer marketing industry is another testament to the value these creators can deliver, with brands expected to spend $15 billion by 2022. Now, it feels like almost anyone can become an influencer.
Our recent research found that 52% of locked down Brits are willing to cut the cord with social media giants such as Instagram and Facebook and would look to community apps dedicated to their particular passion. Evidently, there is consumer demand for such community apps, with the same survey revealing that over a third of individuals want to see dedicated apps from their favourite brands and influencers. More specifically, Gen Z would be interested in joining personal passion communities (54%) and brand community apps (41%).
This dramatic shift has given rise to the passion economy, which gives content creators the opportunity to capitalise on shared interests and establish niche community groups. As trust in mainstream social networking sites continues to fall, the growth of community platforms and apps has skyrocketed. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are helping to power these passion-driven communities, allowing creators and brands to move away from social media, to create more dynamic and interactive platforms. Unlike native apps which are written to run on mobile devices, PWAs are compatible with on a webpage, allowing individuals to search and access from any device.
Of course, not all of us have the knowledge or capability to create a functioning app. Influencers are relying on professional app developers, costing them time and money to build and maintain their own app. PWAs provide a great solution for this.
What do PWAs offer?
The key attributes that define PWAs can be viewed through two categories that reflect their value; connectivity and a dynamic and engaging user experience.
PWAs offer search engine discoverability and a linkable URL, meaning they’re identifiable as applications, so there’s no friction, zero installation required and they’re easy to share. For any creator, the shareability and power of URLs is significant. The ability for existing users to share your content is essential to the growth of your platform and having a URL alongside your app enhances that sharing function.
PWA’s have an added benefit of a Service Worker, which is essentially a script that runs separately to the main site. The role of Service Workers can play an important role in the development and maintenance of PWAs, they can allow you to reach functions such as cache network requests. As communities grow, platforms collect and store customer data from their web journey – from interactive behaviour to personal and sensitive data.
PWAs are accessed through a web browser rather than any app stores so they can be less costly and allow you to save time compared to native web apps. Alongside that, there is no need for users to download content as they do on a native application, PWAs can be accessed directly through a URL and so content can be accessed much faster and users’ phone memory is not compromised.
PWA’s cater to user demand for flexibility and seamless functionality, allowing individuals to connect and engage across multiple devices, including mobiles, laptops and tablets.
Dynamic and engaging
PWAs allow users to experience app-like interaction on a web platform, delivering easy navigation and the ability to install to home screen browsers, allowing users to pin and ‘keep’ selected apps, just like those you download from an app store. The responsiveness of PWAs means that creators and users are not restricted by accessibility and the increased flexibility across mobile devices, laptops and tablets ensures that content is not compromised across platforms.
For creators, having fresh content is essential to keep views consistent and audiences loyal. Thanks to the role of Service Workers in the update process, it is easier for PWAs to be updated. PWAs also offer re-engagement UIs which hold functions such as push notifications – a key capability in increasing interaction and building web traffic across platforms. Engagement features significantly differ PWAs from native web apps as push notifications also work in the background so users remain connected with the latest content and updates. As native web apps are still dominant, it is important to note that these push notifications are not yet compatible with iOS as Apple only began supporting PWAs in 2018, however, this is expected to increase and the rollout of 5G networks will only serve to improve mobile device performance.
The future of community platforms
The current software landscape is dominated by native web apps and PWAs have been making some headway in becoming a primary UI with the likes of Google moving Android apps for Chrome OS to PWA. However, the transition and creation process needs to be simplified to help brands and creators make the switch from a native app to PWA. When building your community, you shouldn’t be held back by the barrier of your technical competence.
This is the challenge SaaS players in the industry are looking to tackle and increasingly, these providers are offering self-service models which allow brands and creators to build their own PWA-based communities. The incredible flexibility and control that PWAs offer when compared with traditional social media networks and native apps is undeniable. As the battle for consumer attention heats up, creators and brands will increasingly be forced to reassess what platforms and apps they leverage, and ultimately, selecting those which allow them to effectively engage with their communities with ease.