Opinion: Gated community apps bringing to life the OG social network

Anish Anthony MyGate

With the propensity to venture out to discover new products and services on the decline, community apps provide brands with an excellent way to engage meaningfully, writes Anish Anthony.

The original social network has never experienced an outage or dips in usage on the weekend, nor is its engagement skewed toward only a particular demographic. Welcome to the gated community, the original hang-out spot for people of all age groups on all days of the week. Pre-internet, post-pandemic, whatever the situation may be, this is a group of people that is always in and out of each other’s homes and majorly influence each other’s lives.

Whether it’s where to buy groceries, which play school to send the children to, the best hospital or Chinese restaurant in the area, or a good pest control service, our neighbors are the most reliable recommendation engine. Unfortunately, brands have traditionally had very little opportunity to tap into this network. Beyond no parking signs, a lift flyer, or the odd banner at a community pandal, there has been very little scope to build conversations with these homogenous groups.

The reason for this is simple: any brand needs scale to actually consider it a viable part of its marketing strategy and the logistical nightmare of reaching out to gated communities individually puts this out of reach. So instead of any meaningful engagements with this audience, token money is spent merely to build local relations and support the community without much expectation by way of brand engagement or sales. Brands have had to accept this as a missed opportunity — until now.

Community Engagement Is Here

It took a long time, but gated communities finally got around to embracing technology a few years ago. Unlike the registers and intercoms of yesterday, gated communities today use an app for everything from approving guests to interacting with their neighbors. At MyGate, we today have 25,000 gated communities and 3.5 million homes using the app. With connections with Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) already formed and all residents on a common platform, such systems finally unlock for brands the opportunity to run large-scale engagement programs for gated communities.

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Already, the word has gotten out and major brands from every sector have begun running unique, large-scale activations within gated communities, using the reach and intelligence of community apps. A well-known pizza brand, for example, is taking its food trucks to hundreds of large apartment complexes in South India every weekend and reaching lakhs of homes hungry for a treat during the pandemic; an EV brand is offering test drives to communities in areas 50 kilometers away from its nearest showroom, exposing its brand in the most engaging way possible to a large audience that would have otherwise been unlikely to give it a shot; a food aggregator has grown awareness about its latest vertical in 1000 communities with online and offline activations on a single day. Such programs are made doubly effective because community apps can enable the targeting of communities based on geography, size, and various other factors.

Perhaps even more interestingly, community apps, for the first time ever, bring numbers to this arena. By driving communications to raise awareness about upcoming events in society, brands can know just how much interest a particular program has generated. With the propensity to venture out to discover new products and services on the decline, community apps provide brands with an excellent way to engage meaningfully with their audience on a platform that is seamlessly woven into day-to-day life. Contests, kiosks, events, product launches — the possibilities are endless. It’s early days still, but it could well be that D2C soon stands for direct-to-community.

The piece has been authored by Anish Anthony, Business Head (Community Engagement Programme), MyGate.