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Community Growth

Different types of online communities can be used for different purposes. How then, do we choose what kind of community to create? Platform and purpose are important determining factors when starting an online community. Also, in order for the community to be successful members must remain at the centre.

  1. Platform is the medium where we host our community. Should we use Facebook pages, Facebook groups or maybe Twitter Chats? Everything that relates to our brand and company on the web acts as a platform. Many businesses use their corporate website or blog as a medium for housing their community.
  2. Purpose is the essence of the community. It is the “big why” behind its creation. Why do we bring those members together? What do we want to accomplish by creating the community? The answer is simple: We need to serve the community in an effective and efficient way. That's when sales leads and income will follow.

The purpose of the community relates to the brand and the products, as in the examples in our previous post. Our purpose is not to sell the products or advertise a company (which may lead to failure).

According to the purpose the community serves, it can belong to the following types:

  • Special interest communities: based on a shared interest that symbolizes a piece of the members’ identities. For example: antique car refinishers, sports journalists, Jane Austen readers, or German Shepherd owners)
  • Trigger communities: These communities form around significant life events or phases: periods in which people come together seeking support and important information. You may find additional info in this website: Goj2.com

Other common factors that relate to the community's purpose and determine its type:

  • Interest: People who share common interests or passions come together to form a community. (special interest communities)
  • Place: People getting together based on geographical areas. (special interest or trigger communities)
  • Practice: Profession or practice methods are a binding factor of these communities. (special interest communities)
  • Ideology: People aspiring to the same humanitarian goal and aim to bring about similar changes. (special interest or trigger communities)
  • Circumstances: People are brought together by circumstances or external forces (trigger communities)

Furthermore there may be additional subcategories within these communities.

  1. Family Groups: Communities where families (including extended families) get together sharing news & events.
  2. Role Playing: Where people dress up and act like characters from comics or mythology. Today, this is a growing trend.
  3. Medical Support Group: People suffering from similar medical problems come together in such communities, especially around major illnesses like cancer.
  4. Ethnic Group: People from particular ethnic groups come together to share their lives.
  5. Travel Communities: Travelers form communities to share tips, reviews and off-beat activities. They may suggest places to visit or to avoid.
  6. Professional Groups: These communities are drawn together by occupation. People following a certain profession come together to share insights, new developments and news. They offer advice, tips and support.
  7. Special Interest Groups: These communities focus along any common interest or similarities in lifestyle.
  8. Creative Sharing Groups: These communities attract creative people. They share their work and guide each other towards greater skills development.
  9. Groups Around Geographical Areas. These groups form a place to speak, listen and interact with other people from the same area.
  10. Collaborative Groups: These communities evolve when a group of people work collaboratively, taking advantage of social medias’ communication capabilities.
  11. Hobby Groups: People are bound by interest in a particular craft or hobby and share tips and experiences.
  12. DIY groups: There is a growing group of DIY enthusiasts. These communities form through a common interest in DIY techniques and projects.
  13. Relationship Groups: Businesses use such communities to build stronger relations with their clients. Individuals seek a relationship and want to come together and interact with others.

Those are some of the types of communities found in the internet. There are many more covering topics and interests that people can share.

What type of community would you like to support on the internet? Why?

Resources and info: cleverism.com

Further reading: What is an Online Community?

Where to start?

Growing our community and gaining new prospects starts by understanding what it’s all about.

Imagine a large community. It’s formed by active customers, involved prospects and enthusiastic brand advocates. How can you pass your business message on to them? Having them all connected online makes it easy and convenient. How much could such a community contribute to the success of your business?

I assume a lot. Is it is easy to form an online community as suggested? Actually, no. To tell you the truth, if you start it the wrong way or for the wrong reason it may never happen!

Our first step is to gain an understanding of what comprises an online community. After searching the internet, I’ve come across several definitions.

I have chosen seven definitions to share with you.

  1. ‘An online community is a group of people with common interests who use the Internet (web sites, email, instant messaging, etc) to communicate, work together and pursue their interests over time’. (Commoncraft.com)
  2. ‘An online community is a virtual community whose members interact with each other primarily via the Internet. For many, online communities may feel like home, consisting of a “family of invisible friends.". Those who wish to be a part of an online community usually have to become a member via a specific site and necessarily need an internet connection. An online community can act as an information system where members can post, comment on discussions, give advice or collaborate. Commonly, people communicate through social networking sites, chat rooms, forums, e-mail lists and discussion boards. People may also join online communities through video games, blogs and virtual worlds’. (Wikipedia Article)
  3. ‘An online community is a community that forms on the internet. A community is a group of people interacting, sharing, and working toward a common goal. Whereas neighbors may converse in their yards, in an online community, members interact via social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. They also share in forums, e-mail groups, and even in the comments sections of blog posts and news articles’. (Dummies.com)
  4. An online community is a ‘network of people who communicate with one another and with an organization through interactive tools such as e-mail, discussion boards and chat systems’. (Businessdictionary.com)
  5. An online community is ‘A group of people who use a particular internet service or belong to a particular group on the internet’. (Dictionary.cambridge.org)
  6. In Jenny Preece's book “Online Communities” she states that online communities generally consist of the following:
    • People socialising while attempting to satisfy their own needs or play specific parts in the community, like moderating or leading discussions.
    • A uniting purpose in the form of common needs, interests, aims, lifestyles, use of service, or anything else which motivates the desire for community.
    • Practices in the form of unspoken rules, socially defined habits, procedures and legal strictures that influence and limit the way members interact.
    • Computers which mediate and facilitate social interaction and promote feelings of unity. (Via Design to Thrive, by Howard Thorson (2010) ) (Socialmediatoday.com)
  7. Lastly, here is my own definition: An online community is no different to any other community except for the fact it’s online. It is a group of people with something in common. Shared factors include; interests, experiences, ideals, goals or profiles. Loyal customers or brand fans need to create profiles. Communities are often based on proximity.

Who has an online community?

Bloggers, business, organizations and individuals, even blog sites use online groups. Often they create separate communities that serve a specific purpose. (i-scoop.eu)

Concluding

From the definitions, we can see that the communities housed on the internet are quite like off-line communities in most respects. They are built around shared interests, passions and pains, or sometimes around categories based on common traits. These groups’ purpose is to bring people together serve their needs as members of a community.

Let me share examples of online communities that are doing exceptionally well. 
(source:  10 Exceptional Examples Of Brand Communities)

  1. The SAP Community Network (SCN)
  2. Playstation Community (Sony)
  3. Being Girl (Procter and Gamble)
  4. Figment (Random House)
  5. H&R Block
  6. Harley Owners Group (Harley-Davidson)
  7. Lugnet (Lego)
  8. My Starbucks Idea (Starbucks)
  9. Oracle Community (Oracle)
  10. r/Nordstrom1901 (Nordstrom)

To succeed, a community must be "member-centric". This means that the members and whatever ties them together are at the centre of the group’s motivation, not the company or its products and services. (The Hyper Social Organization, p.49)

This is the reason why so many online communities fail. Because they are built around a company or a brand to serve the purposes of the business alone, they fail to give value to the members of the community. Next read: Online Community types

Have you ever enrolled in a brand/product-centric online community? Did you feel like your needs as a member were met? Did you continue subscribing?

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