A lot of the times when I have been brought on to work on a project the “type” of community has already been decided and often times those deciding don’t understand what Community really is.  Because of this I decided that the first post of my blog series should be about level setting and explaining what Community really is and how it relates to social media.

Social media is just a fancy way of describing the digital conversations of people online.

I define Community as a group of like-minded people who come together to achieve a common goal or purpose.

Community is a subset of social media.  For example…

forrest lymburner

Within Social Media is the Community Facebook.  The platform itself is the primarily bond factor of the community.  Within Facebook is your network.  Your network is a community that is bound together because of their connection to you.  Another group within Facebook is the Willie Nelson fan page where the bond is, obviously, Willie!  Each of these are communities, together under the banner of social but separate based on whatever the factor is that makes them “like minded”

The above graphic over simplifies this.  In reality it looks more like this.

sm_facebook_friends_map

The reason being is that people share connections, interests, etc and cross over into each others communities.

When more people think of Community they think  based on their bias of the industry they are in.  Someone in government thinks of community as “the neighbors”, Someone in a non profit thinks of it as their “donor base”.  People in web think of it as an online website.  The fact is they are all right and they are all wrong.  Community is not a noun, its a philosophical concept that’s always been around.

When you talk about “community strategy” it simply means how can I get people to come together to do something.  In business that could be support one another, for a non profit it might be volunteer/donate, for commercial it might be share content and strengthen brand…whatever the reason, whatever the goal, whatever the platform it’s all the same thing.

When you talk about Online Communities, they tend to come in the following flavors.

  • Support or Problem Solving Communities: a community which forms around helping people use a product or service.  Typically corporate sponsored.
  • Goal or Action Communities: a community which forms around creating or achieving something.   Star Wars Uncut is a site where the community re-created Star Wars.  Change.org is a community to effect political or social change.
  • Common Interest Communities: A community which forms around a shared interest of the community members.  Examples include World of Warcraft Community, LOTR Fanatics Plaza, Photoshop Gurus, Bronies from Ohio, Betty Crocker Community
  • Functional Communities:  Communities which form around a group of people who all have the same job function.  Examples include… CPA community, Guild of Sommeliers, even a community for community managers!

People don’t always realize it but…

  • YouTube is a community because its people coming together to create and share videos
  • Wikipedia is a community because the people come together to write the articles
  • Amazon and eBay are communities because the people come together to sell products, rate sellers and review products
  • Blogspot/Tmblr/Blogger are communities because people come together to share information and stories

So what does all this mean to you?  The first question you have to ask yourself is what do you want the community to do?  In the next blog post in the series I’m going to talk about what you can use this “community concept” to do to help your business.

Questions or feedback please list them below in the comments!