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Mighty Encyclopedia

Online Community

What is an online community?

An online community is a group of people coming together with a shared motivation to explore, overcome, or understand a common goal, interest, or idea. Online communities often are led by a creator who, in turn, brings together Ideal Members to master something interesting together. Practically any topic can be used to foster an online community, as long as it unifies members.

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Online communities are unique because they offer members the opportunity to connect with each other, regardless of where they’re located. Members can build authentic relationships with each other because people are wired for community.

As each new person joins a community, they bring additional value to the creator, the brand, the community itself, and its members — this is known as the network effect.

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What a community isn't:

  • A community is NOT reposting your social media or content marketing posts.

  • A community is NOT simply an email list.

  • A community is NOT adding external links and asking, “What do you think?” You’re putting the onus on your members and you’re not taking the time to break it down or explain why it’s important (as the creator, you need to do the work for them).

What is online community building?

Online community building is how an online community builds relationships, contributions, and sharing between members. An online community is more than its members, it’s also about the space. A community space should be a place that excites members and makes them feel valued.

The best online communities are built on dedicated community platforms that make it easy for creators to build a main community, plus add custom spaces and bring members together to connect with each other. The greatest online community platforms offer members various ways to build relationships and interact with each other, from polls and direct messaging to live events and online courses.

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Why build an online community?

An online community is the best way to bring people together to master a topic that’s important or interesting to them. An online community is the single most effective way for members of that community to build new skills, reinforce habits, and achieve results and transformation that would be otherwise difficult to achieve on their own.

For small- to medium-sized businesses, online communities are also the best way for them to learn about what their customers want and are motivated by.

Benefits of online communities

Online communities aren’t bound by real-world restrictions like geography or timezone—and because of this, there’s often a greater diversity of participants who come together to master something interesting or important together.

The support of an online community also helps empower and inspire members to learn a new skill, build a new habit, or learn a topic they haven’t been able to master on their own. Members also find themselves progressing more quickly and making meaningful, lasting connections along the way.

Small- and medium-size business owners also find online communities incredibly helpful for gaining insights about their audience that in turn shape new product iterations and brand strategy.

Types of online communities

Online communities aren’t bound by real-world restrictions like geography or timezone—and because of this, there’s often a greater diversity of participants who come together to form real and deep connections.

They get to master something interesting together, by learning a new skill or building a new habit, like sticking to a new workout routine. Online communities are the single best way to dive deep into a topic and come out of the other side taking action. The community adds a layer of accountability and support you won’t find anywhere else.

In a world of a zillion distractions where everyone is too busy to learn anything new, an online community provides focus. Members can really focus their energy on learning something new, together.

One of the greatest benefits of an online community is the ability to share your knowledge with your members. This could occur on discussion boards or live events. But it could also be through teaching a course.

Online communities are also one of the best ways to monetize your following or your content; you’ll earn more per follower than any other online platform you can monetize.

If you’re a business, an online community is the single best way to quickly learn what your customers care about, their curiosity, and what they need from you to stay engaged and committed.

Types of online communities

The different types of online communities include those organized around:

  • A topic, interest, passion, or goal.

  • A shared identity such as being a new mother or ex-pat.

  • A shared appreciation for a particular person, book, show, or sports team.

  • A shared location like a neighborhood or campus.

It’s common to think that online communities have hundreds or thousands of members. This may have been true in the era of online forums, the precursor to today’s much more sophisticated online communities.

Today, successful online communities start off small with as few as 30 members and aim to foster deeper relationships that grow.

One more interesting trend is the emergence of a new type of online community: one that’s “mastering” a topic together. In this model, online communities merge with online courses to enable a more structured program that a group of people goes through together. Types of online communities that thrive include mastermind groups, coaching communities, online brand communities, and shared purpose communities.

Online community examples

Boston While Black: One thing that Boston was missing? A safe space for Black students, professionals, and entrepreneurs to come together, activate change, and build relationships. That’s exactly what this paid membership site offers. They offer in-person and virtual programming, by serving members who are seeking access to culturally-relevant experiences, information, and resources to navigate Boston, along with personal and professional connections.

Barista Exchange: This online community platform for baristas has a public forum for baristas to vent and ask for advice. It also offers a classifieds section to buy and sell equipment, a job board, blog posts that act as resources for community members, and specific groups for members to come together and swap tips.

DogPro (formerly known as Canine Performance): Training a dog isn’t the easiest job in the world. This site was created for passionate dog owners to have an accessible, supportive space to learn about dog training through online courses, virtual sessions, and webinars. Members can choose between different levels of membership, including a package for those who want direct chat support 24/7 with pro dog trainers.

Now Read: How to Build an Online Community