What is a virtual community?
A virtual community is made up of a group of people bonded by a shared interest or motivation. They meet up in a dedicated digital space, where they can form connections with each other, tap into each other’s stories and experiences to fuel progress, and build meaningful relationships.
These communities are led by a creator or host who structures why and how their members build relationships with each other in the quest to master something interesting together.
In a virtual community, members get added value from the connections they make with each other. This distinction—the ability for members to foster relationships with each other— is what sets virtual communities apart from audiences on social media channels and subscribers to email newsletters.
Oftentimes, the term “virtual community” is used interchangeably with “online community” (and they’re essentially the same thing).
Characteristics of a virtual community
Virtual communities have three main characteristics:
- A creator. This is the person who structures the path to results and transformation within the virtual community.
- Members. This is the group of people who connect around a shared interest or motivation. Each new member who joins adds value to the community by bringing their own expertise, experience, and perspective to the table.
- An online community platform. This is the digital space where a virtual community’s creator and members come together to master something essential together.
Types of virtual communities
There are three main types of virtual communities.
- Virtual communities around career and professional interests. These communities typically bring together members around education, training, and networking to boost professionals in their careers, or give them the tools to embark on new ones.
- Virtual communities around health, wellness, and spirituality. This type of virtual community can help members create new practices around mindfulness, build a better relationship with fitness, or find more intimacy with spirituality or religion.
- Virtual communities around other important interests. There’s plenty of space for other types of virtual communities too, as long as members benefit from navigating a topic together. Think a community around animal training, or science-based beauty techniques.
Even within these different types of communities, there may be a lot of variation. Some can have as few as 10 members (like a micro-community), others have memberships in the thousands. Some virtual communities are free, but others charge for access. But no matter the structure, they often go hand-in-hand with a membership, an online course, a mastermind group, and much more.
Virtual community examples
- Wealth Without Wall Street is a membership site by financial advisers Russ Morgan and Joey Mure. Within their virtual community, Russ, Joey, and their team coach people to become their own bankers, generate passive income, and attain financial freedom without relying on the stock market. They also offer members access to online courses, mastermind groups, and weekly live Q&As with experts in the financial industry.
- LuvvNation, a virtual community curated by author and podcaster Luvvie Ajayi Jones, acts as a safe digital space for Luvvie’s socially-minded followers. Members are offered multiple ways to connect, including online courses, challenges, and live virtual events.
- Wanderful is a membership community that connects solo women travelers across the globe. Led by creator Beth Santos, Wanderful provides its members with webinars, learning modules, virtual events, free admission to in-person chapter events, and much more.
Benefits of virtual communities
Overall, virtual communities offer members three main benefits in comparison to their real-life counterparts.
- With no limitations imposed by geography, virtual communities can reach more people. By nature, virtual communities are primed to reach beyond the boundaries of your town, city or state.
- And because they’re not tied to a time zone, virtual communities can foster a greater diversity of participants and perspectives. As you attract a more diverse set of people into your virtual community, your members will contribute their own stories, experiences, and ideas. In turn, that makes the experience richer, adds a unique value to the community, and gives your members a reason to keep coming back.
- Virtual communities offer a support system like no other. By running a virtual community alongside an online course, group coaching program, or mastermind, you create a support system that ultimately helps members build new habits and get better results than they would have been able to on their own.