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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 usually 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.
Often, 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 or people who bring the community together with a founding vision, set up the online community platform, and get the discussions moving.
- Members: The people who join around a shared interest or motivation. Each new member adds value to the community by bringing their own expertise, experience, and perspective to the table.
- An online community platform: The digital space where a virtual community’s creator and members come together to master something essential together. A good online community platform will give you features to organize discussions, host events, charge for memberships, build subgroups, live stream and even build and sell courses!
Types of virtual communities
Here are some (not all) of the types of online communities:
- Health and wellness: formed around subjects like eating right or getting in shape
- Personal development: formed around personal mastery and progress towards your potential
- Hobbies: formed for the shared love of a hobby (e.g. knitting, quilting, photography)
- Careers or entrepreneurship: formed around career mastery and entrepreneurs learning from one another
- Mastering skills: formed around learning a new skill (e.g. marketing or coding)
- Spirituality or religion: formed around seeking spiritual or religious growth or community
- Healing: members connecting over shared challenges or even trauma (e.g overcoming postpartum depression)
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
Here are some of the benefits of virtual communities, and many of these you won’t even find in traditional communities!
- Reach more people: A virtual community can draw members from around the globe.
- Diversity: Since they’re not limited by geography, virtual communities can nourish diverse membership, live experiences, and perspectives.
- Organic member growth: If you’re looking for growth, virtual communities can grow naturally as members engage with each other and tell their friends.
- Real connections: Don’t be fooled by the word “virtual.” Virtual communities are a great place to grow real, rich connections with people from around the world.
- Personal development: For communities focused on learning and growth, going through transformation with others gives accountability AND people cheering you on.
- Conversations in your pocket: With a community app like Mighty Networks, you can bring the power of connection right into your pocket.
- Recurring revenue: Virtual communities with a paid membership fee generate recurring revenue for their Hosts.
- Centralized business: A virtual community can bring together all the elements of an online business, from memberships to courses to live events.