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11 Types of Online Communities That Thrive

Stuck on what type of online community to build? Here are 11 ideas to get you started!

By The Mighty Team

October 22, 2023

15 min read



    When she arrived in Boston for grad school, Sheena Collier didn’t plan to stay. Boston wasn’t known to be welcoming to people of color. But after graduating from Harvard, her career took an unexpected turn; it kept her in Beantown.

    After a decade of leading in-person, community-building initiatives in Boston, Sheena started posting about her experiences under the hashtag #BostonWhileBlack. This grew into a thriving online community of 1,300 members under the same name! (Read the whole story here)

    Sheena’s story shows the amazing power that an online community has to connect us. After all, the need for community and connection is almost in our DNA.

    In this article, we’ll show you 11 types of online communities that thrive. Plus, we’ll tell you what makes them work and some common pitfalls to watch out for.

    If you want more support in building and monetizing your online community, come join OUR Mighty Community for free and meet other new and established community owners! We’d love to meet you. Join for free!


    What are online communities?

    Online communities are groups of members gathered under a shared purpose to connect and belong. They can be grassroots led or top-down (e.g. a brand community), but in either case members create content, join conversations, and make new friends. Online communities can also work as paid membership sites, creating recurring revenue business driven by a community flywheel.

    Often the word "community" is used to describe everything from a Facebook Group to a Twitter following to an email list.

    But real online communities share the following characteristics:

    • Members can express themselves and be heard--not just passively consume content.

    • Membership in the community forms or informs part of an individual's identity. This is derived from "social identity theory" which suggests that one's concept the self is influenced by membership in social groups.

    • Members build meaningful social connections (e.g. friendships).

    • Members progress toward a goal or Big Purpose together.

    Big Purpose- New Image

    If you've belonged to online communities or even started one, you probably noticed a difference between a community and a social media following. Chances are, the difference is: belonging. Online communities require belonging.

    If you're a subscriber, follower, fan, or customer, you have a transactional relationship with a brand or creator. But if you're a member of something, you belong.

    Start Your Free Trial

    Mighty Networks - Challenge Fam - Members - Paired Dark

    11 Types of online communities

    1. Mastermind Group

    When Napoleon Hill started studying successful entrepreneurs like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford in the early 1900s, he realized that success didn’t happen in a bubble. He was so impressed with the value they got from exchanging ideas with like-minded peers that he coined the term mastermind group. And mastermind groups can be one of the coolest online communities.

    Held on a mastermind group platform, they let you experience the mastermind magic virtually.

    Mastermind groups are common among entrepreneurs. But mastermind groups are growing in popularity elsewhere too, dedicated to things like career excellence or personal development.

    Mighty Networks - Graphics - MC - Mastermind EventSeries Paired Light

    Unlike group coaching, where the leader directs advice and energy to the members of the group, in a mastermind group members help each other, offering ideas and lessons from their experience.

    Walking through a difficult journey together while sharing knowledge and encouragement is what makes a mastermind great!

    What makes a mastermind group thrive

    • Building trust and community

    • Hearing ideas from people who have solved your problem before

    • Equal power dynamics between members

    Common mistakes to watch for

    • An unclear mission or focus

    • Judgment, pushiness, and other friction between members

    • Members at very different stages of growth

    Learn more about mastermind groups

    2. Group Coaching

    The International Coaching Federation estimates that there are over 100,000 coaches in the world, and that the industry generates $4.5 billion in the U.S. alone.

    Unlike mastermind groups, group coaching is one the online communities that requires a strong coach to lead the group of non-experts through a similar transformational experience.

    But that’s not to say group members don’t encourage and share ideas with one another! The best group coaches aren’t just teachers; they’re facilitators who can coach and lead the conversation at the same time, creating space for members to learn from each other.

    Mighty Networks - Graphics - Body Soul Livestream Paired Light

    The power of group coaching for coaches is that it's scalable, unlike one-on-one coaching hours. A group coaching community is the perfect type of online community for:

    • coaches who want to get off the 1:1 treadmill and get some of their time back,

    • or, for coaches who serve clients who can’t afford individual slots.

    Coaches can scale their impact even more by digitizing parts of their offerings into an online course, and then using group coaching sessions to supplement! Read more about The Importance of Community in Online Courses.

    The power of group coaching for members is that they can go through a transformation with peers, and cheer each other on.

    Depending on personality, some people prefer group coaching for the community and the accountability aspect. Some people hate it and want a coach all to themselves.

    What makes group coaching thrive

    • Community and accountability

    • Members going through a similar transition

    • A coach who can help people to feel heard and facilitate conversation

    Common mistakes to watch for

    • Judgment and attention hogging

    • Members with vastly different needs

    Learn more about group coaching

    If you don't have a name yet, try our free Coaching Business Name Generator!

    Coaching Business Name Generator

    3. Coaching Community

    While it's trickier than building a group coaching community, coaches who work 1:1 can create healthy online communities too! (Plus, some coaches do both group and individual coaching.)

    If you find yourself coaching people with comparable life situations, who need to go through a similar transformation, you can consider supplementing your practice with an online community.

    Mighty Networks - Graphics - Galaxy DAO Chat Paired Dark

    This lets your coaching clients go on their journey together, and gives them an extra touchpoint to ensure they will be successful!

    What makes an online coaching community thrive

    • Clients with similar experiences or life journeys who are willing to talk about it outside their coaching hours

    • A place where people feel safe to work out what they're learning in coaching

    • A clear ideal member (ie. forty-something moms starting businesses for the first time)

    Common mistakes to watch for

    • Members who are in completely different places

    • Members going through a deeply personal and private transformation or who are not willing to talk about it

    Learn more about online coaching

    Try Our Community Name Generator

    Our AI engine is here to help you create a community name that feels like magic. Just share a few words about who your community is for and we’ll get to work.

    Examples: coaching clients, meditation novices, vegan chefs, dog lovers, aspiring entrepreneurs, etc.

    The names generated by Mighty Co-Host™ are examples only and may be used by other businesses or subject to third-party rights. For more information, check our Terms.

    4. Micro-Community

    After growing a profitable floral design shop, Kathleen Drennan realized that many of her fellow florists were great with flowers, but not so great with business. She decided to use her expertise to help florists succeed, and created the 6-week Flower Boss Academy Business Masterclass. You can read her story here.


    Kathleen’s Mighty Network could be considered a micro-community.

    A micro-community is one of the types of online communities, with less than 30 people, led by a creator who will teach members to master a special topic, interest, passion, or goal.

    The small community allows members to form strong ties as they walk through a transformation together. (There’s some overlap here since mastermind groups or group coaching could be considered examples of micro-communities.)

    Mighty Networks - Graphics - Community - Curriculum hub

    Micro-communities are usually a significant investment for their members. This higher price point keeps members engaged, holding them financially accountable for their own transformation (people value what they pay for).

    Usually, micro-communities require a learning journey of some sort, and they often include in-depth, live instruction.

    What makes a micro-community thrive

    • Members who are all in, and the high-ticket price point guarantees it

    • Members are all dedicated to mastery of something that will take work

    • Clear learning objectives, and in-depth teaching

    Common mistakes to watch for

    • Low cost, too many members, anything that threatens the small, tight-knit group

    • Lack of a clear ideal member or lack of a clear understanding of what transformation members want

    Read more about micro-communities

    5. Content Community

    Content communities are spaces where content creators with common interests come together to share their work, such as images, videos, or text. Community members can engage, comment, share, like, and otherwise give feedback.

    Many content communities exist on or across major social media platforms. The platform itself is not as important as the shared interests that create the community.

    Mighty Networks - Graphics - Achievement Academy - Content - Page Paired Light

    While content communities can grow up organically on social media, and creators often do their work for free, a dedicated online platform like Mighty Networks allows creators to earn more from their work and provide a better community-building experience than a social media platform. (Learn how.)

    You can use the creators calculator to compare earning potential of a community vs other content platforms.

    creator calculator content creators

    What makes a content community thrive

    • Shared interest in the content, whether it's cat videos or drone photography

    • The ability for creators to get encouragement and constructive criticism

    • Growing connections between creators

    Common mistakes to watch for

    • Negativity, too much criticism, lack of safety to be vulnerable

    • A platform that doesn’t support a good user experience for sharing and engaging with content

    Learn more about content communities

    6. Online Brand Community

    An online brand community, similar to a customer community, is built around people who purchase or have an interest in a common brand, product, or service.

    In general, there are two types of brand-related online communities:

    • Users who have fallen so in love with a brand that they are willing to devote some of their online energy to talking about it.

    • And/or, some products are so complicated or specialized that members need a place they can go to learn and get support.

    In both of these cases, thriving online communities have sprung up. Some of them live on their brand's website, and some of them are dedicated fan or support communities hosted elsewhere.

    In case it’s not obvious, if you have communities of dedicated users who are willing to spend a lot of time learning to get the most out of your product or service, you probably have an amazing brand.

    We LOVE the example of Oiselle Volée, an online brand community launched by the women's apparel brand Oiselle. Read their story here!


    What makes it thrive

    • A great online platform dedicated to a brand people care about

    • A product that benefits from ongoing customer education or extensive knowledge to master

    • Members willing to devote time, often for free, to talk about your product or service

    • Someone dedicated to hosting community (if hosted on the brand website)

    Common mistakes to watch for

    • Overmoderation, one-sided corporate conversation, or shutting down criticism.

    Learn more about online brand communities

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    7. Online Forum

    An online forum is a type of online community built around conversation and sometimes even debate. There may be a crossover with other types of online communities on this list; for example, many brand communities are essentially online forms for customers to ask questions and get help.

    Social media platforms reddit and Quora are examples of online forums. Both of these have devoted users who carry on conversations, answer questions, share knowledge, and upvote and downvote responses.

    Reddit snip

    These platforms may be huge. But don’t be fooled; the essence of any great forum is community!

    Even these giants thrive because of their sub-communities, not their millions of users. At their core are groups of people who care about the same stuff. And that's what makes it work!

    That’s why an online forum doesn’t have to have millions of people. In fact, you can build your own and get the conversation started.

    Mighty Networks - Graphics - Discover

    If you need a name for an online forum, check out our online forum name generator!

    What makes it thrive

    • Shared interests & engaged members

    • Clean platforms that organize conversations well

    • Mutual respect

    Common mistakes to watch for

    • Judgment, negativity, or general lack of respect

    • Personal attacks

    • No clear focus of conversation

    Learn more about online forums

    8. Community of Practice

    Communities of practice consist of people who are working in a shared field who want to engage with peers. The community is about relationship building, but also about knowledge exchange and sharing best practices for their work.

    Online communities of practice are common for online specialties like digital marketing or graphic design. But they're also becoming more common for offline work, especially for professions that require growth and specialization (i.e. health care or finance).


    One example of a community of practice that lives on Mighty Networks is Octo Members, home to over 2,000 UK finance professionals! Members grow knowledge but also find a valuable community among other finance professionals. Read the whole story here.

    Watch this space, because there is a ton of potential for even more online communities of practice, both global and local, in the coming years!

    What makes a community of practice thrive

    • A shared knowledge base with members who want to learn from one another

    • A field that requires ongoing growth and professional development

    • Mutual respect and engagement

    Common mistakes to watch for

    • A focus that is too broad (ie. "family doctors in Oregon" might be better than "health care workers" and "Executive career coaches in San Diego" might be better than "career coaches")

    • Lack of willingness to learn or exchange ideas

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    9. Event Community

    Once upon a time, long ago, people used to show up at a conference or event, go all in for a couple of days, and then head back home and not think about those folks until the next year.

    The pandemic completely changed the way we think about doing events. They moved online.

    And the increase in virtual events meant that hosts had to be creative to replicate the types of conversations and engagement that people used to get while awkwardly trying to balance a coffee in one hand and a plate of pastries and an event booklet in the other.

    With virtual events came all sorts of neat online opportunities to connect--no coffee spilling required. Online events can have breakout discussion rooms, casual networking times, and even virtual environments where you can walk around and “bump into” people.

    Mighty Networks - Graphics - Livestream Paired Light

    But do you know what’s even cooler than this? The event is no longer something that lasts a weekend. Instead, the discussion can start well before and can carry on long after it's done, and thriving online communities are being built around both live and virtual events! You can even get a totally-branded event app for your event community.

    So take that conference you used to LOVE going to and imagine that you can carry those conversations on and keep building relationships after it’s done.

    This is the power of an event community.

    Learn how to host a virtual conference.

    What makes it thrive

    • A great platform that facilitates different kinds of engagement

    • Attendees who want the conversation to continue (which isn’t true of every conference)

    • A community manager or conference organizer to keep the engagement flowing

    Common mistakes to watch for

    • No structure or leadership

    • A subject people don’t actually want to talk about

    Read more about finding the best virtual conference platform

    10. Faith Communities

    Flipping through the channels, you might be familiar with seeing a religious service of some sort on TV.

    But more and more religious and faith-based communities are also moving online as mosques, churches, temples, and synagogues had to figure out new ways to bring people together.

    Enter, the online faith community.

    Online communities give faith groups a chance to keep people engaged throughout the week, have important conversations, and provide support. Plus, the ability to host video or stream a service means that people who can’t or don’t want to travel to attend a service don’t have to.

    And some of the most amazing communities out there can be inspired by faith-based values and goals without being directly tied to a place of worship.

    For an awesome example, check out LO Sister, a community app created by Sadie Robertson Huff. Young women of faith can join live workshops, attend weekly Bible studies, and grow friendships.

    LO sister community and branded app by Mighty Pro

    What makes a faith community work

    • Engagement. People can watch sermons on YouTube, but people attend a service for the feeling of connection.

    • Consistency. If you’re creating an online faith-rooted community, there needs to be consistent content and community building.

    Common mistakes to watch for

    • No engagement. The power of an online faith community isn’t the information, it’s the connection. If you can’t build this, people won’t keep coming back.

    11. Shared Purpose Community

    The final type of online community we’re going to talk about here is a shared purpose community. This is a community that comes together with a view to getting something done in the world and/or to transform the lives of its members

    Now, MOST successful online communities are Big Purpose communities. They gather to learn, grow, encourage, and build, transforming the lives of their members around things that matter to them.

    For example, we've seen powerful shared purpose communities come together around:

    • fitness and yoga

    • hobbies and interests

    • social justice or causes

    For a cool example, look at the Slow AF Run Club. Founded by Martinus Evans, it brings together 20,000 members who are not afraid to be "Back of the Pack Runners."


    What makes a shared purpose community thrive

    • A common vision or goal that can be accomplished in a set period of time

    • Members dedicated to the cause, willing to work together

    Common mistakes to watch for

    • Lack of focus or time horizon

    • Members who aren’t committed or engaged


    Whatever you need to build online, however you want to bring people together, chances are one of these 11 types of online community will work for you.

    And did you know that Mighty Networks is the perfect place to host each and every one of these online communities? Mighty lets you bring community, content, courses, and commerce together. You can transform lives and build deep, lasting friendships and create a place to belong.

    Don’t take our word for it. Try it free for 14 days!

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