These days people spend more time online than ever before. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that community building is increasingly being done in the digital space. In fact, some people may engage almost exclusively through communities they find using the internet. This is only going to become a more common scenario, so it is important to understand how these realms of interaction are being built and maintained. Whether you’re a business looking to promote your product or content or are just interested in better understanding how online communities operate, here is a breakdown of how people interested in a certain topic, product, or activity interact online.
Online social communities
These are probably the online communities that you’re already most familiar with and that you use more often. Public social communities include large companies like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in addition to more niche areas like Pinterest, Quora and Reddit. From a business point of view, brands use social communities mostly for marketing purposes, broadcasting information, building brand awareness and reaching greater audiences for specific types of campaigns and messaging. The trick to using these broad communities effectively though is targeting the micro-communities that exist inside of them. People now build Facebook groups for everything from sharing knitting techniques to discussing cricket odds. It’s about finding your audience and engaging with them in a meaningful and memorable way.
Online advocacy communities
These are specific types of communities that are built around allowing companies, brands, or businesses to mobilize their most passionate, loyal customers. You might also see this type of community referred to as advocate marketing software, and it is built upon the premise that by rewarding members for writing a testimonial or posting about the company on social media, the audience will grow organically. It is basically a digital incarnation of helping to promote growth through positive word of mouth. The idea is that you give customers the incentive to say something good.
Online support communities
Support communities are established around certain types of brands or content in order to enable members to offer help to other customers on a direct, one to one basis. The idea being that if users or customers can assist each other, by providing product tips or practical assistance, companies can reduce their overall customer support costs. Compared to social or even advocate communities, this category tends to provide a more structured way of gathering innovative ideas thanks to the fact that support communities allow brands to directly track product- and service-related conversations.
Online insight communities
The most specific and potentially important of all the communities mentioned here are insight communities. These are more selective groups that are carefully composed of users or customers who have an established relationship with a brand that they have maintained over a longer period of time. Ideally, these communities allow companies to gather continuous, high-quality feedback from engaged stakeholders like customers, partners or employees. Savvy companies have already incorporated these communities as a tool of mainstreams market research and it’s likely that insight communities will come to play an increasingly important role in marketing, customer experience and innovation.