According to the traditional definitions, a community is a social unit with commonalities such as norms, religion, values, customs, or identity. It can also be identified as a group of people living in the same place. Communities have been an integral part of human existence. They are made up of family, friends, or people having similar interests. As we have moved to the digital era, communities have surpassed the limitation of geography and have started to have a number of several online communities.
To understand the emergence of online communities let us understand the history of the internet and web-2.
The first era of the web was web1.0. It was about how we consume the content around. Google, Yahoo, CragsList were amongst the web1.0 companies. Google for a fact won the phase of building an advertisement-driven platform.
In the second era, web2.0 gave rise to FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, and several social media apps. It was all about the engagement of people with the provided content. Though engagement was the major factor, it gave importance to several other aspects.
- Giving rise to providing information, services, and goods at a larger scale.
- People started building partnerships online with strangers for businesses, dating, trips, events, and a lot more.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange of information was the defining characteristic of Web 2.0. This impelled the growth of the internet because of which the services provided by these platforms have reached the masses.
What are online communities?
Online communities are in-person communities virtually. They follow the same principles as an offline community. They have their own set of guidelines, moderation, and management. It allows us to maximize our reach to humans who are far away from us geographically and has maximized the advantages of technology.
Online community platforms are a go-to place for people and have seen a growth of user-generated content online. One-sided conversations have turned into a thread of discussions that keeps the users intact. It has gained more and more significance to its users day after day.
Which features led to the rise of online communities?
- We-centric approach
While social media provides a place for showing how one wants to be perceived and share information about happening in one’s life, online communities are places for expressing themselves in a communal environment
Virtual community platforms are considered more meaningful for peer-to-peer connections and fostering authentic relationships. A space to ask questions, learn, discuss with like-minded fans, form connections, and belong to a bigger group is provided.
- Comfort in anonymity
Anonymity is a common feature of online platforms. People find it easy putting their points forward when they know their identity is not going to be disclosed. This results in higher engagement with one another on the platform as it gives them freedom of expressing themselves.
- Lessen the need for google search
Most online users find a discussion with the community more reliable than any of the endorsements available in the global market. You’ll encounter more and more people interacting inside a community for the exchange of ideas, tips, feedback, solutions, and even links to specific products or services. Instead of doing a Google search, people are now more likely to go online and visit a community thread to see if the topic has already been discussed or to start a new conversation.
- Personal Growth
“A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books”
One can learn about a topic a lot more by having a conversation with the right people. This helps in solving queries way quicker than hunting through books or YouTube videos.
Now that you might have understood the features, you should be aware of the importance of online communities for a company, brand, or organization.
Why is an online community important for a brand or an organization?
Interest-based engagements play a major role in driving sales. What better than a tool that does the same thing. Virtual communities not only help you in gaining consumers but, also help you retain a consumer for a longer period. This happens solely because the people are more interested in developing connections with the brands rather than just buying a product or a service.
Having an online community helps you understand your business from a consumers’ approach. It helps you hear them and lets you know their pain points. It allows you to resolve their issues. Moreover, it allows your consumers to interact with one another and discuss things that are working out for them as well as the ones that aren’t working.
With clear goals and the right engagement strategy, virtual communities can become one of the most powerful marketing channels with minimal financial investment. Their ability to create relationships between brands and customers makes them a good investment for businesses in almost any type of industry.