The Top 10 Types of Online Communities
Humans have a natural desire to connect with one another; we are social creatures, after all. This desire for comradery extends into our purchasing choices, the pursuit of knowledge, and even acts of generosity, all of which can exist in online spaces. In today’s digital age, brands have started looking at social media and different types of online communities as investments for growing their customer base.
If you desire a long-lasting relationship with your customers, you need to invest in an online community. The power of shared experiences can set your business apart and increase the value of what you offer to your customers. Looking for new ways to engage and connect with your customers can set your brand up for success long term.
As you begin your community development journey, know that no two communities are alike. Some communities originate around a brand, the exchange of knowledge, or for the greater good. They can begin organically, but sometimes, they need to be built from the ground up. Community building takes time. As you learn more about which online community is right for your brand, you’ll be better prepared to support and connect with your customers.
Shared characteristics of online communities
A community is a group of people coming together over a shared common interest or goal. Even though no two online communities are exactly alike, many of them share common characteristics and overlap or fall under one of these categories:
- Social Communities
- People come together to socialize, network, or connect over shared interests or goals.
- Learning Communities
- People come together in the pursuit of higher knowledge, whether related to a job, school, or product.
- Task-focused Communities
- Members pursuing a shared goal.
Types of online communities
Now, let’s get into the top characteristics of the ten different online communities.
The first type of community we’ll cover is a support community. A support community is unique because it helps customers and gets indexed well on Google as well as other search engines. Users join these types of communities for advice on purchasing decisions or how to use a product. For example, think of an online Apple or Windows support community where customers go to ask questions about the products they purchased. It's usually run by moderators and is a very structured type of community.
These support groups index well because it provides searchable public information. So, users ask questions that become popular searches on google and other similar search engines. Even though Quora hosts many of these communities, your brand should consider hosting a support community on your site. A support community can be a jumping-off point for more customer education and engagement.
An online brand community, also known as a customer community, is centered around a group of people dedicating their time and energy to a beloved brand or product. These types of online communities can be either initiated by the brand’s super fans and most dedicated customers or the brand itself. Sometimes brands can take a hands-off approach or moderate more closely. But overall, brands should employ this growth strategy to foster an emotional connection with their customers. You’ll grow your brand awareness and generate brand loyalty.
Bettermode recently spoke with the knowledge-management software company, Notion about their online brand community. Their community originated on social media platforms like Facebook groups, LinkedIn, and Reddit. Their communities were built by passionate customers eager to share their views and ideas about the Notion product. Notion began a community engagement strategy where they employed influencers and other community tools to grow their online communities. Notion takes a hands-off, community-led approach, letting their customers moderate and take on leading community roles. Notion offers guidance and instruction, but they do not own these social media communities.
If you’re planning to build an online brand community, do not shy away from brand criticism but encourage and accept it openly instead. Also, do not micromanage your super fans, but welcome their ideas and leadership initiative.
A mastermind group is composed of like-minded individuals interested in attaining success. This group feeds off members’ experiences and offers valuable advice while exchanging ideas.
Usually, this community is compiled of a group of entrepreneurs or people interested in gaining higher knowledge. Many mastermind group members are eager to study personal development or advance their careers. The members help each other grow and bounce ideas off one another.
The name for this type of community originated from Napoleon Hill, who studied entrepreneurs like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford. Hill realized that these entrepreneurs were not solely self-reliant and could trace their success to their social circles and networks of like-minded individuals.
There is generally a lot of trust within a mastermind community and a free exchange of information and advice. However, sometimes these communities lack clear direction, judgment, and misunderstandings between fellow members. Mastermind groups require a strong leader who can facilitate these expert conversations without disrupting the natural flow of information and connection.
GROUP COACHING COMMUNITY
Are you interested in building a group coaching community? If you would like to facilitate customer education, teach a business webinar course, or provide some sort of teaching experience to a group, then you should consider a group coaching community. In this type of community, one designated leader usually guides a group of people on a learning journey. However, this type of community encourages its members to support and lift each other up. For this type of community to succeed, the coach will facilitate conversations and encourage its members to take initiative and practice community leadership.
Ultimately, accountability is paramount within this type of community. Accountability towards success is usually the reason users join a group coaching community. They appreciate the journey of a shared experience and group accountability. However, everyone learns differently, so some members may struggle in a group learning setting or feel slighted if they don’t get one-on-one attention. It’s important for coaches to provide a valuable educational experience while still encouraging group networking and connection.
COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE
A community of practice is a group of people within a niche industry or specialized field exchanging information, solving problems, and building relationships with one another. They’re also known as professional communities. It’s a common community among healthcare practitioners, graphic designers, or other industries with very specialized skills. These community members share best practices and other valuable knowledge intended to help their fellow members grow and solve problems within their shared field.
These communities are high on mutual respect but tend to have a generalized focus, leading to unhelpful and unproductive side conversations. Communities of practice need community leaders and moderators who enforce the principles of community, or the community’s general rules surrounding professionalism and fairness.
In today’s digital age, events can now take place virtually, which provides an opportunity for virtual networking and attendee conversations. Think of how much networking takes place at the coffee stations during event conferences. Online event communities are designed to replace the networking and side conversations from in-person events. Attendees can freely engage with fellow attendees, event leaders, and speakers in an online event community.
These virtual environments strategically build on top of conversational momentum, so attendees can organically connect with one another. These communities depend on organized leaders to facilitate breakout rooms and opportunities for connection. Event organizers should create follow-up discussions and other networking opportunities, so attendees find this community worthwhile.
A micro-community is—you guessed it—a small, online community of members looking to attain a skill or take a course. It usually holds no more than 30 members who make a significant investment to join the micro-community.
Similar to a mastermind or group coaching community, a micro-community is led by an expert creator offering in-depth instruction on a subject matter. Members go through this shared learning experience together and quickly become a close-knit group.
It’s common for these micro-communities to be more exclusive as they should remain relatively small. There is more at stake in a micro-community, so financial accountability helps its members stay engaged and active.
There are more opportunities within a micro-community for members to get one-one-ones with the creator or build strong connections within the group. Members are highly dedicated and enjoy the in-depth learning experience. However, group tension or a lack of clear focus can threaten this tight-knit community.
COMMUNITY OF CIRCUMSTANCE
Members join a community of circumstance if they are experiencing an intense shared experience. Members usually seek advice and kinship within a known safe place. Communities of circumstance may originate around health circumstances, like cancer support groups, postpartum mothers, or hidden disabilities.
These members seek a bonding experience because of their circumstances and may require expert opinions and advice. These communities may put on events, provide valuable information, or simply offer a place of comfort and support.
COMMUNITY OF ACTION
A community of action is a group of people who collaborate to accomplish a charitable goal or something of importance. Action communities are common within local neighborhoods and schools. These communities can exist for any length of time, even if the goal has been achieved.
These communities are dedicated, passionate members who share a common vision. However, there can be a lack of organization or members who fail to engage. Communities of action need clear leadership and organization to help the community accomplish its goal.
Other types of communities extend far beyond the ten mentioned above. We’ve rounded up some honorable mentions if you would like to further your community education.
- Local communities
- These communities are centered around a shared geographical location.
- Membership communities
- These communities are similar to micro-communities or group coaching communities. In membership communities, members have access to exclusive information and support. You usually have to pay a fee and be invited to join.
- Fan communities
- Fan communities are formed around a shared interest, usually a topic from popular media, like actors, book series, or TV shows.
- Insight Communities aka Advisory Boards
- Insight communities are like focus groups of your most important stakeholders, your customer base.
Remember, as you decide which online community is right for your brand, you’ll need to devise a community strategy. There are a few tactics you can use to guarantee your community’s success. Every creator should consider the following: community management and moderation, the needs of your target member base, and your community’s success metrics. As you build your community, it might evolve over time, but you should still set a strategy in place to guide it toward success.
Bettermode can help you build your community platform with customizable community software designed to meet the unique needs of your community members. Build your customer support, incorporate live feedback, and spark connections with Bettermode.