September 23, 2021

What is an online community?

What is a online community? You’re probably part of an online community or two, whether it’s NextDoor for neighbourhoods or a Facebook or LinkedIn group around a common interest or shared value. You might think of a sub-Reddit around a certain topic as a community. However, sometimes the concepts behind what an online community is can feel a bit abstract.

But how does online community platforms differ from Facebook or LinkedIn groups? For people who don’t work directly with online community platforms and strategies every day, a term like “online community” can often become blended among a myriad of buzzwords surrounding social networks, platforms, and strategies.

One of the greatest areas of confusion for people who are new to the online community software industry is the differences between large public social media networks, like Facebook or LinkedIn groups and branded online communities.

Think about the approach this way: while an average user might casually “spend time” on a public or personal social network, members of private online communities are often intent on investing time with a purposeful mindset, seizing the opportunity to engage with a specific organisations community for personal growth or professional growth.

While these platforms share similarities, like the ultimate purpose of connecting people online, there are vast differences in their functionality and behaviour when it comes to strategising and targeting your audience.

For real, community engagement to happen, users need to feel a high degree of comfort about their privacy, asking questions, and belonging to the space. Sharing and showcasing their expertise often gets diffused on social media platforms or open source solutions.

We recommend using a proprietary community platform, for several reasons:

⚓️ More control: If you create your community on social media or open source solution, you’re subject to any and all of their changes, with no say, effectively building your house on rented land.

🔒 More security: Community vendors place privacy as top priority – it’s their job. With a Facebook or LinkedIn Group, you have a limited ability to protect your members’ privacy and your own information.

👾 More data: On a social media platform, they gain invaluable data that your community will inevitably generate about your members and customers – you do not. If you create your own online community, you’ll have access to all that data, helping you understand your users and creating a curated experience for your users.

🕹 More community management tools: With a community platform like ours, engagement tools are built in, specifically designed to help you create an engaging experience.

Branded Online Communities in Practice

Once community members log in for the first time (you can make a branded community easily accessible from a website), they can participate in a variety of ways, like:

  • Ask another member a question about how they did something
  • Read top discussion posts from the week
  • Suggest an improvement to something you offer
  • Sign up to become a speaker at one of your events

But an online community is not just another piece of software that an organisation buys — an online community is about creating a destination for real people. Your community can serve as the virtual town hall for your organisation, or provide recognition, support, and connection when your customers or members need it the most.

8 benefits of branded online communitues

Benefits from a branded community trickle down to increase satisfaction, revenue, and help grow entire organisations, including growing customer loyalty. With a community, you can:

  1. Create real connections
  2. Stand out from the competition with a better customer experience
  3. Generate leads and acquire new members
  4. Improve your products and programs by gathering and addressing feedback
  5. Decrease support costs by crowdsourcing support
  6. Increase revenue through in-community advertising and more
  7. Drive referrals by giving your advocates a voice in the community
  8. Grow your organisation

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