What Is An Online Community?

An online community is a group of people who have built relationships around a strong common interest and primarily use the internet to communicate with one another.

That definition used to be enough, I’m not sure it is anymore.

We wrote about this 3 years ago.

The shift since then has been less about relationships between members and more towards the strong common interest and online interaction alone.

Community today most commonly means everyone who shares the same interest regardless of their interest with one another. It includes your social media followings, 3rd party groups, your mailing list, and everyone you connect with online who shares the same interest. That interest might be your field or your product.

e.g. you and I might not know each other, but if we both use an iPhone we might be in the iPhone community.

This presents opportunities and risks. The opportunity is a more expansive, broader, and a more powerful role for the community manager. Perhaps one that includes figuring out the best way to engage people across multiple platforms and social tools.

The risk is it becomes difficult to define community compared with customer experience, customer success, customer support, customer relationship management, online marketing, and similar disciplines.

Push for a more expansive role engaging with customers across all platforms if you can, but be aware it might be in a different discipline.

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