How to Find Thriving Online Communities - dummies

How to Find Thriving Online Communities

By Deborah Ng

Online communities that are already thriving are good role models, and they’re worth your time to explore them so that you can see what makes them so successful. How do you find successful communities to use as a gauge? It’s not like you can Google “the best online communities on the web.” Or can you?

Using search terms can yield a mixed bag of results, but you can still find examples of successful online communities via online searching. You have to weed through a whole bunch of other stuff, too.

Using terms such as “best online communities”, “popular online communities”, and “top online communities” will yield lists of favorite places to visit. However, the key word here is favorite. Online lists can be subjective and include the authors’ favorite online haunts. Unless the choices are backed up with facts and figures, it’s difficult to determine whether these communities are truly the best or most popular.

Still, if several people are writing positively about the same communities, it stands to reason that those communities are worth looking into. Sit in at a few of these places and see what makes them so special.

Search engines aren’t the best or only ways to find successful online communities. Work your channels to see where everyone hangs out online. Ask friends, family members, colleagues and social-networking contacts. Find out where they’re spending their time online, and pay a visit.

Also, monitor the online buzz to find out which brands are getting the most play and which communities folks are raving about. Here are a few things to look for when monitoring community buzz online:

  • How are they managed? The best communities have managers who are hands-on and interactive. They do their best to get everyone involved and keep up a regular flow of topics.

  • Who is commenting? Successful communities have regulars, but they also have brand-new members and people who pop in from time to time. If the same few people are the only ones who are participating, see whether you can figure out why.

  • What is the reaction to campaigns? If you see a good response to campaigns and promotional opportunities, it’s a good indication of a positive, healthy community. When a product, sale, or other campaign is introduced and hardly anyone comments or shares the news, it’s a good indication the community isn’t very psyched about the brand or the product.