Members Join Online Communities to Share Information - dummies

Members Join Online Communities to Share Information

By Deborah Ng

Online communities truly shine when it comes to sharing. Though a few members are obviously there to profit or to promote something, most participants are generous and kind. The helpfulness of those who make up online communities may be surprising to newbies, but anyone who spends a lot of time socializing on the web knows that online sharing isn’t a rare occurrence.

Why people share online

Many people are mistrustful of those who do good deeds, wondering what’s in it for them. This mistrust sometimes occurs in virtual communities, but most members share simply because they want to. There are as many reasons why people share as there are things being shared:

  • They want to feel good. Folks share because they get all warm and fuzzy about it. Sharing is more about doing a good deed than about getting something in return.

  • They’re giving back. People share because they want to pay forward a kindness.

  • They know things that other people don’t. People share to give answers or enlighten.

  • They see an easier way to do something. Online friends love to share tips and shortcuts.

  • They’re know-it-alls. Some people appear to share because they want to show how smart they are.

  • They found something useful and hope that others do as well. Something made life easier for them, and they want to spread the word.

  • They’re promoting something. People sometimes share to promote a business or online content. Perhaps they’re promoting a cause, a recall, or a news event.

  • They’re establishing trust. Trust is an important factor in the online world, especially for those who are growing a personal or business brand. If members trust shared information, they’re likely to trust the person who shared it.

How people share online

Online sharing goes way beyond just providing links to news articles and YouTube videos. People often go to great lengths to research items that they feel are of interest to others, and they use a variety of methods to do so:

  • Blogs: The beauty of blogging is that it involves sharing more than just links. The person who’s blogging is sharing more in-depth information, such as news, videos, or roundups of online resources.

  • Informational websites: The lines that differentiate blogs and websites are getting blurrier. Websites used to be more static, with no owner/visitor interaction. This situation changed when blogs began gaining popularity, thanks to conversational writing and the ability of a community to interact. Now, even news-related websites offers ways for visitors to comment and share information.

  • Instructional videos: Video bloggers and many subject-matter experts share what they know online. In most cases, this information is free, though many of today’s experts also host pay-to-play online informational communities, which require you to pay a subscription fee to be a member.

  • Twitter chats: Tools such as Tweet Chat allow people to cut through the noise and participate in online conversations by using hash tags and keywords. Two popular examples are #blogchat and #speakchat.

  • Facebook fan pages: Fan pages aren’t only for brands or celebrities. Bloggers use them, too, as do professional groups, clubs, and offline communities.

  • E-mail: Newsletters are important tools for many businesses. They’re terrific ways to share news and fun stuff.

  • Social bookmarking sites: Bookmarking networks, such as StumbleUpon or Delicious, not only allow an individual share, but also let others pick up the share and spread it to their own networks.

  • Share buttons: Share buttons are everywhere these days. Look at articles, blog posts, videos, and images, and you’ll find small icons inviting readers to share with friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks.