What Is an Online Community? - dummies

By Deborah Ng

An online community is a community that forms on the internet. A community is a group of people interacting, sharing, and working toward a common goal. Whereas neighbors may converse in their yards, in an online community, members interact via social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. They also share in forums, e-mail groups, and even in the comments sections of blog posts and news articles.

Members of online communities talk about the same things with their online friends as they do their offline neighbors, but they also rally around a specific topic, product, or cause to share ideas, offer tips, or act as mentors. Many times, they join communities because people at home in the offline world don’t share similar passions. So they come online to talk at length with the folks who “get it.”

Online communities are no longer primitive forums where hobbyists discuss their crafts. Now marketing teams for household brands are creating Facebook pages and YouTube accounts specifically to sell products. And it’s working.

While members still visit online communities to talk about their passion, thanks to social media and conversational marketing, online communities are now also seen as places to discuss products, receive feedback, and begin word-of-mouth marketing campaigns.

Online communities are best explained by exploring offline “real life” neighborhood communities. Close-knit neighbors not only socialize, but they also help each other. They borrow tools and bring in the mail. They make dinner for sick parents and trade off watching kids. They also maintain common interests — for example, working together to keep common areas attractive and productive.