Why People Like Online Communities - dummies

By Deborah Ng

As an online community manager, knowing members’ habits and reasons for participation is the first step in keeping things interesting. After you know that, you can think about what will keep members coming back for more.

Fitting in and selling aren’t the only reasons why folks are converging online. Whether it’s to talk politics, do research, or discover more about an interesting topic, members are finding value in online communities every single day. Here are a few other benefits:

  • Unwinding with friends: Online friendships may be just as important as offline relationships. Members care about what their virtual peers think of them, and they look forward to talking with the people in their cliques. Whether community members are reading the day’s Facebook statuses, enjoying conversations on Twitter, or sharing news in a forum, they’re spending their spare time with people whose company they enjoy.

  • Receiving freebies, discounts, and perks: Bargain hunters love receiving and sharing opportunities to save money. Entire communities are devoted to free stuff: coupons, contests, and more.

  • Exchanging knowledge: Students and teachers are helping with homework in various communities, and professionals are sharing the secrets of their success. Recipes, fashion tips, and links to interesting articles and fun websites are also freely exchanged in online communities.

  • Honing a craft or hobby: Crafters and hobbyists can share their passion to their heart’s content, discussing tools, tricks, tips, safety, and sources for everything they need.

  • Mentoring: Some people simply want to help. Perhaps they’re joining professional communities to coach job seekers, or maybe they’re giving tips to new parents. They enjoy helping others and seek nothing in return.

  • Reminiscing: Many people are online simply to connect with their pasts. They’re joining Facebook or school alumni groups to talk with people they never thought they’d hear from again. The Internet is reuniting old neighborhoods and elementary-school classes.