Ever since the web began to evolve out of its infancy from the mid to late 90’s online communities in one form or another have existed and flourished. Today we’ve taken the very same fundamental concepts of our ancestry and we have managed to build socially thriving networks that cater to a variety of individuals.
Sites such as Wikipedia have taken the words online community to a much higher level of freedom, while social networks such as Twitter have taken them to a new interactive high. This is all part of the web’s evolution of course, and as we continue to expand so will the technologies we utilize.
Online communities can be a variety of virtual endeavours dispersed in several entities that are obviously beyond the geographical. In today’s Internet we can build an online community in minutes using applications such as Ning, however, no matter how you decide to build your online community there is still a good “chunk” of things (both technical and theoretical) that have to be addressed.
Identifying the Needs for a Community Driven Site
Online communities or better yet “virtual communities” have always acted as a catalytic between large social or professional groups. Communities can be formed out of necessity or for the pure purpose of exchanging some type of information whether it’s found to be needed or simply wanted.
Before you begin to build an online community you should identify and address the needs for one. Of course anyone can create they’re own virtual community at any time, however, for someone who’s seriously considering the need for one it’s vital that they know if it’s the right time to start the building process. You wouldn’t want to strive towards the inception of an online community only to find out that it was prematurely launched and failed due to lack of planning and guidance. There are those that put the blindfolds on and succeed, but not every case is the same.
If you’re looking to start a community then you should be aware of the amount of sacrifice it takes. Simply said, are you ready for those sleepless nights, the immense dedication, and the amount of dedicated time that will be required? This is just the icing on the cake, once your community begins to progress then the work load can become unmanageable for one person and you may need to ask trusted friends to help with the responsibilities.
Next we’re going to touch base on the different and important aspects of online communities. It’ll help you address your own needs or the ones of your clients as well.
Diving Into Its Mechanism
Although there may exist similar reasons for the commencement of one online community when compared to the next, they will more than likely differ in terms of structure, targeted audience, options, overall goals and more. For example, Twitter and Digg may have a common desire to facilitate the distribution of information throughout specific groups or niches, however, they will definitely differ in the way they deliver it.
It’s all about how you want your online community to convey, process, and have its user’s interact with information. Here we plan on dissecting the variations that exist in virtual communities.
Fluid Distribution of Content Communities
These online communities rely heavily on the flow of information from the individuals who manage the community or group rather then equal interaction. At times users can even be limited in their ability to voice themselves, and the overall goal is to produce and deliver content regardless of what anyone has to say. It’s more of a give rather than take relationship.
The most common manifestation of these communities would be blogs, wiki’s, and email subscriptions. Although when it comes to blogs there are those communities that encourage user interaction, that’s not always the expected. In fact, weblogs were started to freely voice one’s thoughts and opinions with the understanding that not everyone may interested in them. Also, even though I may get flamed for including wiki’s within this type of community, you must understand that sites such as Wikipedia are there to first inform while keeping user to user interaction at a minimal.
Liberal and Self-Imposed Communities
These types of online communities started with an overall goal in mind that allowed users to voice their needs and wants. These communities are usually open to anyone and strive to either solve or exploit issues. We’ve seen this type of community implemented in forums, online customer feedback (i.e. getSatisfaction), open source software projects, questions and answers communities, and more.
Socially Integrated Communities
Just as the above reads these communities are at its peak when they’re most socially active. There is also a constant flow of content from the users and/or the individuals who manage the community. They’re also well organized, provide the user with various features/options, and usually remain committed to the overall focus of the community. The most common forms of socially integrated communities are sites like Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many others.
Commercially Oriented Communities
Most communities have some level of managing, however there are those that are strategically managed to increase the conversion of visitors to members. When you visit one of these sites you will more than likely be required to purchase some type of membership. They are usually socially active and range in an unprecedented number of markets.
One of the most popular examples of this type of community is Netflix. Although Netflix can be seen as something much more than a community, it does provide extensive user interaction between the sites interface (rating movies) and other users as well. This is what you would normally look for in a commercially oriented community. Communities such as CrowdSpring or MediaLoot are also within this category.
Your Turn To Talk
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