An online community is a group of people that use a shared space on the Internet to discuss topics and information related to their area of interest.
Because the community is virtual, its members are not restricted to limitations across time and space. For example, Jazz music lovers from across the world can come together on the same platform to discuss and share information about latest albums, trends, concerts, and such.
In the world of technology and retail, companies often create spaces on their website where their users can discuss and provide opinion on their products. They help companies get feedback directly from the customers while also allowing their user base to share opinions and help each other.
There are so many online communities on the Internet today that the chances of you not finding one on your area of interest are remote. From ice chewers to skateboarders to geeks, there is something for everyone, if you can only summon yourself to find it.
Online communities can be both public and private.
Public communities don’t place restrictions on access to its members. The ability to post may sometimes be conditional such as registering with the group or accepting their terms and conditions. Other than that, access is free and the content in these spaces is readily available to search engines such as Google and Bing.
Private communities, on the other hand restrict access to their discussions through an invitation based system. Content in such spaces is beyond the reach of search engines. Many companies create subspaces within their ecosystem where confidential information is discussed and shared with people that have signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Benefits of joining an online community
– Latest information on topics related to your area of interest
– Freedom to access and share content at your time and convenience
– Access to members from across the world for help and advice
– Establish credential among peers
Benefits of hosting an online community (for organizations)
– Direct feedback on products and services from users
– Customer retention – customers are more likely to trust companies that they can have a direct conversation with
– Cost-effective marketing – by allowing users to come to you, you have more targeted and focused discussions around your product and releases.
– Product issues and feature sets – by providing pre-release builds to select members of the community, or by asking for opinions around a feature, you identify bugs and feature requests that most matter to your users
– Honest ratings and opinions –
– Reduced support costs – Allowing users to share information and help each other reduce the number of people that will pick up the phone to call your contact centers
We will be discussing more on each of these topics through the course of my blog posts. Hold on for now. We are just getting started.