An online community can also be called an Internet community or web community, or virtual community. It can be defined as a group of people with shared interests and goals who use the Internet to work, communicate and pursue their dreams. They are people working, sharing, and interacting together on the Internet towards achieving a common goal.
Almost everybody has a Facebook account now. You must have been added to one group or another. You may have also searched for a group or page dedicated to your area of interest. Whether you like it or not, you belong to one community based on interest, whether online or on-ground. You relate with some people with the hope of getting to know like-minded people or getting a problem solved.
An online community is not a recent phenomenon. It has been in existence since the creation of the Internet itself. The Internet was created to bring the far edges of the earth together, which has been happening. You can be in your house in the most distant place in Australia, and then you are present in one program in Africa.
It is as simple as that. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a lockdown in many countries of the world. You are not allowed to even entertain visitors at some point because of the pandemic, and then the Internet made it easy. People can go to work right from their homes and be dressed as if they will work properly.
The pandemic hampered many gatherings, and people could not meet. Have you thought about it before? How would you have felt during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown if there was no internet or an online community to continue your activities and hold meetings? It’s going to worse. But thank goodness, we have access to the world anytime. If not for this online community, what would have become of the football teams forced to play during the pandemic with fans not watching, but thanks to the online community that has brought the world closer to us.
Online communities have become prominent in our world today. We all use WhatsApp, and we are in at least one group on it. That is an online community. You can have anybody from any part of the world added to the group and interactions. There was a time in the United States when the president had to hold virtual meetings with some critical stakeholders in the country. How would that have happened if there was no provision for an online or Internet community?
In the later part of this article, we will discuss online community apps that people use. They help to bring people together from all over the world. Recently, there has been the development of more social media sites and applications—every one of them with the sole aim of bringing people together. The COVID-19 pandemic has even made the online community popular. Hardly will you see a big company without provision for online interaction.
In 2020, the highest gainers were the companies who run their business online. Amazon owner Jeff Bezos’s wealth rose during the pandemic because it’s one popular online store. There were provisions for drone delivery to people’s doorsteps, making it very easy to buy things from Amazon, which rapidly increased their sales even when people cannot go out. Also, one of the highest gainers during the lockdown was Elon Musk. His company’s stock rose during the pandemic because of the online community access.
How to start and build an online community
As indicated in the name, an online community is based online. It’s easier to have an on-ground community than to have an online community; why? Because it is easier to get people together on-ground, monitor their body language towards the community, and physically encourage them. It is effortless to get distracted during online meetings when compared to a physical meeting. That doesn’t mean the online community is at a disadvantage. No, not at all.
An online community is bound to flourish more than a physical community irrespective of location barriers and distance. Millions of people can attend a meeting online simultaneously, which is very difficult in a physical community. A physical community will eventually shift to an online community if new members join from all over the world. So, let’s get to how to start an online community.
You must have a purpose:
As a pioneer of an online community, you must have a purpose, and you must be able to defend it anywhere. A community that doesn’t have a purpose and goal it pursues will not stand for long. When the purpose of a community is not made known or established, it might be hijacked for some other purpose.
Get like-minded people:
You alone cannot move the community; you need like-minded people who would also be interested in the community. These could be people with who you share the same interests. If you need to create an online community on music, find people with similar interests, not people interested in sports. The community will become dormant if there are many uninterested people in the community. Your efforts could become frustrated along the way because they are not the right people.
Please choose the right platform
An online community needs a suitable base to build it. This platform must be easy to use and be technically stable to host some of your activities. If you want to start with Facebook groups, it’s not wrong, but you note that the platform must be functional enough to accommodate the team’s activities and the community members.
Create relevant content:
How do you want to build your online community without creating unique and related content for people to engage? Content is critical, and that’s what drives and increases an online community. Do you know how this affects the growth of the online community? Let’s take an analogy.
For instance, if you create unique and relevant content that people are interested in and gain from it, you get to post them on your group or social media platforms and groups, people like them and share for others to benefit from. The more people like your content and they share, the newer members you see.
Create a conducive environment for all
An online community would bring people from different backgrounds, cultures, and religions together based on interest and goals. One of the things you should do is creating a friendly environment for all with strict rules. For any online community to thrive, such a community must not mix interest with culture, religion, ethnicity, or political opinion, except the community, is solely created for one of the above. An online community solely created for business purposes will not go far when they are tribalism today and religious crisis tomorrow. Strict rules must guide the community right from its inception.
Have a brand
A brand gives you an identity. What do people have to show as a member of the online community? This identity should only be distinct to people in your online community. There are so many online communities; either you pay for registration, or it’s free, they have an identity, they have a brand. Big International online communities have developed the habit of creating souvenirs for their members and ship them down to them wherever they may be in the world.
That even helps to promote the community. A community-based brand builds loyalty not by driving sales transactions but by helping people to meet their needs.
Have an annual event
One of the things that people look forward to is the experience at annual events. In the adverts for this event, you can get new members to join too. When the event promises to be impactful, and you share the experience of such an event with them, they will be forced to join too.
Some of the Platforms and Apps people use for the online community
As said earlier, you need a platform that will serve as a base to host your community. Since it’s not a physical community, you need an avenue for meetings and other group activities.
A website for your community is as vital as the community itself. You need a base, a root for your content. If you post your content on social media only, it’s easy to lose them to people who will steal it and claim it as their own. A website is needed for your online community. Either for registration or some other activities, a website is required.
Social Media platforms
We now have many social media platforms that offer you the opportunity to create groups for your community, and anybody from any part of the world can join. The most exciting thing is that you can embed your social media links into your websites so that people can easily access them when they visit your website. This is helpful because people spend more time on social media than on websites, so they get to see updates of your new content when you post them.
Your online community will grow, and you might want to expand offices to other countries, like having a coordinator in some countries. You will need a virtual office to meet up and set out plans.
Messengers: Messengers like WhatsApp, Telegram, WeChat, and so on have the opportunity to create groups, and members can interact.
Video Meeting applications
Google meet, Zoom, and so on can help you host video events for your online community. Zoom offers ample space for people to join a video program like you are there physically.
Are you looking for an online community to join to help you achieve your goals and training you? Join the Black Sheep Community today.
Contact us .