What’s the point of an online Community?

Online_communityImage Source: stockunlimited.com

The real reason I joined this group…

In a discussion on one of the Business Analysis LinkedIn groups. a member commented that when she joined the group, it was

“to understand how others BA see their role and how they overcome the issues they face.”

However she’s only finding discussions and articles like “5 Tips to apply to blablabla”, or “10 Things you should know on blablabla”.

One person who responded stated that

“forums (or groups or whatever) are best when they are about exchanging or sharing ideas. That means that the person who starts the discussion needs to participate more often than just at the start.”

Often what will happen is someone will post a link (often to their own material), in a group/forum, and then never be heard from again. The group/forum is, effectively, just being used as a noticeboard.

What’s the difference between an online community and a social network?

So what is an online community? And what makes it different from a social network?

Michael Wu, a smart man who is one of those people who earns a living staring at tea leaves in the bottom of a cup, said that…

“the single most important feature that distinguishes a social network from a community is how people are held together on these sites.”

In a social network, Michael says,  people are held together by pre-established interpersonal relationships, such as friendship, classmates, colleagues, and business partners.

The primary reason that people join a social networking site is to maintain old relationships and, also, to establish new ones.

Carrying on, Michael explains how Communities, on the other hand, are held together by a common interest (it can be a common project, goal, location, etc.).

People join the community because they care about this common interest that glues the community members together. Some stay because they felt the urge to contribute to the cause; others come because they can benefit from being part of the community.

So keeping in mind what Michael said, have another look at these people who post “10 Things you should know on blablabla” links in discussion forums.

The area where they are posting is a community, and there are, most likely, some people who benefit from reading the posts.

But, the real question is, are these posters really helping “contribute to the cause”? 

Or are they just generating noise?

I know what I think…


Want to learn more?

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