power of online communities
It was 8 years ago when I learned first hand the power of online communities. I was working as an Editor of some of IOL (Israel On Line) Communities, an advanced space that gave people the platform and power to connect, develop – and sometimes learn to let go (of problems haunting them) through communities. Each community had a community manager – an expert in their field, a thought leader – that provided daily information, links and topics for discussion. I have gone through many jobs since the community days and still see this job – one of my first jobs in ‘the real world’ – as one of the most enjoyable ones.
The benefits of an online community can be summarized under 4 main categories:
1. Build relationship with your audience – listen, respond, develop your offering based on feedback
2. Provide a discussion platform- one place which not time nor location dependent, that allows people from all over the world to talk about what they are passionate – or just curious – about.
3. Build Knowledge capital – your space hosting a wealth of knowledge around a specific topic.
4. Give your audience what they cannot find anywhere else – a shoulder, a friend, an anonymous advice. I have seen different types of support that were helping any issue from loss and grief through midlife crisis and to food disorders.
Above all, online communities express what Rheingold so beautifully expresses in his book which became the flagship of online communities products, unsurprisingly called ‘the virtual community‘. This is one of the books I strongly recommend anyone with slight curiousity about the web, and who questions why people are getting so hooked up about places such as ‘facebook’ should read.