The 3 Types of Online Communities

Phil Garbrecht

According to Social Media Today, Reddit has over 330 million active monthly users and 138,000 active communities. Despite the astounding statistics showcasing Reddit’s success, the featured image below may be the best example of what the platform has accomplished.

(From Newsweek)

This seemingly bizarre and random image is the final result of an experiment that took place over the course of 72 hours and involved more than a million people from thousands of subreddits (individual forum communities dedicated to a particular topic on Reddit), writes Newsweek.

The image started with a single red pixel on a 1,000 x 1,000 blank canvas that was created on the subreddit r/place. Reddit users could choose from 16 colors and fill one pixel on the canvas every five minutes between March 31, 2017 and April 2, 2017.

Subreddits collaborated and strategized how they’d make their mark on this historic painting, then worked to defend it from rival groups. People showcased their pride through flags, symbols, and even the recreation of works of art such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

The iconic image is a monument to the sheer number of unique and diverse communities on Reddit and it embodies Reddit’s vision to be “the front page of the internet.”

Similar to Reddit, an online community allows customers of a brand to gather in a brand-owned channel to converse, offer or receive support, and provide feedback.

Online communities form to unite consumers who share common interests, but businesses can also benefit. According to an Inversoft report, 77% of companies believe online communities significantly improve brand awareness and exposure and add credibility.

Below, learn about the types of online communities and the unique purpose of each, including how you can use them to help your business build strong relationships with customers.

Discussion Communities

Discussion communities are a place where people share experiences and thoughts on a specific interest. For example, the popular TV show The Office still has several strong online discussion communities even though the show ended in 2013. The series has a Facebook page with almost nine million followers and an active subreddit with over a million members. Content that receives thousands of likes and upvotes is still uploaded almost daily.

These forums originally served as a way for fans to discuss recent episodes and make predictions for the future of the series while it aired, but their purpose has shifted to be more reflective since the show’s end. Today, users share their favorite scenes from the show's history and remark on what they enjoyed about the series throughout its time on air.

Discussion communities are a great way to increase engagement within your target audience. Learn how Khoros can help your customers connect with each other on our software platform.

Support Communities

Support communities are a resource for people in need of help. People usually seek out these communities to find information and get advice from other enthusiasts or people with more experience.

The auto industry offers many great examples of support communities, and social media and online communities are available for every stage of the car buying and ownership process.

For example, consumers looking to buy a car can see reviews and hands-on comparisons by visiting Edmunds' social media pages. In addition to the content posted by Edmunds, auto enthusiasts often chime in to share their thoughts and experiences with the vehicle while answering questions from potential buyers.

(From Edmunds' Twitter Page)

After purchasing a new vehicle, users can join a support community for their specific make and model on the manufacturer’s website. These forums are a great place for owners to swap repair tips and get help for common issues, but some brands take things a step further by using social media to provide support by offering video walkthroughs on how to use features and make simple repairs.

(From Toyota's YouTube Channel)

Support communities don’t always have a commercial intent, and this is especially true in the medical industry. For instance, John Hopkins Hospital offers a free online support community for patients dealing with breast cancer. Patients can talk about what they’re going through and ask users or even doctors for advice. These support communities establish trust with your audience by showing you care about their well-being.

Your business can use support communities to provide care by answering questions and providing help to users in need. Eventually, these communities may even become self-sustainable as the number of members grows and your audience relies on each other rather than your representatives for guidance.

It’s also important to note that support communities are a great way to get user feedback. Use the questions and complaints you see most often to drive change that addresses these issues in future updates or new products.

Action Communities

Action communities typically strive to create change in the world by spreading awareness on a range of issues and encouraging users to work together in pursuit of a common goal. In 2018, Texas politician Beto O’Rourke used action communities to build a support base and drive fundraising efforts during his Senate campaign.

Online communities have also become a tool for activists, and Forbes reports that online protest movements will continue to grow.

Organizations can use online communities as a means to foster advocacy for the issues their audience cares about. Eco-friendly clothing company Patagonia is a great example: A Medium Corporation notes how the company excels by using their communities to spread awareness and organize environmental support events. Patagonia also launched a digital platform in 2018 that is dedicated to supporting environmental activism, reports Fast Company.

Improve your digital presence with an online community

Regardless of industry and business size, online communities can help you connect with your audience. Discussion groups drive engagement, support groups provide care, and action groups foster advocacy.

Consider what type of community would be most beneficial to your audience, or if you should incorporate all three into your digital strategy.

Khoros can help you transform your website into a social destination for your audience with our online community software. See how you can use our platform to build deeper relationships with customers while increasing sales and cutting service costs. Schedule a demo now.

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