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What is an Online Community?

An online community is a group of people who interact with each other on an online platform. These communities can range from the 1+ billion-person Instagram community to a 10-person community of coffee lovers that rates artisan cafes in their city through a private Facebook group.

There’s a huge range in how an online community can scale, and understanding what type of online community is the most beneficial for your brand is the first step in building your own community.

Types of Online Communities

The type of online community that you choose to create is going to be the answer to the above question, what community does your customer want? Your artisan coffee community doesn’t want to share their coffee tasting experiences with 1+ billion people. They want an intimate group of coffee lovers who know what they’re talking about and have a similar palette.

On the flip side, bloggers making a full-time living sharing their lifestyle are more than happy to try to grow their brand’s community as large as possible within the massive Instagram community of 1+ billion users.

There are two types of online communities:

1. Public social networks.

Think Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok—even Vine (RIP) was a massive online community. Public social networks are online communities that only require someone to have an account to be part of the community. There aren’t many guidelines or restrictions when it comes to who gets to be part of this type of community.

2. Branded communities.

This type of community is the opposite of a public social network. You’ll need to provide more than an email address and password to get inside of the community. Imagine SOHO house, or a private members club, but online. You’ll need the right credentials (experience, common interests, location, etc.) to have access to the community—even if it’s on a public social media platform.

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