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The 3 Types of Social Media Communities

3 Types of Social Media Communities
Social media communities are online properties in which members relate common experiences and interests. From micro-stock photo offerings like SnapVillage to colossal social networks like FaceBook to the ever-expanding blogosphere, communities online are as diverse as those found offline.

Just think of metropolitan areas where most neighborhoods are known for offering a different experience. When in New York you visit the theatre district to catch a show. For a deal on electronics in Tokyo, you visit Akihabara. For the emerging art crowd in Berlin, set your sights on Brunnenstrasse. Each of these neighborhoods can fill a specific need, so communities of like-minded individuals tend to form around them. Online communities work in the same way.

To understand these communities, look to understand the reason one would join. There are 3 main purposes contributing to the sprawl of social media:

#1 Communities of Interest.
As the name suggests, “Communities of Interest” tend to involve subjects that people find interesting. Take an automobile forum discussing all things “Ford Focus” or a blog like World Changing, which seeks solutions to the world’s problems. Since these topics are typically created, maintained and populated by everyday people, they tend to be the most commonly visited with the time most spent. This “stickiness” is a goal for corporations who are trying to create and house a conversation around their product or message.

Some examples of communities of interest
facebook.com, myspace.com, LastFM.com, HondaTech.com

#2 Communities of Task
The structures found in “Communities of Task” focus on peer-to-peer reviews, classified ads or other quick-fix points of action or research. People who seek to fulfill a specific goal often visit these communities to connect with credible advocates or find tidbits of information. The information sought is as diverse as the people seeking it: from wedding planners to microwave ovens to pick-up trucks to bed and breakfasts. People in research mode tend to visit once or contribute to short burst of activity, however the more credible/useful the content, the more likely the user will visit again.

Communities of task should be of interest to the company wanting to sway purchase intention during the research phase of the consumer funnel. Housing these kinds of conversations can prove very influential but to remain credible, the delicate dose of brand messaging must not overtake unbiased consumer insight.

Some great examples of communities of task
autobytel.com, urbandictionary.com, wikipedia.com

#3 Communities of Vocation

“Communities of Vocation” focus on professional connections with specific vocational needs. Perhaps the most famous community of this type is LinkedIn.com, an online social network of more than 13 million professionals representing 150 industries. These professional communities tend to be very “templated” in nature, offering clear boundaries of communication and focused discussion.

FaceBook could be counted as a community of vocation in it’s earlier student-only days. It became a community of interest when the network opened to the general public and the backend became available to user-contributed application development.

New examples of communities of vocation are emerging everyday
FireFighterNation.com for Fire Fighters, TrueAviation.com for pilots, vdm.com for veterinarians. NatureNetwork for scientists of all varieties.

The hardest part in the development of an online community is earning credibility. Credibility is the currency of social media and the most successful platforms employed a humble-beginnings approach, maturing slowly to its “tipping point”. Some communities out there don’t make it into the popular eye, but still foster fierce loyalty within niche groups. No matter what the purpose of your social media platform, your strategy must focus on credibility for any level success to be achieved.

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7 Responses to “The 3 Types of Social Media Communities”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    The 3 Types of Social Media Communities…

    The hardest part in the development of an online community is earning credibility. Credibility is the currency of social media and the most successful platforms employed a humble-beginnings approach, maturing slowly to its tipping point. Some communiti…

  2. jon canada Says:

    http://www.snl.com/InteractiveX/article.aspx?CDID=A-6510105-12907&KPLT=2

    Social networking – from mainstream to ‘lame’stream.

  3. The Curmudgeon Says:

    I might challenge your hierarchy here… Trying to jam Facebook and MySpace into your “three communities” seems a bit of a push. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to place what you call “colossal social networks” in a realm above sites like LinkedIn, Firefighter Nation and Flickr?

    Aren’t Facebook and MySpace really just ‘sub-internets’; closed, owned, shrink-wrapped generalized social networking systems offering up ‘across the board’ social networking tools under their own umbrella?

    Both FB and MS provide tools [albeit not quite as rich] that allow for the building of your three communities within their ‘closed’ systems…

    I’m finding it both an interesting; and a frustrating time here on the internet. On one hand; I continue to maintain my “meta” online social network; i.e. my various email address books, my blogs, and now my photo and video sharing tools… On the other hand; I’m being forced, albeit by convenience, to generate versions of this old network within these, hmmm… “shrink wrapped” versions of… the internet.

    I’ve pretty much migrated from MySpace to Facebook even though this has caused me to leave behind those who’ve not bothered…

    I’m almost certain that within 18 months I’ll be tempted by yet another ‘sub-internet’… OR perhaps, in the end my “social network” will have dissolved into the odd friend who [separately] still bothers with their MySpace or Facebook accounts; AND the old standbys, my email address book…

    Are we there yet?

  4. collin Says:

    There is no hierarchy here, these are meant to be categories of want, not size.

    You are right to identify that there are sub communities within the bigger platforms that may belong in different categories. However, examples listed to provide a “general” context for the concept, not the rule itself. And size (in my estimation) has nothing to do with categorizations.

    Size metrics belong to “vibrancy”, not type.

    As for your address book…. well…
    I can’t predict the future, but I think facebook is going to be around for a long time… it is going to be hard to pull people out of it, there are already thousands of sites trying… however,

    you never know….

    thanks for the comments!
    collin

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September 11th, 2007