The 3 Major Types of Online Communities

Community Building

As humans, we are hardwired to seek out connections and build relationships with the people around us. There’s an emotional need in all of us to affiliate with and be accepted by members of a group. This need can take form in wanting to belong to a peer group at school, to be accepted by colleagues, to be part of a fan club, or to be an active member of a local church.

So what exactly inspires people to seek out belongingness? In many cases, the desire to join social groups comes from sharing something in common. Men who like the same kinds of vehicles, for example, could go out of their way to make friends with one another. This result is multiplied even more when you take it to a digital environment.

Online communities are becoming increasingly popular because they are more accessible and affordable than traditional types of community building — especially with the rise of people connecting virtually. Digital communities provide connections, relationships, and friendships for the people in them, as well as several professional and personal opportunities. In fact, online communities are so powerful, that it can even bring together people who wouldn’t normally bond in real life.

The many kinds of online communities you find online are thanks to the wide range of interests, professions, and habits of people across the world — each community tailored to the needs of its members. And while there are several different kinds of online communities, you can categorize all of them into 3 types:

Communities of Transaction

Communities of transaction are designed to provide a forum where people can buy, sell, and exchange goods or services, as well as deliver information related to those transactions. They can also be viewed as a type of digital space where producers and consumers interact with no geographical limit.

Members are encouraged to connect with one another to either engage in a specific transaction or ask for the input of other members of the community. Here are some examples of this:

  • Networking Communities - Networking communities help people to get connected. They are a great way to meet new people, form business partnerships, share opportunities and resources, and discuss business transactions.
  • Technical Support Communities - Support communities are a place where likeminded individuals can actively ask questions, provide answers, and share solutions. These online forums are typically built by companies, but thrive on shared interest of customers.
  • Learning Communities - Learning communities are intended to bring together students and learners in a single collaborative space. They provide members the opportunity to ask questions, discuss ideas, receive feedback, and share progress. A common example of this are mastermind groups.

Communities of Interest

Communities of interest are for specific groups of people who share a common interest, hobby, or passion. They can bring together participants who interact extensively with one another on a certain topic. As a result, communities of interest require a higher degree of interpersonal communication compared to communities of transaction.

Here are some common examples:

  • Brand Communities - This type of online community aims to bring together customers, with the goal of interacting with their favorite brand and other brand advocates. It’s designed to foster loyalty by gathering all the most enthusiastic customers in one space to talk about recommendations, opinions, and brand love.
  • Advocacy Communities - Advocacy communities are groups that promote a specific agenda, like increasing awareness on a certain issue or gathering support for a cause. These groups often rely on the support and donations of people who acknowledge the importance of the cause. Advocacy communities are different because they are not just restricted to donation or promotion, but they also provide avenues for change.
  • Fandom Communities - Fandom communities are groups of people who enjoy a certain type of media. Fandom can refer to interest in celebrities, sports teams, TV shows, and more. When we think of fans, we often think of people who obsessively follow the lives of their favorite celebrities or teams.

Communities of Relationship

Communities of relationship typically rotate around certain life experiences that often are very intense and can lead to the formation of deep personal connections. But there are also other kinds that focus on relationship-building. The primary value of this sort of community is that it allows members to connect and exchange personal stories.

  • Social Communities - As it says on the name, social communities are based on building social connections, where members come together to chat, share and have fun. It’s mostly for people who share the same interests and organize themselves around these shared interests. You can find a lot of these communities on Facebook and Reddit.
  • Dating Communities - Dating communities are spaces where people gather to discuss dating-related topics. These communities provide a way for single people to connect and chat with others, with the intent of finding a partner who shares their interests, values, goals, and other passions in life.
  • Personal Support Communities - Personal support communities are where people with a common interest or problem can go to talk to others and get advice. For example, some support communities are for people who have experienced sexual assault, cancer, or depression. In these communities, people discuss their experience and offer help to those who are going through the same.

What’s the business value?

We believe that success will belong to businesses that are able to organize online communities to meet multiple social and commercial needs. By creating a strong online community catered to meet your audience’s needs, businesses will be able to build the type of engagement and loyalty that conventional marketing campaigns can’t achieve.

In Beam.gg, we help community owners achieve optimal engagement levels in their community through gamification. We use features like quests, badges, and experience points to drive member participation and increase retention.

See our features in action by signing up for a free trial!

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