Top 10 Types of Online Communities

Online communities allow people to connect with each other who might not otherwise get to know each other. The digital landscape is becoming more and more populated with businesses, creators, and brands looking to create online communities.

There is a tendency to think that all communities look the same, although that is not always the case. When it comes to building an online community, you have a few different options to consider.

What are the different types of online communities?

Online communities usually aim to bring people together around a common interest, cause, or objective. Members exchange knowledge, cooperate, and connect with one another. A key difference is the community’s focus.

There are many types of online communities available due to the varied interests, professions, and habits of people around the world. 

Some differences between types of communities include:

  • Structure
  • Aims and goals
  • Values
  • Approach
  • Moderation and management

Often, the lines between different types of online communities are blurred because there are no set rules defining them. 

For example, a course creator might establish a learning community and a brand community at the same time. Eventually, your online community will become a social community as it grows and becomes more established.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 types of online communities and some examples of each to get a better understanding.

Top 10 types of online communities

With so many types of online communities, we’ve grouped them into the most popular and influential categories. Here are 10 types of online communities and their key characteristics.

1. Brand communities

Brand communities are one of the most common types of online communities.

Brand communities are built around a specific brand or business. As a result, brand communities are extremely diverse. The goal of brand communities is to foster an emotional connection between community members and a specific brand.

The goal of this type of online community is to bring people together to form a tribe, based on a shared brand identity. Members are able to interact with their favourite brands and other brand enthusiasts in the community space.

The purpose of this type of online community is to create brand loyalty by gathering all the most enthusiastic customers in one place. Makeup giant Sephora’s Beauty Insider community, where fans can talk about all things beauty and makeup, is an example of a brand community.

Entrepreneurs and organizations can use brand communities to generate leads and make marketing more effective. You can effectively grow your business through this type of online community.

2. Learning Communities

The purpose of online communities is to share knowledge and learn from one another. The purpose of learning communities is to unite learners and students in a collaborative environment.

Taking part in learning communities allows learners to ask questions, discuss ideas, and receive feedback. Their purpose is not only to enhance student’s knowledge but also to provide them with emotional support. 

The Veterinary Cytology Coffeehouse Facebook group by Kate Baker is a great example of a learning community. She provides many courses and learning materials in cytology, which are appreciated by the group.

This is probably the most relevant online community for course creators out of the many available. In addition to learning communities, brand communities and membership communities can also be grown from them.

3. Networking communities

As their name implies, networking communities are all about connecting with others! A networking community is solely focused on helping users expand their network, unlike other types of online communities.

Online communities of this type are usually based on a particular industry or profession. Nevertheless, there are some networking communities that aren’t professional. The networking community can also be classified as a community of support or a community of circumstance.

A networking community typically has discussion forums, where users can ask for support or advice from other users and discuss topics.

Using networking communities, members can find solutions to common problems and issues related to their chosen topic. Networking communities are usually more formal than fan communities or brand communities.

4. Social communities

One of the most common and easily recognizable types of online communities is social communities. It is precisely what social communities are – communities based on building relationships with others.

The goal of social communities is to bring people together to chat, share, and have fun. Social communities can be used by brands to increase brand awareness, especially in terms of marketing. It’s not a place for endless advertising and promotion as with other types of online communities. It is the purpose of social communities to share insights and make connections rather than to conduct commercial activities.

The elements of social communities are often incorporated into brand communities and learning communities and vice versa. You can make your community more fun and engage members by borrowing ideas from social communities.

5. Fan communities

An entirely new type of community has taken off thanks to the growth of online communities – fan communities.

A fan community is formed when a group of people share a common interest such as a book, TV show, or musician. Similarly to social communities, fan communities focus on making social connections, but they are specialized to a particular interest.

There are some types of online communities that are closed and private, but fan communities are usually open to everyone. Many fan communities are hosted on Reddit, including the Marvel comics community with 1.6 million members. 

6. Insight communities

The insight community is a type of online community that has been specifically developed for marketing purposes. It is a way for brands to collect customer feedback.

With insight communities, different marketing strategies can be developed, tested, and refined based on customer engagement. In most cases, members are recruited from a brand’s existing customer base, so they already have a good understanding of its products and services.

Community moderators often create a structured research plan with topics, questions and tasks. 

It is imperative to note that insight communities are typically short-lived – some only last a few weeks and others may last for many years. Research teams determine how long the community should last based on their needs.

7. Membership communities 

A membership community provides members with access to exclusive resources, information, and support. Compared to other types of online communities, membership communities are usually more exclusive.

For the user to become part of the community, they usually require them to register via a specific site and pay a membership fee. As a result, members have access to specific content and resources. 

There are often only a few members in membership communities. A membership admits you to the group once you’ve signed up.

8. Local communities

There are many types of online communities that exist only online, but local communities are based in a physical location. As a result, they have a smaller audience and a more focused focus than other online communities.

You’re part of a local community if your apartment building has a Facebook group! A local community can also include groups that recommend things to do or places to eat in a city, such as high schools or national parks.

The size of local communities is limited because they are only relevant to people living in a certain area of the world.

Online communities of this type tend to focus on local news and recommendations, such as local events.

9. Communities of action

The act of joining a community of action implies a commitment to a cause. Communities of action connect people who want to make a difference. As a result, they are usually run by non-profit organizations or volunteers.

Shared goals and concrete actions aimed at promoting a cause characterize this type of online community. It is common for them to focus on reaching certain milestones and rally around these efforts as a community.

Organizing events, volunteering, fundraising, and debating are all part of the activities of a community of action.

Despite the fact that there are many types of communities of action, they all share a desire to improve the world.

10. Communities of circumstance

Individuals can connect with other people who have similar life experiences by joining communities of circumstance. Communities of circumstance tend to serve members who are facing challenges and issues related to their circumstances, such as motherhood, chronic illness, or disabilities. They allow people to share information, advice, and personal experiences.

Community of circumstance examples include:

  • Support groups
  • Health organizations
  • Governmental initiatives 

Depending on the needs of the members, communities of circumstance are highly specialized.

Online communities of circumstance place safety, support, and sharing as their top priorities, making them different from other types. 

Now that you know about the top 10 types of online communities, you can choose the one that fits your brand. Most course creators will choose a learning community or brand community as their online community type. It may also be helpful to set up a community of circumstance or even a membership community.

Get a free demo of FLOOR today to get started with your own online community! Don’t forget to join our virtual community of global event professionals too. You can also join our virtual community of event professionals.

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