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What is the definition of a community?

December 17, 2010

What defines a community? We social media thinkers need to know the answer, and not because of a semantic argument.

The question need an answer for two reasons:

1. How do we measure community? Really, how one be sure there’s a community there?

Communities are created using tools, but aren’t defined by them. As much as Facebook is an incredible tool for connecting communities, it’s not the only thing. Plus, Facebook is a huge community. Is a Facebook page really a smaller community within?

Web 2.0 will save us
Image by bensheldon via Flickr

Are Facebook metrics, the engagement stats, impression views, video plays really the metrics of a community?

Which brings us to the other stat:

2. How engaged does a community need to be?

One could add where? If you read the last post I wrote, I talk about how engagement in communities isn’t about tactics. It’s really about behavior.

Alongside the behavior of sharing content on new tools like tablets and smart phones is the long-held behavior that people have for joining things.

We’ve always joined clubs, teams, political parties, block clubs, churches, etc. We’re humans like to hang in packs and play with other people.

Joining online communities is beginning to feel less icky and more mainstream. I think it’s clear more people willing to join the thing I can’t define in this post.

So, a good place to start is to find those people. See where they are, then try to join them. At this point there’s a good chance most brands have a group on Facebook, a list on Twitter, some followers on LinkedIn, a YouTube video, etc.

As people create content in the community sites we call web 2.0, an emerging challenge will he to herd them into a central destination. It might be http://www.yourwebsite.com/community.

Call it a hub. Or a knowledge center if you’re a B2B marketer. Regardless, think of it as  a place to link existing communities. There’s stuff to do out here — but you have to go there to do it. Go, like the page on Facebook. go follow this Twitter feed to see how smart it is. Subscribe to this Delicious feed. Watch this video.

You get the picture. The hub is really a branching out of content. But it lets people know in those tactics that there’s a bigger, interconnected community.

If you can link the tactics, and all the communities that already exist, then I think it’s the beginnings of a community. Because the behavior that is supported amplifies the  positive of the brand, while not relying on a single tactic.

Find the communities, link to them, then have fun in them. Find out what the community wants, try to deliver. For now, that will have to do. Unless you can define community?

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