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Invision Community Blog


Managing successful online communities

Matt
 

Audience or community?

I've said before that when I visit a new website, I often look for a link to their community.

It's not uncommon for some brands to have a link to their Twitter account and Facebook page, with a hashtag they'd like you to use when discussing their products.

That is an audience, not a community.

A true community encourages group conversation and empowers people to contribute ideas, promotion, content and support.

A community gives its members a true sense of belonging and more importantly it provides a sense of identity.

A community is an ongoing dialogue between you and your customers. It allows you to nurture and grow relationships far beyond what is possible with a hashtag on Twitter.

Now consider an audience. Let's say you and 500 other people go to a venue to watch a stand-up comic perform. There may be a little interaction between the comic and the audience, but you are there to be quiet and listen. When the show is over, you go home.

Now imagine that instead of going home after the show, you all spend a while talking about the show and the comic. You talk about which bits you enjoyed and which bits made you laugh the most. You compare this comic with other favourites. You share video clips and jokes.

This is a community.

An audience will follow you and consumes what you broadcast, but it is a one-dimensional relationship. Consider the case of Lush Cosmetics, who earlier this year removed their Facebook Group and replaced their community with a Twitter feed and an app "where the latest digital experiments unfold".

I feel this is a missed opportunity to bring customers together to talk about Lush products, share tips, reviews and builder a stronger relationship with Lush.

I've also seen startups trying to build a community on Instagram with a hashtag. They tend to search popular hashtags in their business niche and attempt to befriend individuals who are active with those hashtags intending to broadcast their information. This is all fine, but they are just curating an audience.

A community is more than a list of followers, and it's impossible to control what content is tagged with hashtags. Just ask McDonalds who quickly realised this with their 'McDStories' campaign.

What do you think? Let me know below.

Edited by Matt


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I find this whole hashtag business so impersonal... On top of that for me it always feels forced and artificial. Probably this is because I've started my adventure with the web around Y2K, so the community aspect looked totally different. Those communities were much more closer-knit and even in larger ones people still acted differently - and this is something I still try to look for and foster although in many cases it's growing more difficult.

Anyway, I think that good example is Serif who have a really fine community where you can ask for tips on how to use the software, suggest new functionality (the devs often respond too). The community shares self-made tutorials, links, their art, etc. It isn't only Serif spamming with links "we made a thing" "here's our tutorial", "here's promo article". They of course have social media presence but use it as an extension not a base.

They also make a damn fine software, that surely helps too 😉

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2 hours ago, Nebthtet said:

I find this whole hashtag business so impersonal... On top of that for me it always feels forced and artificial. Probably this is because I've started my adventure with the web around Y2K, so the community aspect looked totally different. Those communities were much more closer-knit and even in larger ones people still acted differently - and this is something I still try to look for and foster although in many cases it's growing more difficult.

Anyway, I think that good example is Serif who have a really fine community where you can ask for tips on how to use the software, suggest new functionality (the devs often respond too). The community shares self-made tutorials, links, their art, etc. It isn't only Serif spamming with links "we made a thing" "here's our tutorial", "here's promo article". They of course have social media presence but use it as an extension not a base.

They also make a damn fine software, that surely helps too 😉

Hey, they use great forum software too!

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Mine is both, but the community is what counts. I do have a lot of people who visit the site for information; I have heard from university professors who have told me that they instruct their students to make use of the reference section of my forum, but the intent of the site has always been to serve an online community, as a place where members can showcase, discuss, and archive their works. There are plenty of options online for the ephemeral, but longevity is what I need. I don't publish my own works anywhere other than in my own forums. 

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