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What is a Community?

Posted by on August 28, 2008

Nowadays if you ask people why they are using social media (or want to) you are more than likely to get a response that sounds like one of the following:

  • “I want to use social media to interact with my community”
  • “I want to build a community”
  • “I want to get involved with my community”
  • “I want to join the community conversation”

The question I have for you is “what do you mean by community?”  I find that this term is used quite a lot and is becoming a bit of a cliche when used in the same sentence as “social media.”  Everyone wants to build communities, grow communities, and engage with communities, but what does that really mean?  Have you ever though about what a community really means to you?  A community is not something you can check in your analytics, it’s not about your unique visitors you have each day or about how many clicks your page gets.

In essence a community is you and ONE other person.  If you have one loyal reader that is willing to interact with you, then you have a community; it’s a small one but it’s a community.  I think Gary Vaynerchuk echoed this idea in one of his video posts where he said that a community starts with one person and grows from there.  What I tend to notice is that a lot of people start looking at their community in terms of traffic and page views but neglect the fact that a community is all about conversation and interaction.  If you have 1 million readers and none of those people share, comment, or interact with you via any channels, then I don’t consider those readers to be a community, do you?

I may not have as many readers as many of the larger blogs out there, but you know what?  I bet that I do have a larger community then some of them.  Spend time with whatever exisintng community you have, and never neglect your community members. If your community is one person then make that one person feel special and make that one person feel like they really are a part of YOUR community.  Why?  Because that one person is going to tell someone else about your community and it will grow.  Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to really build and grow your community.

how do you define “community” and what do you do to make people like they are really a part of YOUR community?

thanks for reading

  • laurent

    Great point.
    I've left comments in your blog and you always acknowledge one way or the other. I've done the same on other 'larger' blogs and got nothing. Thus if we look at the 'relationship' equation, I feel like sort of I know you/you know me but that's not the case for the larger blogs who look to me more like mainstream media. And yes i'm more likely to tell about your blog to a friend.

    • jacobmorgan

      hi laurent,

      i definitely try to acknowledge and respond to every comment i get. that's where the meaning of this blog comes into play for me. if i just write a blog without knowing, understanding, or engaging with my readers are then why bother? im trying to build relationships with my readers.

      you are correct, the more we comment and share information the better we get to know each other, and that is what it's all about.

      thanks again for commenting laurent and I hope you do tell a friend :)

  • seo2020

    Thank you for hammering this point home. You are right, people do get confused about what community actually is and you have cleared it up quite nicely.

    Charles Heflin
    Twitter @CharlesHeflin

    • jacobmorgan

      hi charles,

      thanks for the comment, i'm glad you agree. i wish more people would understand that a community starts with “one.”

  • Aaron Uhrmacher

    Interesting post here, and I would agree that the term “community” is thrown around just like we throw around “engagement” and “conversation.”

    My only caveat here is that the community is not just between you and your readers, but between your readers as well. Sometimes that community building takes place on your blog, as people weigh on (like I am) on a given post. Other times that conversation between community members will take place on Twitter, Friendfeed or someone else's blog.

    When I think of my community, it's much greater than just the people who read and comment on my blog. It's the people I interact with on Twitter, people I follow on FriendFeed and people who share my passion about social media, whether they read my blog or not.

    So perhaps you're using the word community when you really mean audience in this case. Or perhaps community is a much more loaded term than either of us recognize.

    Anyway, great post. It's definitely something to keep thinking about.

    • jacobmorgan

      hi aaron,

      that is an excellent point that i should have addressed, thank you for bringing that up. communities can definitely exist amongst the readers themselves and oftentimes these are the most powerful types of communities.

      thanks for reading and for commenting!

    • Ari Herzog

      Community is about interaction, pure and simple. Writer and reader, reader and reader, writer to reader to reader, and any other variant you can think.

      I'm replying to you, not to Jacob. What does that say?

      I'll add one other item. Jacob wrote, “Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to really build and grow your community.” I'll argue that word of mouth marketing is THE ONLY WAY to build and grow.

      You can have the fanciest site out there, be a best-selling author, yada yada, but if people don't visit the site or read the book, and tell other people, or the press catch on and write a review, nobody will be interacting with you.

      • jacobmorgan

        hi ari,

        was that comment for me? :)

        great point about having a facny site without the interaction, it's meaningless!

  • fdfsf

    really bad…
    What is a community and a community is friends family and others

  • ????

    This wasnt helpful at all

  • ????

    This wasnt helpful at all