People have formed communities on the internet since it was formed, but what had been established in the mid nineties still applies to the communities formed today.
Armstrong and Hagel in 1995 made an observation of how online communities are divided according to what type of experience the users involved are looking for and provide an overview on the different types of online community and how they provide value to the consumer.
Communities of transaction facilitate the buying and selling of goods and services and provide information about these transactions. Participants are encouraged to interact to make informed purchase decisions. This form of community is commonly associated with the comments sections of sites like Amazon and customer rating systems.
Communities of interest bring together participants who interact extensively about specific topics of interest. Participants not only carry out transactions with one another, but their interactions are generally focused on specific topic areas. Forums and market places such as Preloved.com focus on this form of community to add value for visitors.
Communities of fantasy allow participants to create new personalities, environments, or stories of fantasy. This can be seen in the huge popularity of sites such as Second Life and massively multiplayer online role playing games such as World of Warcraft that currently boast over 11 million worldwide members.
Communities of relationship centre on intense personal experiences and generally adhere to masking identities and anonymity or serves as a matchmaking centre.
This observation of communities holds true to the current day examples included in the explanations, these observations were made in 1995 by Armstrong and were mostly applied these ideas directly to ecommerce models and is somewhat dated. Sixteen years later these communities still apply.
Value Created by Online Communities
Buist then built upon the ideas in 2008 by analysing the value created in online communities. Buist outlines the three areas needed to create value from the use of a community.
Network Value describes how the value of trust can be built within the community, if people trust the opinions being made then value is added by the communities’ impact.
Content Value refers to the benefit of good publishing, as Buist estimates 90% of readers do not participate in writing so gauging value from this is made harder. This creates the driver for people to add new content which adds to the network value. Bad news spreads just as fast, if not faster than good news and can easily be recognised in closely knitted communities.
Critical Mass has a large part to play in the success of online communities, with a focus on contributing members and continual engagement. It is not enough to increase the amount of people ‘signed up’, but to keep them coming back and try to ensure that each community member can transfer their skills to add value to the network.
Communities need to have a certain adaptability to continue with the appeal to the many experts that will be members of the community, there will be a necessity to develop and enhance the environment that the community operates in continuously.
“once you empower your community to comment on the community it will not be long before you realise that the community comprises experts who will not hesitate to tell you what to do”. Buist, 2008
Everyone on the internet is a member of a virtual community, as they are a member of physical communities, belonging to a valued community and by building a rapport with the fellow members of the community, the level of satisfaction you can get out of the community is multiplied.
This is a guest article by Andy who has been a part of the probation service and has had a big part to play in the Brighton probation service. He works hard to maintain his local area by enlisting the help of the community, both online and offline.