Online community also known as internet community is a virtual community where allows its members or guests to interact with each other via internet. Cambridge Dictionary define it as ‘a group of people who use a particular internet service or belong to a particular group on the internet’. Usually in order to interact with other member in the community ones have to become a member at first. There are plenty of online community nowadays some set-up for specific need or in other word to target specific niche market, which attract user who are finding some specific resources. From my perspective, online community can be separate into two big major type, social media and forum. Examples of social media will be: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others, while the other hand, for forums will be Reddit, 4Chan, GitHub’s Forum and others.
The popularity, and differences between them
So you are interested in the popularity of each online community heh? I provide a picture that actually visualize the popularity of major online communities using data in Figure 1. While Figure 2 graph shows the most popular online communities among ages 18 – 24.
Figure 1. The popularity of Major Online Communities
Figure 2. Most popular Online Communities among ages 18 – 24
Through studying resources I provided above we can know that, online community has become a very ‘sticky’ attribute in our life. Study even shows that ‘More than half of people in Australia say Facebook is their favourite site, strides ahead of other platforms. About 95 per cent of Australians have an account, and use Facebook on average 12.5 hours a week, up 4 hours on last year.’ Figure 3 shows a research done by The Statics Portal a breakdown of Facebook users in Australia as of January 2018, by age group.
Figure 3. Facebook Users in Australia as of January 2018
These online communities works differently, they bring different benefits to its members and users, they also provide different features and functions. These benefits and feature are the fundamentals of making these members, user group sticky. From my perspective, I would use Instagram to share photos but use Facebook to share video content, but rather asking questions about programming and software development on Facebook I will choose to post and discuss these questions on Github’s Forum.
Characteristics of Online Community
Characteristics can be define as the key to a success online community. Basic characteristics of online community including the ability to allow its members to interact with each other, post or share content. However as mentioned, these are just basic if you want to build a great and engaging online community you can try the 6 characteristics below, which I composed and edited after research from various studies.
Keys Characteristics of Success Online Community
- Plan your communities
- Remember your ‘product’ is human
- Design it for user, fit in the market
- Plan and build the culture
- Create useful content
- Encourage Relationships
In order words, online communities do adopt characteristics above.
I included an infographic – Figure 4, that also summarize about the key of creating an engaging online community.
Figure 4. Key of Creating an Engaging Online Community
Like mentioned in the lecture of IAB260 Class by Dr Jason Watson, the multisided platform. User from Side A benefits not only user of Side B but also the same side (Side A) and also the platform (online community). These interactions can be explain with Network Effects. If you want to have a success online community, you must hands on and think about how to cause these effects as they affect also your characteristics.
As you may have notice characteristics is the key of success online community. However, online community main ‘products’ are still human, psychologist around the world has conducted a lot of researches on studying human behaviour on these community. Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, argued that humans have two distinct social needs: to be loved and accepted. Being able to express your identity among like-minded members, and receive real feedback, is one of the ways to satisfy these needs. Figure 5 will illustrate his theory about social needs. Kenny S. also wrote a guide from his study from most influential studies on the psychology of community by McMillan & Chavis on (1986), in his blog post he mentioned three elements that form ‘sticky’ sense are:
Figure 5. Abraham Maslow Theory
There are more studies on human psychology on online community this is just brief about them you can find relative studies by searching ‘Social Psychology’.
Where do they occur
The title explains this all, ‘Online Community’ – people interacting online, these community comes in different forms and on different platform. A great distinct example of this would be, 4Chan and Instagram. 4Chan mainly occur on the internet and is not really mobile friendly, 4Chan wants it user / member to access using Desktop rather than mobile or tablets. However, Instagram wants it user / member to access using mobile phone only, you might be able to use Instagram using Desktop or Tablet but you can’t unleash its full functionality and feature, as the main purpose for Instagram is to encourage user to share photos and video using mobile phone.
But good news here, after researching online, Instagram had just released its new API in 2018 which allow user to post online using Desktop version various development is still undergoing. May there be a trade off? We can still observe about this.
Online Community that I engaged
I personally engage in a lot of online community including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, GitHub’s Forum, GitHub main site, 4Chan. I use them for different purpose, for both Facebook and Instagram, I post actively and comment actively. For Twitter I only post about social cause or professional information. In 4Chan I am only a lurker.
The most interesting online community that I would vote is GitHub. The functionality and features it provide really helped me a lot. Not just these, the number of active members and users in it is also another reason why I am in love with this online community. I provided some screenshot of GitHub in Figure 6 and Figure 7.
Figure 6 (Private)
Figure 7 (Private)
GitHub allows me to ask for code reviews which allows me to connect with other developers (members). GitHub also automatically detects my code changes and keep logs about these which really helps in version control. GitHub also provide a functionality that allows me to collaborate remotely with developers around the world while some projects aren’t limited to local commitment.
Figure 8 and Figure 9 are screenshot about GitHub’s Forum. You can see that GitHub’s Forum is very active and there’s a lot of moderators that helps to keep this community clean. I believe there’s also a lot of developers out there who love this online community as much as I do. Are you one of them? Comment below about what community you like!