What is a community?
Since the discovery of fire, people gathered around to communicate, tell stories, and engage with each other as best they could in that period of time. After language became more evolved, the humanity started to look for methods to keep together, to form a tribe, than a small village, a city, a state and so on. All these social groups have in common one basic idea: the community.
The need to communicate, to empathize with others, to discuss ideas and to share interests represents the main reason for creating a community, be it real or virtual. Because nowadays we live in a digital era, the classic groups of people that gathered round once a week to discuss their hobbies, lives and so on, migrated to the online. Well not totally there, but a big part of them did so, especially the new generations.
So when talking about social media, a community represents one of its most powerful features, having the power to gather people and to make them interact so as the social platform gets more and more traffic. But a community doesn’t appear out of the blue, it is a product of human action and interaction and works only if people are willing to communicate with each other. An online community can be considered a Facebook Group, a Google + Group, a Subreddit, a Tumblr Group blog, a LinkedIn Group, old regular forums and and many other online places where people gather. What these social assemblies always have in common is the shared interest of its members and the desire to establish connections, based precisely on this common goal.
Being in a community has its benefits
Being in a community boosts your social status by gaining more friends, interacting with more people and keeping a healthy online public behavior. Because even though the virtual communication may seem frivol and shallow it still counts as human interaction and keeps your social skills up to date, mainly if you are a not so outgoing person.Online you are more brave, so to say.
When it regards short term benefits it must be stated that your social media account will be boosted in the first months after joining several groups, this is a result of the interaction you had there. Also you will increase your friend list, and fan base if this is the case, you will have more likes, comments and shares for your posts because these increase exponentially, the more followers you have, the more likes you get. Your account will become more visible online due to the fact that your interactions expand in a string pattern, the tendency being to create a network where everybody becomes connected to everybody.
On a long term we can talk about establishing really strong connections with people, gaining online notoriety and consolidating your account. Let’s take the example of a photographer who is not so famous but after joining a Facebook group that is about photography he starts to boost his popularity only by posting his creations daily, or even every other day. After he establishes his fan base, he can create a photography page of his own, where those new connections he made can like and share his photos. In time he will gain more and more followers and will be able to advertise and sell his products because there will be a higher possibility that some of them will actually be eager to have his photos hanging on their wall. So this would be a possible scenario where joining a community helps you out when developing your own online business.
Another long term advantage has to do with personal development. In other words being part of a community increases your competitiveness thus making you more prone to score higher in what you do. If we were to return to the photographer example from above, this would mean that he will strive to take more and more qualitative photos in order to become one of the best, if not the best artist in his group. In terms of helping with your social account this could be explained through the idea that by improving your skills you will become more talked about and shared and as a result you will rank higher. And this is very important in the virtual world because it means you are one of the first results retrieved by Google at a search with basic keywords such as “good landscape photography” or “amazing nature photos”.
Therefore as you can assess from what we have exposed above, being part of, or creating your own online community has lots of benefits. The short term ones come as a natural result, things such as increasing your friends’ number, interacting more, becoming more popular are the first immediate results. Much more important and durable are the long term results which include gaining a higher rank on search engines, becoming better in what you do day by day, and even enhancing your business.
Find a community that fits with your business
If you want to find yourself a community that suits the niche you belong to, you could try searching with keywords what you are after. For example just type in the Facebook search bar the words “photography group” and you will be faced with numerous results from which you can choose, depending on your wishes. For more business like groups you should check what LinkedIn has on the table for you. Just create yourself an account and google search ideas, there are plenty, or simply find them in the Groups section.
On Tumblr it works kind of the same, just search the niche you like followed by “group” and you will get several blogs which you can follow. Here, the flaw stays in the fact that you cannot post your own creations on these blogs but you are able to create your own posts.
Of course you can also use Google + groups there are some amazing groups to be found here some very active and helpful. This being said, the best move you can make is find your communities on the social networks mentioned above because they are the most frequented and have the highest flow on the market. If you don’t own a Facebook account yet it is high time you make yourself one and get to work finding the groups you are interested in. If you can’t seem to find exactly what you are looking for you need not to worry because new communities appear daily if not hourly and if you still cannot click with either of them, then you should create your own group regarding that specific matter.
You shouldn’t disconsider smaller groups on emerging networks though. Sometimes tighter/smaller groups can be a lot more helpful than a huge group on Facebook that isn’t very active. The most important thing is to find other people that you can interact with in a good way, learn from them, teach them what you know and help each other go further.
Or be a leader. Create your own community!
And by this idea, we have also reached the point where we can discuss how to create your own social media group. On Facebook or on Google + it’s just as easy – just select the option Create group and then you customize your group details.
On Facebook you can write a description of the group and a set of rules that are to be followed by the users. This last part is highly important because keeping people together is the most important thing in a group, chaos being not an option. Furthermore you can select a cover photo for the group, maybe something that fits the niche, and then decide what kind of visibility it should have.
You have three options: closed group, which means that everyone can see the group and who its members are but only those who are part of it can see the posts; public group, meaning that everyone can find it, see its members and posts, and secret group that can only be found by members. Also, the membership approval can be carried out by any member of the group or by the administrator, solely, who decides to accept a new member or not.
As an extra means of control the group administrator can tick the option “All group posts must be approved by an admin” but usually this is a decision that is too restrictive and the members might get the feeling of being censored and stop posting or even leave the group.
In addition, another important step when creating a Facebook group is to add some tags relevant to the group’s topic because in this way people can find the group easier.
On linkedin.com you can also create a group, only here the niches are more linked to jobs, corporate or educational topics. As on Facebook you can choose if members need an admin’s approval to be admitted and you can set a group picture, the language and geographical location. So as you can see, everything is much more specific here and this is due mainly to the fact that LinkedIn is a network dedicated to professional purposes such as job offers or freelancing projects. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create you own community here, just keep in mind and make it more business oriented. In case you need it here’s a more in-depth tutorial on creating a linked-in group.
Keep your community alive and kicking
Once the group has been constituted the deal is on! Here are several strategies you can adopt, the most important of them being: simply interact with your members.
Be the first one to post in the group, lead the way and they will follow. After this step maintain the interaction by commenting on what they post, giving feedback and answering questions. Be a good communicator so as to make your group members feel equally important, but if they spam, scam, troll or hate take care to warn them and if they continue doing so, you have to kick them out in order to maintain the status quo of your group.
Invite them to debate subjects, make some hustle on your group, and keep the discussions alive by proposing daily topics to be talked about. If a member has a question and it seems that nobody rushed to answer him, be kind enough and try to help him if you can, or ask other members who you think might know more about the subject. Simply tag their name and call them to arms, maybe they didn’t observe that particular question.
The general idea is to be a leader in your group but a discrete and democratic one. If someone breaks the rules you have to intervene but do not abuse and turn into a tyrant that ultimately kicks out whomever he feels. Your other members, even though unflawed by your actions, will see that and eventually flee the group. So, as a conclusion to this topic what you must keep in mind is that daily interaction and diplomatic communication are the most important ingredients in group management.
As it results from what we have exposed in depth above, a community is crucial for your online development. It represents a means of interacting and keeping in touch with people that share the same interests and are willing to debate them.
On a short term a group can bring you more people in your list, a larger fan base if it is the case, and a healthy virtual social life.
On a long term you can gain online notoriety, become famous, rank higher in search engines if you have a personal page that represents your business, and even gain money by advertising and selling your products.
When you decide in what groups to enroll yourself you can do that by simply searching them with suggestive keywords on the search engines, or on the social media platforms that you use, e.g. Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn.
To make your own groups you just have to know a few basic things as what niche you want, what type of online visibility should you have, what rules you want to be followed and how much overall control you desire to have upon receiving new members into your group.
The secret of a group longevity is to keep the fire burning that is to interact with the members daily, to post intriguing stuff, to provoke them to engage, but also to try and help them if they have issues regarding something.
Ultimately a social media group is a means of creating new friends, boosting up your account, becoming more engaged in the virtual life and gaining more online visibility, things that are crucial if you want to be successful, World Wide Web wise. But not only, because online achievements can be transferred into the daily life too, just look at the YouTube stars or the Facebook celebrities, they make a living offline out of being popular online.