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Communities are a support network of people who share the same interests as you or are going through the same journey as you. They play an important role in bringing about essential feelings of togetherness and solidarity. Being a part of a community of friends, peers, and mentors helps to push people in a positive direction.

During this period of social distancing that we are all experiencing right now, the need for online communities is growing exponentially. Face-to-face interactions can only happen within the parameters of staying six feet apart and most major cities are now enforcing their citizens to abide by shelter-in-place laws. For those of us who are part of a single household, the only social interactions we’ve able to have are made possible through the internet.

Enter online communities—a real-time, virtual landscape that allows people all over the world to connect while we’re at home. These communities provide support to individuals who are impacted by the daily stress, struggles, and chaos of life. While online communities differ from the day-to-day interactions of real life, they can still be beneficial to maintaining healthy relationships and our quality of life.

How to Start Building Online Communities

When you begin the process of creating an online community, there are some key questions you have to ask:

  • What is the common interest that will bring your community together?
  • What is the purpose and goal of creating the community? 
  • What are your values and how do they align within the community you’re forming?
  • How often do you want to engage with your community (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)?
  • What platform(s) will your community be connected through (ex: text chat, voice calls, video calls, social media, scheduling tools)
  • What do you have to offer the group and what do you want to receive from the members?

Having the answers to these questions will allow you to form a concrete plan in moving forward with the creation of the online community. 

Types of Online Communities

Online communities can be formed around any subject, interest, passion, or hobby that an individual may have. Your passions and interests could involve playing video games, building a website, being a parent or cooking and there are plenty of online spaces start building online communities based on those interests.

One of the strongest examples of online communities in the web hosting world is the WordPress Community. WordPress is an open source project, focusing on core development, marketing, accessibility, and so much more. Since it is an open source project anyone can contribute to developing and enhancing the platform right from their computer. The unifying message behind this community is an interest in creating, building, and enhancing the features of WordPress websites. As the WordPress community is adapting to the changing landscape by providing additional support and resources to help people manage their websites, other communities are banding together to support the growing interest of people online.

In the wake of the current health crisis, the video game community has experienced a massive surge of online players across the globe, tournaments, and gaming due to the ongoing mandate of social distancing. The FIFA soccer video game is a good example of an online community with a large and interactive online community. The community supports one another through multiple platforms including text and video, shared goals that require teamwork, and content creation. 

Communities can also explore very niche topics that are great for people who want to build a community for a specific interest. Another example is CafeMom which is an online community of moms sharing blog posts, videos, and other content. The site also features “mom support” which offers advice on toddler, newborn, and prenatal care in addition to an online shop featuring deals from commercial and local retailers.

How You Can Connect With Your Community

The internet is full of various online platforms that can help you connect and build an online community. If you are wanting to start an online community, it’s important to research the platforms that are easily accessible with functions that make collaboration easier for your community. Whether you are chatting on twitter or hosting a video chat, there are numerous resources to stay connected with your online community.

Text Chat 

  • Blogs
  • Message Boards
  • Google Group
  • Email

Voice Chat 

  • Discord
  • FreeConference
  • Skype
  • GoToMeeting

Video Chat

  • Zoom 
  • Google Hangouts
  • Twitch
  • YouTube

Social Media

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest

Scheduling Tools 

  • Asana
  • Trello
  • Doodle
  • Calendy

I recommend using a platform or platforms with a mix of each communication method. For example, the WordPress community uses Slack for everyday written communication and blogging for larger updates. The community also uses other platforms like Trello for task management and Zoom for video communication and scheduling meetings.

What tools are you using to build your community?

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