Is your network a community?

Something's bugging me: Increasingly, I hear marketers using the words "community" and "network" interchangeably.

But a community is just one type of network.  My working definition of network is: a group of people who have something in common and who have a motivation for connecting.  For example, a bunch of people who all buy the same brand of toilet paper, but have no desire to meet, are not a network.  Another type of network is a mob (commonality: enraged about something, motivation for connecting: aggregate power to use against something).  Yet another type of network is a clique.  It's not all warm and fuzzy.

It's easy to recognize different types of connected groups offline.  But as marketers wade into the less familiar universe of social computing, a lot of people assume that any type of online network associated with their brand is an online community. 

What other types of online networks are there?  Using the working definition above, I'm going to take a rough crack at teasing out some distinctions:

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Experiencing Community

Hi there.  This is my first time posting on the Marketing Blog.  I'm the analyst on Forrester's Marketing team focused on two high-engagement verticals: life sciences and automotive.  So thinking about feelings (customers' feelings) and experiences is my business.

Right now I'm fascinated by the question of *how* people experience community.  For my current report -- Social Media Strategy For Life Sciences -- I've had the opportunity to talk with three companies that are thinking really creatively about how to bring the experience of community online: CarePages, PeerTrainer, and DailyStrength

What do I mean by "experiencing community"?  Getting by with a little help from my friends on the Marketing Team, I'll show you.  Think about a community or group that you're a part of -- an ultimate frisbee club, a spiritual community, a health support group -- and remember how you feel when you're with that group.  What's going on? 

Shared Emotions

If you learn that you have a rare disease like cancer or MS (or you're caring for someone who does), chances are that you'll be flooded with feelings you've never had before.  All of a sudden you're overwhelmed by by feelings that no one around you is having.  How do you express these feelings and how do you relate to other people when everyone's going about their daily lives?  Finding other people who feel, or have felt, how you feel can be enormously comforting.  You're like the people around you and expressing your feelings feels natural and appropriate. 

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