Defining who we are and what holds us together is an ancient human impulse. Back to the earliest days of recorded human history, the stories we have told each other for centuries help to establish and maintain a sense of community. In this article, I review how communities have evolved and how online digital communities have enhanced our ability to interact, connect, share, & stay engaged today.
What Is A Modern Community Without
The ancient Greeks had their lists of heroes who fought at the Trojan War, the Hebrew scriptures tell of the covenant of Moses, the Kojiki tells of the creation of Japan and the establishment of the Emperors, and countless other groups of people have likewise used story to craft and shape who they are. Verbal stories of love, struggles, and feedback from our families have friends will and have always been.
Interact, Share, & Stay Connected
Even in today’s world, we can see this in action. Ask a sports fan about his or her favorite team, and the camaraderie they feel when they meet another fan, or the rivalry when they meet a fan from an opposing team. The story of that amazing game, or that time we almost beat them, carries great meaning for that sports fan.
Part of what defines a community is a set of shared experiences or interests. This common background gives the people in community with each other a sense of purpose, belonging, and connection to others who share that background.
Times may have changed, and we may no longer sit around fires and retell mythic war stories, but we still find ways to connect with each other.
Modern Approaches to an Ancient Impulse
Technology can bring together otherwise disparate groups of people, to create online communities of support. Those of us old enough to remember the pre-internet era may have belonged to a fan club that circulated a newsletter, or had annual meetings, but the ability to regularly interact with people at a distance who shared that interest was, at best, limited.
The newsletter only arrived once a month, or quarterly, and the meetings might have been too far away or costs to much to regularly attend for many. Fortunately, these limitations are rapidly falling away. Here are just a few modern technological advances that help to foster modern communities:
- Webcasts and Live Streams: It is now possible for many groups to stream content over the internet live, and so broadcast a presentation or activity to a worldwide audience. In 2014, over 1 million people came together to play a Pokemon video game, and an online community was born. Even after an event is over, the ability to post videos online allows interested parties to join in after the fact, and still feel connected.
- Comment Sections: A number of internet creators have taken to actively engaging with the people who consume their media through direct engagement with the comment section provided on videos or internet posts. One good example is the PBS-sponsored YouTube Idea Channel which has comment response videos from the channel’s host. Not only do the people writing in interact with each other, creating their own sense of public community, but so does the video channel’s leader. They, in essence, become crucial members of the overall story of that YouTube channel developing a greater sense of community. Further, even blogs usually have a comments section too.
- Public Social Media Sites: Places like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter allow people to create spaces for themselves, by managing friends or hashtags, and amassing followers. Creators of media and family relatives live side-by-side in these internet communities, allowing users of these services to keep in touch both with family members, thus fostering a sense of family community, and to stay updated from the businesses and creators that they also follow, interacting with other fans, and thus fostering a sense of interest-driven community.
- Private Social Community Software: Beyond the public social media sites, are private social community software. These platforms are controlled in house by organizations which bring like-minded customers and members all together, by giving their community a home where they can interact, share ideas, answer questions, and stay connected. A true private modern community is where both your people and your organization will grow and succeed together.
Private Community Software and Social Engagement
In the nonprofit and more specifically in the association sector today, many forward thinking organizations are embracing the online digital opportunities which they have available to them to engage their members, donors, and constituents. Beyond a mere webcast or public social media site, many see the value in “pulling” the collaboration inside their organization so that they can benefit from the social intelligence rather than lose it to the “public” facing communities such as Facebook.
It is my belief that in these private social communities a modern community can best thrive and benefit both the nonprofit, it’s mission, and their constituents. Let me elaborate on just one example on how this may transpire in the real world.
Think about a large conference and/or even smaller events. Small events and webinars can be a terrific way to introduce an online community. With an online modern private community implemented, a private community could be utilized to make webinar recordings available to paid members of your web sites. You could have members access to hundreds of hours of content on how to solve problems and achieve goals, enabling them to find the answers they need when they need it, without having to contact you or another service provider.
Today, organizations have the ability to realize more engagement opportunities than the traditional “one and done” opportunity afforded to them in the past. Rather, they now are able to extend those relationships and experiences beyond a date into an ongoing dialogue via their own private community using community engagement software after and before events.
When nonprofits think beyond the offline community experience, it is realistic to anticipate some of the following returns when using private community software:
- Continuous engagement 24 x 7 x 365 days a year
- Increased retention rates
- Better search engine optimization
- Much better growth
- Expansion of business intelligence
As with most technology decisions, there are many tools available to help create and maintain online communities. However, with all technology options it may be difficult to find the best online community software which is the right fit for you.
If that is the case, guess what? We can help you avoid those countless hours “googling” your way to no where and wasting your time with the wrong online social community software vendors.
To learn more about how modern technology helps foster social connection, contact us at SmartThoughts.