I have been thinking about communities lately. I have been comparing our more traditional communities with social media communities. Traditional communities have been around from the tribe or earlier through to the current bingo hall or knitting club. Social media communities are newer and an opportunity for organizations to build their brand promise and customer experience. What makes a traditional community or a social community successful? Why do some communities work and others don’t?

So, what is a community?

There are communities of interest, communities of action, communities of practice and communities based on geographical locations. My kids are passionate about their taekwondo and gymnastic clubs. My in-laws were very involved in their church community, where it was as much about friendship and socializing as it was about worship. A group of people in my neighbourhood joined forces to take action in stopping the condominium development at the major intersection near my home. There are communities due to a geographic location, like my block, where we have a community watch to ensure people, kids and homes are safe. All of these communities have commonalities, people coming together in a location with common interests.

Has the notion of the community morphed or progressed because of social media?

In social communities, the common interest is still true for communities, but the living in the same location doesn’t necessarily make it less of a community. Perhaps the common place is virtual, via a web conference or an internet connection and a telephone. Does the fact that social communities involve persons that live in locations all over the world make it less of a community? Or is it the common interest that makes it a community? I am involved in a community of practice for User Experience professionals. We call in monthly from all over North America to listen to a point of view or be guided through presentations on interesting design and or technology trends. Organizations who are not successful in their social community building may want to look at the traditional community as a model to follow. Perhaps these models will translate well to successful virtual communities.

What successful communities have you been part of both in person and on social networks and why are they successful?