The 6 Types of Online Communities You Need to know

With the recent pandemic and the fact that more and more consumers are expecting authenticity and connection with brands they invest in, online communities have been on the rise. But while each community is created on different topics, there are also different structures or “types” of online communities behind each one. 

And if you’re thinking of creating one of your own – it’s important to first take note of their differences.

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So why does the structure or “type” of your community matter? 

Especially if you’re beginning a community of your own, being able to identify the structure and type of community you’re hosting will help you build it with more focus, and ultimately align better with the people in your community. 

The type and structure behind a community is ultimately going to depend on your goal of the community itself. And if you follow the principles behind other successful communities that are of a similar nature, this is how you stand a chance in this ever-growing market. 

But first – let’s nail down what an online community actually is. 

What is an online community?

When someone says “online community”, you might think of everything from Facebook Groups to Instagram, where people comment, like, and share the work of a creator they follow. 

After all, if followers share a similar interest in a creator and then engage with the content and respond to each other’s comments…that’s a community, right? 

The truth is: Not really.

Any social media platform is considered a “creator-to-viewer” model. 

Even though audience members might be interacting with each other in the comments section, there only exists a “sense of community” here rather than an actual “community” experience.

The element of community is very limited on social media because the ultimate structure behind it is a 1-to-1 model. Followers can’t share their own content aside from a URL in the comments, meaning there’s limited engagement and limited ability to hear other voices in the community aside from the creator’s.

Communities, on the other hand, are a “many-to-many” structure.

Communities let both the influencer and members alike post content, updates, and collaborate with one another in the same space. It allows the opportunity for equal engagement and an equal spotlight for everybody. 

The different types of online communities:

To start, there are two important categories that all communities are divided under: paid communities or unpaid communities.

Paid vs. Unpaid communities 

Paid communities are basically membership communities, where one has to pay a fee or own a membership to join. Here, communities often provide more exclusive information, resources or experiences that aren’t as easily accessible to the public. 

Unpaid communities can still have exclusive information or experiences – however it’s less exclusive since the community itself is free for anyone to join. While there still may be questionnaires or interviews to get in and increase the level of exclusivity, oftentimes budgets are smaller in unpaid communities and they therefore offer less tangible benefits. 

Underneath these two bulkheads of paid and unpaid communities, there are 6 main categories of community that we’ve identified (note: some communities can fall within multiple different categories).

Branded communities

Branded communities are often started by brands whether it be commercial brands, personal brands, influencers, or small businesses that are selling a product or service. The main goal of most branded communities is to continue the conversation with supporters in a community.

Branded communities act as an extension of the brand experience where followers who have a similar interest can come together, enjoy the brand experience, support the brand, meet new people, learn, interact with people behind the brand in many forms. It can even include exclusive perks and discounts in exchange for connecting on a deeper level and investing time into the brand experience.

Examples of branded communities: 

  • Copywriter and personal branding expert, Alex Cattoni, created an online course called: “The Copy Posse”, and has created a Facebook community as an extension of her product. This way, she can keep engaging fans and keep them connected even once they’ve completed the course
  • Notion, the company behind the popular organizational and productivity app “Notion”, created an online community that extends through multiple different platforms. including Reddit, to engage their users, help them learn more about the app, and interact with the product and brand on a deeper level

6 Types of Communities | Nas.io Communities

Structure of branded communities:

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    • Tone and style often matches the brand’s tone of voice and style
    • Brand moderator represents the brand and hosts discussions as well as helps curate the experience for their followers (with limited intervention)
    • Often includes access to discounts, hacks, exclusive experiences and other resources are provided to increase brand loyalty, connection and make people feel valued in return for investing in their brand
    • Positive, fun, upbeat culture where everyone is welcome and passionate about the brand

    Support communities

    Support communities are built around the goal of a collective of people supporting each other through any problems, questions or concerns they might have around any given topic. This could be illness, support for products, forums, illnesses, motherhood etc. This could also include any kind of accountability group where people join in order to hold themselves accountable to a goal they need support on. 

    While this can be combined with other categories the main goal of these types of groups is to answer questions and provide support.

    Examples of support communities:

    • Cancer or illness support groups like Cancer Survivors Network where survivors can reach out to other peers, connect and exchange advice
    • Tech support groups like the Official Apple Support community where other tech-users help each other solve problems with their Apple products

    Structure of support communities:

    • Very peer-to-peer oriented
    • Limited interaction from moderators aside from curating the initial experience and intervening when more help is needed
    • Supportive, positive and collaborative

    Communities of action 

    Communities of action are those where people come together to accomplish some sort of unified goal. 

    This could also be considered a mastermind group, as these groups are people who want to come together to master a particular area of interest. However, communities of action can expand to include larger communities that are joining together just to accomplish an event or an ongoing mission to improve society. 

    Regardless, the main point of these types of communities are coming together to bring something to life beyond the community itself. 

    Example of communities of action: 

    • Climate activist communities online that gather together to host events, protests and discuss possible solutions in their physical community or the world at large. 
    • An online community built from a workplace where employees collaborate to accomplish a company mission, connect, solve problems and produce a solid outcome at the end of every quarter. 

    Structure of communities of action: 

    • More goal-oriented and focused on achievement
    • More structured than other communities in order to put action steps in place to achieve a desired outcome 
    • Sometimes one designated leader, or at least a main moderator who helps schedule agendas etc. 

    Knowledge- and learning-based communities

    The main point of a knowledge- and learning-based community is to share information and learn as a collective. Mastermind and coaching groups also fall under this type of community as the collective goal is ultimately to learn, share information and improve in a certain area. 

    Examples of knowledge- and learning-based communities 

    • A free community called Busuu connects people from around the world to help teach each other how to speak different languages. 
    • YGG started an online Web3 learning community through Nas.io to help people from around the world get educated and learn about the web3 space together.

    Structure of knowledge- and learning-based communities 

    • Often fun, inclusive, motivating and upbeat in a way to make sure everyone is enjoying their learning experience 
    • Supportive and non-judgemental 
    • Sometimes moderators are more active in this type of community to keep learning experiences going, sometimes it’s a more peer-to-peer learning group where moderators only intervene if necessary and curate the initial platform or experience

    Networking communities 

    Networking communities are often built to follow up to events, or connect people between organizations to keep conversations going and grow your network.

    This is often more relevant to professionals and others looking to grow in a particular industry, looking to hire, find and create opportunities as well as exchange information and ideas. But it ultimately helps people keep in touch, grow their connections, and result in professional or ongoing relationships beyond the platform itself.

    Examples of networking communities

    • I need a producer online facebook group that helps people connect and hire talent within the film industry 
    • Local Toronto Ad Jobs & Networking group that is built to connect professionals within the advertising, marketing and design field to hire and connect with others

    Structure of networking communities 

    • More of a professional, serious and formal language and profiles (depending on the networking industry especially) 
    • Moderators usually don’t intervene as networking is supposed to happen between peers, unless there’s a management issue
    • Often built for ease of sharing contact information

    Communities of interest

    Communities of interest are formed without a particular output in mind aside from connecting and sharing a passion or interest around any given topic. These communities are joined by people who are passionate and want to engage with the topic of interest, meet others with the same interest and have fun. 

    Oftentimes, communities of interest are created by fans of a topic for other fans of a topic in an effort to connect people together –and share their passion with other like-minded people.

    Examples of communities of interest

    • Fan communities of films, books or even sports like Alpine Ski World Cup Fan Community where members passionate about skiing share their passion, and even travel to support skiers around the world as a community
    • Gaming communities like this Minecraft Club where people come together to share game updates, meet others to play with and share their love for the game

    Structure of communities of interest

    • Less structured and more fun and free-flowing
    • Passionate, engaging and outgoing group of people who are supportive and inclusive
    • Moderators often don’t intervene unless necessary or hosting events 

    Start a community of your own for free at Nas.io

    If you’re ready to start your community – no matter the topic or type – Nas.io is the perfect place to begin. 

    With Nas.io, you don’t have to worry about your budget being big enough to help spread the word about your mission. You can build a customized space for FREE where you can create opportunities for growth, connection and learning – and our series of user-friendly tools will help you bring that vision to life. 

    We are a platform directly committed to building functional, collaborative communities online for your brand. Whether your want to start a community for fashion, sports, writing, Web3, NFTs – anything – this is the place to do it. 

    Reach out to our incredible support team and learn how to start your own community today. We’ll be with you to help from Day 1.

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