What Is An Online Community And Its Benefits?

In today’s digital age, people widely use online platforms to interact with each other and share their stuff like interests, hobbies, thoughts, goals, and experiences. We can also say that the internet has enabled individuals from all over the world to interact and communicate with one another, and online communities are one such amazing way to do this. An online community or digital community is a group of individuals who gather digitally to discuss their common interests, points of view, and goals.


Source: Google

The most popular types of online platforms are online communities and social networks. While these buzzwords are used interchangeably, they mostly refer to different online engagement and interaction types.

Now, let us know what exactly an online community is.

What Is An Online Community?

An online community, also known as a digital community, internet community, or social community, is a group or a network of people who communicate, collaborate, and exchange stuff with each other on a digital platform, whether it be any social media platform or a website. Moreover, these communities are often formed based on a similar interest or to provide a space for members to engage with others who share familiar interests. 

Source: Google

Online communities have evolved into significant assets that contribute to the agile expansion of businesses. All members benefit from the resources provided by these communities. Businesses may use this network to reply to client issues or concerns swiftly, thank them for their assistance, and receive constructive feedback. Every online community, however, has its own set of rules, values, and practices depending on its purpose.

Online communities may occur in many places, including forums, message boards, chat rooms, social media groups, and websites like Reddit and Discord. These communities can be found locally or globally and serve various purposes, ranging from networking and socializing to giving support, education, or advocacy.

The Development of Online Communities

Initially, online communities emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the arrival of the internet and the increase of mailing lists and bulletin board systems (BBS). However, these early internet forums used to focus on technical topics and text-based user interfaces. But, as the World Wide Web expanded in the mid-1990s, online communities have become more accessible and diverse, attracting many members and subjects.

Let’s discuss the characteristics and dynamics of an online community.

Source: Google

Flexibility and Accessibility of Online Communities

One of its unique features is the capacity of online communities to connect and communicate without regard to time or geography. Members of online communities can convey information, ideas, points of view, and experiences at any time and from any location by using a variety of platforms and devices. Online communities especially appeal to those who encounter geographic, social, or economical hurdles to participating in traditional communities because of their flexibility and ease.

Sense of Connection and Belonging in Online Communities

The significant aspect of online communities is that it gives a feeling of connection and belonging. Online community members frequently have something in common, such as a passion or hobby, which fosters a feeling of community and shared heritage. The manifestation of this shared identity might take many different forms, including a common language, symbols, rituals, or conventions. Those who feel excluded, lonely, or ostracized in their offline life may find the sense of belonging to an online group to be especially significant.

Promote Quality Learning and Skills Enhancement in Online Communities

Online communities may promote education, knowledge, experience sharing, and skills enhancement. Members of online communities can share knowledge, solicit counsel, or offer input on a range of subjects, including technology, health, the arts, and education. Several online communities emphasize education and skill development, including tools, guides, and mentoring schemes. 

Collaboration and Co-creation in Online Communities

Online community members can collaborate and co-create on software development, design, or art tasks, encouraging creativity and imaginative thinking. Internet communities are frequently structured on a membership hierarchy, with some members possessing greater authority or knowledge than others. Members’ participation and digital community contributions may also result in badges, awards, or recognition.

Challenges and Risks in Online Communities

Online communities also provide certain difficulties and risks, such as security issues, cyberbullying, false information, or extremism. Internet groups are also susceptible to confirmation bias and echo chambers when participants ignore opposing viewpoints and strengthen their own opinions. 

Develop a Healthy and Supportive Online Community Culture

Online communities may also experience misunderstandings, disagreements, or misinterpretations due to the absence of face-to-face interaction. Hence, it is crucial to develop a healthy, tolerant, and supportive digital community culture where members appreciate diversity, decency, good manners, and evidence-based reasoning. Otherwise, it might hamper your mental peace.

How is an Online Community Different from a Social Network?

Although social networks like Facebook and Twitter enable users to interact with others and share content, their original purpose is for personal networking. Online communities, on the other hand, are more specialized and targeted since they are centered around a particular interest or subject. Online communities provide a platform for interaction, information sharing, and collaboration on projects related to the community’s agenda.

In 2022, the global online community market grew at an average CAGR of 13.9%. People are utilizing the internet more frequently to interact with others, both personally and professionally, as it continues to be a crucial tool for communication. Many businesses create online platforms to facilitate relationships between themselves and their target audience.

A 2022 report shows 59% of organizations utilize online communities to support customers. Moreover, 85% of brand owners have stated that a branded online community creates stronger trust among their audience. Moreover, experts believe online communities are vital for a brand’s success. By building communities, brands can drive greater internal and external team communication and cooperation, which may lead to up to 25% productivity gains.

Let us discuss the differences between online communities and social networks and highlight their unique characteristics.

Source- Google


An online community is a virtual space or a platform where individuals exchange knowledge, work together, and support one another. It is founded on common goals, beliefs, and interests, and they frequently serve a specific function, like offering assistance, resolving issues, or exchanging information. Instead of merely giving knowledge, they are more concerned about building connections and relationships among the members.

On the other hand, social networks are online spaces where people may set up individual accounts/profiles, communicate with loved ones, and exchange stuff. Moreover, users can exchange information, documents, images, videos, and messages on social networks focused on individual identification and self-expression. They frequently have a larger user base than online communities and are created for social interaction.

Membership and Privacy

One of the primary distinctions between online communities and social networks is the amount of anonymity and membership. Online communities often feature closed or semi-closed membership, which requires applicants to submit an application or invitations to join. They are made to provide a secure environment where members may communicate and work together. It’s crucial to maintain a high degree of trust and privacy since members of online communities frequently share personal information and experiences.

In contrast, social networks allow for open membership, which allows anybody to sign up and view the content published by other users. It has a flexible approach toward privacy policy because it intends to bring people together and share information widely. Although users may change their privacy settings, the default is frequently public.


Their involvement and purpose also set online communities apart from social networks. Internet groups are created to serve a particular function, such as offering assistance, resolving issues, or exchanging information. They are concentrated on boosting collaboration and developing ties among members. Online community members communicate via forums, chat rooms, and private messaging.

On the other side, social networks are built for communication and self-expression. Users communicate with friends and family by sending messages, images, videos, and personal experiences. Social networks are frequently utilized for leisure and interpersonal connections since they are less formal and organized than online forums.

Content and Information

Numerous information and content are shared on social networks and online communities. Internet communities strongly emphasize exchanging knowledge, experiences, and information about a particular subject or interest. Members of online communities exchange knowledge, solicit counsel, and work together on projects. Online community members are encouraged to share their knowledge, and the stuff produced is frequently enlightening.

Individuals communicate with their friends and family on social networking sites by sending them messages, images, videos, and personal information. Social network members are encouraged to exhibit their uniqueness and creativity; the information produced there is frequently more casual and intimate.

Community Management and Moderation

Online communities and social networks have varied approaches to community administration and moderation. A moderator or administrator usually controls online communities’ activity and ensures participants abide by the community’s rules and norms. Maintaining a courteous and safe environment and settling member issues are the responsibilities of moderators.

Conversely, social networks are self-managed; thus, users control their conduct and content. Users of social networks can report inappropriate activity using a reporting mechanism, but the site usually lacks a specialized moderating crew.

Free vs. Paid Online Communities

There are two types of online communities: free and paid. Everyone is welcome in free communities, which volunteers often monitor. In contrast, experts frequently monitor paid communities and demand a charge from members to access exclusive information and resources.

Online communities have been increasingly popular in recent years, giving people a place to meet people who share their interests, get advice, and share knowledge. Yet, not all online groups are created equal; some provide free membership while others charge a price.

Let’s discuss the differences between free and paid online communities and assist in determining which option suits an individual’s needs.

Source- Google

Free Online Communities

Online communities that are free to join and participate in are known as free communities. Individuals interested in the group’s theme or ideology are frequently welcome in these groups. They offer a platform where users may exchange learnings, get the guidance, and connect with people with identical interests. Online communities that are free to join mostly rely on sponsorships or adverts for funding.

One of their key benefits is that anyone with an internet connection may quickly access free online communities. Hence, they are the perfect choice for those just starting and desiring to examine a new interest or activity. They also provide a pathway to make new friends and connect with like-minded people.

However, free online groups may have certain defects. The quality of the shared information may vary greatly because they are accessible to everyone. Confusion or misunderstanding may result from certain members’ lack of experience or knowledge in providing useful information. Online communities that are free to join might have fewer resources or services than paid ones, such as access to unique content or expert guidance.

Paid Online Communities

A membership fee is required to join and participate in paid online communities. These communities frequently offer their members more exclusive benefits and services. Paid communities could provide access to premium resources, professional counsel, or networking chances. Also, members could get discounts or other benefits like admission to events or courses.

A key benefit of paid online communities is the value they provide to their members. The quality of the information and resources is frequently greater than in free communities since members pay for access. A dedicated staff of moderators or specialists who can provide users with advice and assistance generally runs paid online communities.

However, the drawbacks of paid online communities are also present. For some people, membership fees might be a barrier to access. Paid online groups may also be more exclusive, making interacting with people from different backgrounds more difficult. Lastly, premium online communities could have more stringent guidelines or limitations than free groups.

Which One Is Right For You?

Determining which type of online community suits you relies on your specific needs and preferences. A free online community might be ideal if you are a beginner and want to explore a new interest or hobby. These online forums are open to everyone, and it is a terrific way to make new friends and learn more about your hobbies.

On the other hand, a paid online community can be the preferable option if you need more in-depth materials or professional help. These communities usually offer more value to members and present a wonderful chance to network with other experts in your industry.

However, your particular requirements and objectives will determine whether you join a free or paid online community. Consider what you intend to achieve from the community, and weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each option before making a decision. With the appropriate community, you can interact with like-minded people, acquire new skills, and develop both personally and professionally.

Benefits Of The Online Community 

Participating in an online community has many benefits. It may help in increasing brand loyalty and leads and improve client retention. However, advertising on websites like Facebook and Google AdWords is more expensive than marketing a brand through an energetic and engaged community.

When a business builds an online community, it proposes a forum for interaction and knowledge sharing. It is also advantageous for a brand when users spend more time on community pages, indicating greater engagement. 


Source- Google

Let’s discuss the 12 advantages of community engagement and why it holds significance for your organization.

Accessing Customers Directly

Using online communities allows you to interact with customers in a managed and owned setting, which may foster good brand emotion and boost brand loyalty. You may build a more personal connection with your consumers and provide real-time help by creating content tailored to their requirements. It will improve the customer experience.

A brand community that serves your most zealous users and supporters may also encourage brand advocacy. You can include these people in the customer experience and give them the tools to become outspoken brand ambassadors by giving them a platform to share their knowledge and skills. It might expand the reach of your brand and improve its reputation.

Reduced Cost for the Assistance

The main objective of most online communities is to help their members. While the traditional method involves an organization assisting a customer, brand communities enable members to support and help each other. A successful customer community involves members interacting and addressing each other’s inquiries. Besides reducing support costs, customer communities can generate new leads and increase sales.

Your staff can concentrate on other activities when consumers can assist, educate, and inspire one another. Your goods are being used more creatively and effectively, which increases consumer happiness and loyalty. At last, this results in reduced employee expenses and increased client satisfaction.

Enables More Profound Involvement and Engagement

Internet engagement techniques offer chances for communities and organizations to prosper. Online communities provide their members with a wide range of opportunities for engagement and connection. Challenges, activities, surveys, and polls are some of these outlets.

You may accommodate your members’ unique interests by offering them a variety of ways to participate. Greater levels of engagement result from this, especially when compared to other marketing initiatives and social media.

Connection and Support

One of their main advantages is online communities’ sense of community and support. Members may connect with others who share their interests no matter where they are in the globe or their time zone. It fosters a feeling of belonging and community, which may be especially important for those who might not have access to a local group of people who share their interests.

Knowledge Sharing

Online communities are great places to learn and share information, and members can freely exchange ideas and resources by sharing their knowledge and experiences. It may be especially helpful for people who want to increase their knowledge or develop new abilities in a particular field.

Collaboration and Networking

Online communities provide opportunities for collaboration and networking. Members can collaborate on ideas and projects focused on the community, forging important connections and bonds. Those wishing to enhance their professional networks and job chances may find this extremely helpful.

Emotional and Mental Health Support

Online communities may assist with emotional and mental health issues. Members can connect with individuals who might be going through comparable difficulties or situations, which can assist them in understanding and empathizing with one another. It can be especially helpful for people experiencing mental health problems or feeling lonely and alone.

Acquire New Members and Generate Leads

Online communities may be useful for recruiting new members and generating leads. You can foster a feeling of community that draws new members and keeps current ones interested by giving them a platform to communicate with one another and engage with your business. These are some strategies that online communities may use to attract new members and create leads:

Google indexes user-generated information from open parts of online communities, including articles, forums, and updates. When potential customers search for solutions to their problems, your community may appear in search results, enhancing your brand’s visibility. As the discussions created by users in your community increase, it gains more search authority, relevance, and content, resulting in increased leads and brand awareness by

  • Referrals
  • SEO
  • Content Marketing
  • Events
  • Social Media

Overall, online communities can be a powerful tool for generating leads and acquiring new members. Creating a sense of community and providing valuable content and resources can attract new members and keep existing ones engaged, increasing brand awareness and growth.

Stand out from the competition

Online communities serve several purposes for your organization, from content creation to marketing intelligence. However, your users typically play a vital role in their satisfaction and overall experience. While you and your competitors may appear similar on paper, an online community can set you apart.

Employing a member or customer community may set you apart from your rivals by giving them quick answers to their questions and surprising them with moments of joy.

User-generated Content (UGC)

UGC content generated by your consumers rather than your brand is often thought to be more impactful and authentic. Compared to branded content, UGC is 42% more effective and has a 6.9X higher engagement rate.

Through online communities, you can obtain direct access to your customers’ content. Members of these communities share images, videos, and text, generating UGC that can be repurposed into ads and posts. Brand communities are crucial in social media management as they provide a consistent stream of UGC.

Engaging Unrepresented Groups

Engaging in an online community fosters social cohesion and provides a platform for everyone to express themselves. Engagement cohorts often need to include underrepresented groups. In traditional face-to-face engagement activities, a small group of participants may dominate interactions, leading to the same voices controlling discussions. Alternative viewpoints may be challenging to hear or even absent. This same issue can occur in public meetings and offline forums, where only some feel free to speak their minds.

Online engagement, on the other hand, offers a secure and easily accessible forum for individuals to join the conversation without the limitations of a public setting. Diverse communities are brought together, including hard-to-reach and disadvantaged groups, allowing marginalized and often excluded individuals to participate in decision-making.

Customer Loyalty

The ultimate objective is customer retention/loyalty, and the key to driving significant sales growth is to assist existing customers in succeeding further. Furthermore, neglecting to use community resources for essential business functions like customer support can reduce loyalty.


Investing in engagement within online communities is highly beneficial as it leads to customer acquisition and brand loyalty, ultimately building trust and satisfaction, saving time, and promoting customer retention. Active involvement in the community enables companies to identify gaps, support members, and cultivate long-term relationships with them.

Properly executed and focusing on quality engagement and inclusive community representation, online engagement can amplify the reach and value of online community engagement in ways that traditional methods cannot. The FLOOR, a robust all-in-one community platform, offers creators and planners all the necessary tools to build, engage, and manage their communities comprehensively.