The Shape of Online Communities: History and Promise

Online communities used to be analogous to cities and towns. Our first notion of virtual community was based on real-world, geographically-based interests. Technology then supported this notion by creating tools that mimicked cities and villages. This idea was wildly popular, but ultimately failed because we hadn’t yet figured out how unimportant geography was when it comes to online community:

Yahoo bought GeoCities — a collection of homepages organized by neighborhood. AOL and Tribune launched Digital City. Corporations from Citigroup to SAP moved into virtual terrain.

These city metaphors all failed. Why? Because they proved utterly unnecessary. The older generation, who might have used them as a crutch, found them unwieldy. And digital natives moved directly into new neighborhoods that they built from scratch — forums, message boards, blogs, and ultimately social networks. via Mashable

Here’s another evolutionary tale. When Twitter first launched, people used it to tell real friends where they were and what they were doing. It was mostly about their physical orientation to the world. Nowadays, while we do continue to post about these things, we’re spending much more time talking about intellectual matters. And we’ve expanded beyond our real world friends to ones with the same interests or values, whether they be in Utah or Uganda. Physical proximity has been displaced by cultural-value proximity. (more…)


Facebook Timeline Changes: Blog Mash-Up

My Goodness. There have been LOTS and LOTS of blog posts on Facebook and the impending Timeline for Pages changes. For those that are looking for a quick checklist and summary, here you go. This list is a mashup of my favorite posts on the topic.

1. Cover Photo – You now have an 851 x 315 pixel palette to convey your brand visually. “The cover photo is the first thing people will notice when visiting your Page, which is why it’s recommended to select a unique image that accurately represents your brand — this doesn’t have to be a logo.” – Sprout Social Blog. Here are 20 great cover photos to give you some ideas.

2. Direct Messages – Facebook has added an optional feature that allows users to send a direct message via the brand page. This will likely be used as a customer support feature for most brands. However, it could also be a great way to gain feedback on new or existing products. If you’ve had customer service PR nightmares, this could be a good feature to activate: it sends a message that you’re more readily available, but it also hides the conversation from other users. A win win if your product or service is not as popular as you’d like. ” This allows brands to take care of customer service issues in a more intimate and less public space.” – Location 3 Blog (more…)

Online Community vs. Social Media

There are a lot of thoughts floating in the digital ether about online communities and social media. Those thoughts often collide in confusing ways. Some folks – most perhaps – think that managing an online community is the same as working in social media. While an online community is built off a social media platform, the role of a social media manager and an online community manager are much different. (more…)

Is Facebook Really Useless as a Community Platform?


I read a recent post by another online community guru, Richard Millington, who proclaimed that Facebook is a useless platform. While there is some merit in his sentiment (more on that later), I think it diverts the focus of what’s really important when initiating an online community.

Is Facebook really useless? (more…)