Online communities are groups of people that share a common interest and come together over the Internet. They can be fan sites, sites and blogs devoted to a cause, sites organized around a sport or activity, or sites for those who share an opinion or point of view. Most of these sites exist as a medium for people to get news and information, and to discuss the topic.
As the popularity of social networking platforms such as Twitter shows, there is a voracious appetite for the absolute latest information on the topics that interest us. We do not want to wait- we want to know as things are happening. Unfortunately mediums that allow for instantaneous news like Twitter or text messaging are limited in the speed with which they can be generated and in how much information can be sent at any one time. Not a whole lot can be effectively said in 140 characters and under.
Online communities thrive on up-to-date knowledge and a site can live and die by whether or not it gets “scooped.” Site members rely on the sites ability to keep them informed over and above the mainstream outlets and to offer content that cannot be found anywhere else. If you are a member of a Brangelina fan club website and they have a blowout fist fight in public, a nearby fan is expected to send and post that information to the website immediately so that the online Brangelina community can start sending condolence emails. If a skydiver breaks the world record for the longest jump, that information is expected to find its way to the appropriate site for the benefit of the online skydiving community.
Online communities do not have to be large or on a grand scale. They could be as small as a high school class or the patrons of a local restaurant. Online communities can serve as a billboard for small groups and a place to register feedback. Let’s say Ray’s BBQ is putting fried catfish on the menu for the first time. They put the word out to their online community about it and tell everyone that they are giving catfish plates away at lunch on Thursday for only $1.50 to anyone who comes in and says the word “rumpelstiltskin.” Then they invite patrons who try the catfish plate to go online and give their feedback.
Email is a primary way for those in online communities to communicate, but it is not always the quickest or most direct way to send out information. Services like GenieVOX by AllCom let members send voice messages of up to 3 minutes long to an unlimited number of people. They can also receive voice messages to their phone, text or email, whichever they choose. Messages can be returned at the touch of a button. The service also gives members an avatar to attach to emails that connect to their message box. Members message boxes are reached through a private toll-free number assigned to the member, so personal numbers stay private. The toll-free number can be linked to any phone and no special equipment is required, just a basic phone. Best of all, GenieVOX only costs $4.95 a month and there is no contract to sign.
Now online communities can get all of the information and updates they want as they are happening and don’t have to wait until they can get to a computer to get all the details. No matter what the subject is, there’s an online community out there for you.