What is Community?

So… What *is* “Community?”

I was recently interviewing for a new position and I was asked, “Tell me about your view of PR.” Before answering, I responded with a question of my own, “Which area of PR are you asking about?” What transpired was an interesting conversation about what community is on a high-level, as opposed to just a social community or just your neighborhood community.

Yes, Facebook is one of a few great places to connect with your “community.” Your fans come and like your page and you post great content and engage with them. That is Facebook. The same goes for Twitter where someone uses your brand name or a product of yours and you engage with them. That is social community. But there is more to community than just social media platforms. What about the community that happens in your actual neighborhood?

But the key component here is what is a real community?

What are the characteristics of a real community in the 21st Century?

  1. Passion. One thing that any great community has is passion. A passion for the product, for the company, for the concept and for the beliefs and values of the community as a whole. This passion can be cultivated, but it can’t be bought. I have long been an advocate of building online social communities of passionate fans and not purchased fans. I would rather have 100 super fans than 1,000 fans who saw an ad or liked your page because of a campaign. I’m not against campaigns nor am I against Facebook “Like” campaigns. But I am for having a passionate group of fans. And that is something you can’t put a price tag on.
  2. Collaboration. This is, in my opinion, the greatest asset of a strong and passionate community. Collaboration is what happens when your passionate fans work with you. They tell you what they love. They tell you what you hate. They tell you what to do better. They tell you what you are doing great. The better part of a collaborative community is when the page asks the fans for input and the page listens.
  3. Response & Respect. The final result of a great and passionate community is fans believing that they are being heard and fans feeling and believing that the company respect them. Nothing can erode a lifetime of brand equity faster than a bad customer experience. That is why building and maintain a community is paramount to the success of any of our communities. Before, these communities were in our front lawns and the grocery aisle. Not anymore. These fans have taken the power back and that deserves our respect.

My conversation ended by saying, you wouldn’t ignore customer emails nor would you ignore your customer service line. The first step in building a community online: listen and respond. Then you will build that passion, foster collaboration and build respect that can last a lifetime.

What is your idea of a community?

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About the author

Richard Dedor is a writer, speaker, coach and social media consultant. He ran for office at age 18 and has written one book, Anything is Possible. You can find him at his blog, Believe in Possible and on Twitter @RichardDedor.


Great post, @richarddedor . Often, new clients will ask what type of content they should post, but it's rare that I am asked this question by someone who is already really listening to customers. Listening is key!