In recent years, online communities have grown in popularity to the point where they have become essential to everyone’s life. Coming together socially over similar interests is not a new concept. The Internet quickly became the place of choice where people could gather, especially through the hard times of the pandemic that gripped the world since 2020.
We carry communities with us every day, sometimes without even knowing it. Your neighborhood, your workplace, even your book-reading club are communities. They permit us to come together to achieve a common goal. Think about social media. You’re probably part of a Facebook group or a group on another social media platform! In fact, it is human nature to learn, share, and communicate with others we can identify with. It helps us develop a greater sense of personal and collective identity. That's the true incentive of what a community is about.
The science of community
First, let's define communities from a sociological standpoint. Sociologists have pointed out a few elements needed for a group of people to be a community. German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1936) differentiates a community (Gemeinschaft) from a society (Gesellschaft) in his book Community and Society (1887). Unlike society, which is an individualistic concept based on the independence of its members and their personal interests, the author sees a community as a group sharing a social or spatial proximity, a feeling of unity, and common interests.
His contemporary Max Weber (1864-1920) supports and develops Tönnies' remarks in his work. "Communities", a collection of texts written around 1910 and gathered for publication in 1984, develops all the known types of social groups in his time. He defines all the different principles, highlights their issues and structure, and focuses on how these communities operate.
Weber's work was very engaged in his time and refutes some of Karl Marx's (1818-1883) sociological concepts of communities such as social class approaches, which were used to separate the working class from the upper/middle class (bourgeoisie). Weber's study of communities will be a strong influence in the XXth century Western sociology, with this new approach of social stratification.
A group of people interacting with each other
Communities are all about interactions. Its strength lies in its dynamism. You’re part of a group where people like you are there to help, for the sake of being part of it, because you all have the same values. Being part of a cool environment where we feel valued gives us a stronger sense of self-esteem, which improves our mood! Togetherness definitely helps us cope with negative situations and make better decisions.
Members interact in a shared location
A community needs a place where members can interact. An office where members meet and work, for example. These days most communities operate online, using virtual space softwares such as Slack for businesses. Today’s communities are not bound to meet in a physical space to operate. A community may not even have a physical location, but it is always distinguished by being a group of people sharing common interests.
Sharing common values and beliefs
Think of it as like-minded people working and thinking together. You join or create a community to reach a goal that can be personal, or collective (usually both). It’s a system where everyone contributes. Members have a place to show their ideas and breed new ones, all linked to the reason why they joined: shared values and goals. These common beliefs form the identity and mission of the community.
Sense of belonging
A community is a place of opportunities, which is what makes its members fully involved. They all want to drive the “we feeling”. Feeling engaged in an active community that’s effectively helping everyone, pushes them to improve, learn, and contribute to its identity. Being a part of a community makes us feel as though we are a part of something greater than ourselves. Keeping people immersed is the key component to getting the best out of them because a community is nothing without its members; together, to share, learn and help!
If you want to dig deeper, I encourage you to look at the work of Dr. Phil Bartle on his website, in which he thoroughly describes every one of the aspects of communities.
Sense of purpose
Getting to know members of a community is a huge part of the concept. Building relationships simply by helping each other through work, but also sharing moments with them increases trust, and even helps with daily stress. Having a supportive group of people around you has a strong impact on your well-being as you interact with them with trust and respect.
Improved Professional development
Joining a community based on the best practices of your job is a valuable way to view work differently. You now can learn, share, and work with your peers and improve your skills. Interacting in an environment ruled by mutual trust and respect increases members' engagement and confidence, leading to empowered decision-making and productivity.
Freelancers In Belgium community manager and co-founder Jenny Björklov had the chance to learn a lot from many Belgian freelancers. She learned to collaborate with companies, write posts about the success of her group, and sell tickets. In the form of Facebook groups (8.1k members as of writing this for the main group), this community focuses on connecting Belgian freelancers together to help them build and run their project. She is now an important leader in the Belgian freelancing landscape.
We all learn from each other, and a community is by far the best option to expose yourself to a variety of new perspectives and ideas. Communities are the niche for innovation and breeding new ideas. Bonding together to cope with difficult challenges and solve issues is the best way to discover and create new things.
Why are communities more important than ever
Communities are more important than ever before. The Internet made it possible for tons of social networks to exist. As mentioned before, with work-related instant-messaging software such as Slack, your workplace is the world : anywhere, at any time, you’re able to interact with everyone from your company. Any information you post never gets deleted; a member can retrieve a previous post at any time.
Companies sometimes create their own community for all their collaborators to be a part of. Since they usually work in different departments, in which employees operate separately, creating a work-related community is seen as the intent of making all these groups overlap, bringing everyone together.
Xavier Zuinen got involved in the creation of a community during his previous professional experience in a European ride-hailing tech company. One of the key elements to developing the business was to build a robust community centered on the app while entering the existing driver community. He did so by approaching them downtown to offer coffees, helping with intricate paperwork, or inviting them to the office for various discussions. He aimed to better understand their life and develop a sense of common purpose and shared values to guide them towards becoming the best ambassadors of the company.
It worked great. Drivers felt taken care of by the corporate side. Moreover, his team was the only one on the "app side" that was accepted by drivers during demonstrations.
Understanding the already established driver community and developing the company's community allowed everyone to work efficiently. Everyone became fantastic ambassadors and helped the company grow because they felt like they were a part of it.
Here at dualoop, we know how powerful communities are. We want to contribute as much as we can to the product management community. We would love to share with you all our knowledge and research in dualoop Slack community channel, where product managers can share, learn, and interact together. Staying up to date with the latest trends is important for a product manager to stay aware of what the market wants and get the best out of their products!
The reason why you should join a community is to be part of something greater. Being a member means something to people, and that’s why they want to contribute to it and make it grow. You want to learn from others by getting to know how you can contribute to their goals, as everyone will do the same for you. This mutual interest of creating better things each day, not just for you, but for everyone is the strongest aspect of communities. The new ways of communication we have today turn them into an extension of the business itself. Whether you want people to get in touch and thrive together, or attract your customers around your brand or product, there’s always a sense of growing together. Today’s not too late to experience the importance of communities!
I’ll leave you with the seventeenth chapter of ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Zu’s Tao Te Ching, which perfectly embodies the feeling of wanting to be part of a community.
“Go to the people. Live with them.
Learn from them. Love them.
Start with what they know.
Build with what they have.
But with the best leaders,
when the work is done,
the task accomplished,
the people will say 'We have done this ourselves.’”
- A community is defined by like-minded people working and thinking together, in relation to similar values and beliefs
- A strong community belongs to its members
- Communities can be an extension of the business itself
- Investing in a community feeds our human needs