Building An Online Community

Let me start by saying that I just created the absolute worst title to a blog post in the history of man. I mean, that’s incredibly un-enticing, right? Who the hell wants to read about something like “building an online community”? Honestly if it was me, I would’ve passed this post right by with an emphatic “Nah.” But here we are, and here you are you unlucky bastard.

This week we talked to Rachael Brown, who’s site Haute Happenings (and Facebook Page) is a resource for people in Terre Haute to find family-friendly activities. Rachael came to talk to us about how to both manage and engage with a community as a corner stone of your business or project. Now, while my long term plans don’t necessarily involve building an online community, the traits to building one are applicable to building relationships in general. There’s an intrinsic balance when dealing with your own community and that’s when to let them drive the conversation themselves and when to take control and refocus the topic. Rachael explained to us the difficulty when dealing with politics on her Facebook page. A simple article that was meant to discuss the city inevitably brought anger by her followers because of its political nature.

Are topics like politics and religion completely off limits? Can a community of like-minded adults not even discuss these topics without getting upset and losing their cool? The short answer is no, but the long answer is…also no. It just doesn’t work. So it’s important to retain enough control over your community before it spirals out of control and you lose the original focus.

Community can present itself in different forms however and just like Rachael’s online community is built in such a way that real world interaction is more than plausible, but almost encouraged. It seems this could potentially be the next step in building a community and one that most users already utilize. Rachael highlights events in Terre Haute with the intention that, obviously, residents will attend. In this way her community can interact with each other online and in the real world through a mutual experience. No Mean City, a site dedicated to highlighting the best parts of Indianapolis, is another example. The site hopes that interaction can take place offline as well as through a greater community on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

So the future of online community could actually be a 180 where users connect online and find ways to connect in the real world. Like I said last week, finding others with your same interests in close proximity to you can be difficult but with access to the entire world online, you can find your more-or-less twin in a matter of minutes.

Photo Credit: Rawpixel via Shutterstock

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5 thoughts on “Building An Online Community

  1. Your observation about involving political discussion is an excellent point. While there are definitely adults fully capable of engaging in a political discussion online, these communities are no place to have these sorts of talks. Online communities are meant to bring people together, and politics can so easily divide them. That being said, the more control a community’s users have over the discussion the more successful it can be. It is definitely a fine line that site owners or moderators have to walk in deciding what is appropriate or inappropriate for discussion.

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  2. I like how you are taking something else from this assignment so you can use it with your Theology major. I like how you are seeing it also in a way how relationships work because you probably won’t start an online community after school. You never know there may be something there with an online community with what you love!

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  3. Something my highschool history teacher told me was “there are two things you shouldn’t talk about at the dinner table: politics and religion.” Everyone has there own opinion, but for some reason today’s society doesn’t like it when someone opposes their ideas, and sometimes they feel threatened by it. This is definitely somthing we are going to need to consider for our website because these are topics that can divide people and quickly spiral out of control.

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  4. I unfortunately have to agree that control, as much as I hate control on discussion, needs to be had when it comes to things that aren’t intended to be political become that way.
    Of course I’m the one who can relate to the memes ‘When you can’t go 5 seconds without getting political’, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see where you’re coming from. People are always out of control and you can never really decide who ought to have a say and when you let one person it’s such a slippery slope to allow more to talk about things that might be…controversial in a space that’s supposed to be free of that. (That comment was not a nudge about political safe spaces- but also, yeah it was. I can’t go 5 seconds without getting political. It’s a problem.)

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  5. What unlucky bastards we are! While the blog’s title may very well have the ‘absolute worst title to a blog post in the history of man,’ you cover some pretty important points and there’s some extreme quality to the content here; especially for those who want to learn how to build up a community AND keep it going. You cover Rachel’s discussion with our class quite well and the way you expand on her conversation is great! I think most people forget that while encouraging ideas and such from such communities, there are still rules we have to follow in order to keep the content genuine – which means we have to keep it under control, which you’ve explained well here in this post.

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