I was reading about the 9 Worst Social Media fails of 2009 and a point made in the Motrin Moms example about Mommy Bloggers tarnishing their own reputation made me recall another post I had read about how agencies could potentially represent communities rather than companies someday.
What does this mean to the online communities we are creating? How does the content and perceptions we put out there define the community we are a part of, and what can we do about perceptions that are created that we do not want to be associated with?
I think that, like any offline community, online communities will slowly develop a set of characteristics that define them and their members. For those members who do not like what the community has become, they’ll leave and find something more aligned with themselves or create something new. Much like neighborhoods, religions, political parties, etc. evolve, so too will online communities. The evolution of the online community could be in support of it’s offline community, or it could be something entirely new.
So what does a community use to define itself online? Can it be defined by the tools it uses? For example, the Twitter community is continuously growing here in Calgary, but is it right to call it the Twitter community? Or is Twitter simply the means by which like minded individuals choose to communicate with one another? What happens if a large enough group of individuals joins Twitter and changes the primary function of the tool? Or the perception of what this community is all about? Does that kill the community? Does an individual person using Twitter come with a preconceived notion about what people on Twitter are like? And if functions do change, or users do not like the evolution of the community, does the original community continue to exist, but simply moves elsewhere?
It’s a bit nomadic, but if you think of the web as a flow of information, it seems natural to think that communities will seek out more like minded individuals, and in a space where they may not like what new users bring to the table, there will either be enough of a majority in the community to preserve what it has built, or the community will move on and find a different way of defining themselves.
How do you define an online community? Where do you fit in? And what do you do if you don’t like what’s happening?