The team at eModeration – a community moderation and management services company in the UK – released a whitepaper this week discussing ‘communities of purpose’. They distinguish these communities of purpose from communities of interest in the following way:
- Communities of purpose: An online community of people with a common, clear, defined goal.
- Communities of interest: Communities built around a shared interest, but with no single defined goal (like Mumsnet or iVillage – although of course, there may be purpose elements within these sites, such as a pregnancy section within iVillage).
It goes on to say that communities of purpose can take two forms, those that have an explicit goal (to provide support to customers or to quit smoking) or those that support a defined event (to raise money for Movember, to crowdsource new product requirements). The paper also defines the various characteristics needed by a community of purpose:
- Burning imperative
- Relevant to the brand/organizational mission
- A clear timeframe
- Goalposts that enable quick, regular ‘wins’
- Clear guidelines
Overall a good description of the high level characteristics of online communities and if you are just thinking about how to structure a community, a great place to start. One concept that was not touched on that I feel is important is to understand out the outset of building a community is that the lifecycle of a community changes over time. So to does the management of a community change over time – in terms of programming, concentration of community managers’ time, and in what can be expected of the community. As communities mature and become more complex they still have all of the primary characteristics outlined in the whitepaper but are subject to many operational changes which is also something to expect, if not plan for explicitly at the outset.
You can download a copy of the whitepaper here.