The Community’s vocabulary: What do the terms really mean?

Community has become a buzzword in the last few years, and as a result more and more individuals and organizations are involved with communities.

According to Peerboard’s 2021’s report and CMX 2022’s Community Industry Report:

  • 76% of internet users participate in an online community.
  • 94% of a company’s community managers report that their community members are contributing to their business goals.
  • It is estimated that revenues from the online communities market increased from $392.95 million in 2014 to $1.2 billion in 2021.

If you too have started exploring the community’s world, and you aren’t sure what all of the terms “community manager,” “engagement,” or “moderation” mean, this guide will make sense of things.

What is a community
Community, not just a buzzword. 76% of internet users participate in an online community | Photo: Tamara Menzi

Community

According to the sociological definition, a community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as norms, religion, values, customs, or identity.
Some examples of community types are: product, professional, internal-organization, geographical, practice, and communities around the same interest.

Community building

Community building is a process in which individuals come together around a topic, cause, the same values or lifestyle. The process includes creating infrastructures to support the mutual connections and developing the community.

Target audience

The community’s target audience is those people who will be willing to join the community and become its members. A target audience is often defined based on demographic characteristics such as age, gender, and geographic location, as well as personal motivations, areas of interest, needs, and more.

Community members

Once the target audiences join the community, they become community members. Each community may or may not have criteria for joining, such as interests, activity, member fees, and other. Community members can be customers, employees, users, neighbors, and others.

Community space

The community space, platforms, or places is the space where the community members gather, whether physically, virtually, or both.

Engagement

Community engagement is the process where members are involved in the community activities and its discourses, contribute to the community, create relations with other members, and more. Engagement in communities is created when community values and culture are successfully implemented, to achieve long-term goals or outcomes.

Sense of belonging

Sense of belonging is created when members are recognized and accepted within the community. Some of the members might join the community because they are looking to be part of something greater than themselves.
Positive interactions between community members, shared-values and interests, common goals and mission, solidarity, and mutual support are some of the ways to achieve a sense of belonging in a community.

Onboarding

Onboarding is the process of welcoming new members into the community, and guiding them into its culture and rituals. The onboarding phase includes encouraging them to connect to other members and engage in community activity.

Community health

Community health is the complex well-being of a community, including levels of performance, community engagement, members experience or satisfaction, and growth. It is not measured by one of these components, but rather through a combination of some of them, according to the community goals.

Note: The health of a human body might describe community health: Just like personal health, the community’s health plays a role in its well-being. If we don’t nurture our body or take care of it, it won’t function well.

Member experience in community
Member experience is the overall sentiment of members towards the community | Photo: UX Indonesia

Network

Both communities and networks are groups of people who share the same interests or goals. However, a network’s members often have a self-interest. They are there for their own benefit and have weaker ties to each other, while in a community, members are engaging to support others as well.

Community manager

A community manager is(are) the person(s) that lead the community. Among the community manager’s responsibilities are designing the community’s strategy, implementing it, managing the day-to-day community’s activities, providing support to its members and building connections, and growing the community.
In virtual communities spaces, such as Facebook and LinkedIn groups, or Slack and Discord channels, the community manager is the admin of the group or channel.

Note: I prefer the term community leader, since I believe that handling a community is more than getting things done or controlling it. It’s a two-sided relationship. Setting the community’s instrafructures, while motivating community members to participate and engage. The community leader must be attentive to what the community needs, and make changes accordingly.

Moderation and facilitation

Moderation includes monitoring the community activity, such as making sure the community discourse is handled according to the community rules, solving conflicts between members, and helping members in their experience. A moderator’s responsibilities might include posting important information, answering members’ questions, and navigating them between the activities.

Facilitation is the process of assisting a group that shares a common interest to learn or complete a task. The facilitator may implement methods and tools in order to help the group achieve its goals, without expressing their own position or opinion.

Which activities take place in your community?

Read how monthly meetings can boost your community

Stakeholders

Each community has stakeholders or key players, who have an interest in the community. They might have a direct or non-direct impact on the community.

The stakeholders can be the individual or organization that manages the community, other individuals, institutions, other communities, partners, and so on.

For example, let’s have a look at a community around a company’s product. The stakeholders will be:
– The customers
– The company’s division that runs the community
– Other divisions in the company that can contribute to the community or might be affected by the community’s outcomes
– The product’ suppliers
– The company’s competitors
– Communities in the same industry or business’ niche.

Community activities

Community activities include all the online and offline content.

For instance, events, workshops, group’s learning, and other gatherings, as well as posts, discussions, games, and more.

Member experience

From onboarding to connecting and creating relationships with other members, participating in community discourse and activity, through identifying with the community values, to engaging and contributing to the community – member experience is the overall sentiment of members towards the community.

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Now that we went through some of the common community jargon, please note that the following community terms are general, and each community is using some tweaks.

Want to keep exploring the community’s world?

Check out Connecteur’s community building guide,

Learn about Community needs’ mapping,

Get inspiration about decision making in communities from open-source cases,

Or contact me to brainstorm together your community’ strategy.

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