I've been involved in online communities for more than 15 years now, since when your email address was a string of numbers (remember CompuServe?).
Anyone involved in a discipline requiring audience analysis and the analysis of communication channels develops a keen understanding of the attributes of a community.
Here are some examples of different styles of online communities for later discussion:
- A forum for experts on hot button topics
- A reference resource for specific types of business advice
- A user group
- A group of employees of a single company
- A working group
- A national sales organization, out in the field
- A team of catastrophe adjusters in the field
- The admins in a large company
- Wine collectors
- Yacht owners
- Bentley owners
- The members of a family trust
- Usability experts
It's a mixed bag, but each has its distinct online channels.
Next: More on each and the difference and similarities.