What is an Online Community? The Basics & Benefits

Communities are all around us. We’re part of many communities, whether they’re communities made up of family, friends, or shared interests. Online communities take similar principles from in-person communities and make them virtual.

If you’re new to the idea or an online community or want a refresher, this post will help you understand:


You’re probably part of an online community or two, whether it’s NextDoor for neighborhoods or a Facebook or LinkedIn group around a common interest or shared value. You might think of a sub-Reddit around a certain topic as a community. However, sometimes the concepts behind what an online community is can feel a bit abstract.

Aren’t communities built in person? How can an army of strangers online make a customer feel seen? Before you go look for concrete examples of online communities, take a look at this definition:

At its root, an online community or internet community is a group of people with a shared interest or purpose who use the internet to communicate with each other. Online communities have their own set of guidelines and needs, like online community engagement, moderation, and management.

But the type of community we’ll focus on today is a big one: Branded online communities, or communities run by organizations.

Want to dig deeper? Check out our complete guide to online community.

What is a Branded Online Community?

A branded online community is a professional network to bring people together around a centralized, shared organization-based experience or purpose for expansive online collaboration and growth.

The type of community we’re talking about here is one that your organization would build online to connect your members, customers, employees, partners – whoever the community’s members might be.


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