Social media is changing the definition of community. If you break the word down, you get â€œcommonâ€ and â€œunity.â€ Fitting, since communities form between people who have something in common; they are united by the things they share. Often, communities form among people who see each other on a regular basis, but in the digital world, they can also exist among groups of people who may never meet.
There are millions of people who log onto social networking sites every day, from across the globe. These sites provide us with an invaluable opportunity to connect with people from different states, countries and continents, people who we have so much in common with, but would never have crossed paths with otherwise. Itâ€™s even possible for some of these â€œconnectionsâ€ to become friends, if you spend the time and effort to get to know them one on one, beyond what you read on each otherâ€™s blogs and Twitter feeds.
Online communities, like friendships, take extra time and effort, but there are a number of pre-formed community sites that are a great place to start: Gen Y sites Brazen Careerist and 20somethingbloggers, for moms who tweet: twitter moms, and BlogHer for women bloggers, just to name a few. But, these are only starting places; itâ€™s from these greater communities that we can form our own smaller circles.
Hereâ€™s how: Reach out to people and find out more about them. Comment on new blogs that interest you, and check out the blogs and profiles of people who comment on yours. When you find someone who shares your interests, set up a time to talk on IM or send them an e-mail introducing yourself. Try using a social media aggregator like FriendFeed so you can keep track of people and figure out which friends are on the same sites that you are. Get to know people and seek out those who have something in common with you, just like you would in the â€œreal world.â€ Before you know it, youâ€™ll be chatting with people as far away as Indonesia and Argentina.
Becoming part of an online community can be beneficial professionally and personally. Â For example, a network of industry professionals could serve as a sounding board and information source, provide points of comparison and advice, and result in more clients or better business for you and your company. Personally, online communities can be support systems, discussion forums, and creative outlets. When it comes to social media, you will only get a lot out of it if you put a lot into it. Being part of a community only takes a little extra effort, but it will make your online experience a lot better.