What Is a Social Community?


Words have a deep effect on
how we interpret and interact with the world.
The words we use and how we define them
reveal our interests, concerns, and values.
This series explores the words of social media.

social community

From families to friendships, we share experiences and interactions with groups. Our attachments to those groups strong or weak weave the fabric of association and community. A community is a social structure that shares personal values, cultural values, business goals, attitudes, or a world view. What binds it is a community culture of social rules and group dynamics that identify members.

An online community isn’t built or befriended, it’s connected by offering and accepting. Community is affinity, identity, and kinship that make room for ideas, thoughts, and solutions. Wherever a community gathers, we aspire and inspire each other intentionally . . . And our words shine with authenticity. Many social networking sites also offer platforms for discussion of topics that a community or network finds mutually interesting or beneficial.

In the most concise terms, an online social community is a group of like-minded individuals connected by interactions.

@smallaxe: “Community is the family you get to choose”
@KohliConsulting: “We are community.”
@GeoffLiving: “More than one person, which in turn creates a common welfare.”
@sherrymain “This* is. We are. The ability to ask “what is community” and get a response from a stranger quickly!”
@PensieveRobin: “the family we’d choose…those with whom we “live” life…”
@ettarose “community is the force of people sharing, good or bad”
@peace_: “Community is anywhere where a group of people learn from, interact & care for each other”
@elenakostovska “respect and belonging”

For more information see:
Princeton WorNet
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Etymology and definition of the term “community”

What Is Social Media?
What Is Social Networking?

Got more to add? C’mon let’s talk.

Be irresistible.
–ME “Liz” Strauss


  1. says

    What a gorgeous post, Liz. So beautifully written and your words really resonated.
    For me, community is based on respect, as it is through respect and appreciation for what makes an individual unique and special in their own right that the connections that foster community are forged. Compassion, engagement and inspiration are not only the gifts of community but they are simultaneously the bricks which build community.
    Thanks for sharing this – you’ve got my mind buzzing with thoughts now :-)

  2. says

    What a fabulous way to distinguish community. Love this line “Community is affinity, identity, and kinship that make room for ideas, thoughts, and solutions.”

    Looking forward to the rest of the series. A question I have been thinking about is how do the relationships we develop in a social media platform differ from those we develop in an in person setting – or do they? And in what ways might the “unwritten” rules of conduct differ?

  3. says

    Hi Liz
    I love your definition of a community:
    “An online community isn’t built or befriended, it’s connected by offering and accepting. Community is affinity, identity, and kinship that make room for ideas, thoughts, and solutions”

    That is the best i’ve found, it really gets into the ethos of engagement.

    I liked it so much i tweeted it – i am also going to use it in my weekly blog on social media as had planned a post this week on what is a community and what is engagement.


  4. says

    Great post, Liz. I would just add one element and that is based on the traditional idea of community as a geographic location. In that case, there isn’t a lot of choice, but there is some sort of shared interest, if only to make sure the snow gets plowed.
    While supportive communities are great–whether online or in your face–I think online social media also facilitates gatherings of people whose only connection might be an interest in Battlestar Galactica, schnauzers, or lupus. As that one point of connection brings people together who might not ordinarily be exposed to one another or choose to associate, the possibility for deeper connection is brought into being. And thus arises the possibility of moving beyond all those other differences to a deeper acceptance of one another.

  5. says

    Managing a community I’ve learned how unique the bond that ties different communities are. Recently I’ve been wondering if there is a difference between the communities we form online and the ones we participate in offline. When I say difference, I am mean do we behave differently? Do the social rules and dynamics play differently. Do they enhance each other? Curious on your thoughts!

  6. says

    The really cool thing about online community is that it connects people that would not normally be connected b/c of place and time. I would add to your definition that authentic community empowers the individual at the same time building the group. If an individual becomes a better person in community and is encouraged to fly, they come back and bring more to the group. Keep building a flock of eagles here!

  7. says

    I’ve long thought friendship could be pretty well defined in triple A’s: Affinity, Attitude, and Accessibility. Perhaps it’s time to rethink and expand on that.I will.I wonder how much of what you wrote about community would work its way into those three A’s. Hmmm… Some overnight thought is due.

  8. says

    Yeah, Amy,
    Respect is central to every relationship that builds the communities that we value. Anyone who knows you knows how much you think of the people you share your life and your work with. You’re the sort of person any community is better for having.

    You and I so agree on what holds a community together. The quest is attracting more of the same. :)

  9. says

    Hi Susan,
    I’m finding that the line between my personal online and offline relationships has totally blurred. I can’t keep track of two sets of “mores and rules,” but I find if I live up to the standards I set for myself online they work really well in the offline world.

    People are people after all and we all deserve respect for our individuality. Do you think our communities will connect with other communities eventually?

  10. says

    Hi James,
    I liked that part too. I came straight from the heart. It’s reflection of the good and the not so good things I’ve been seeing.

    I hope the good ways win.

    You’re not a stranger anymore. :)

  11. says

    Hi cj,
    Most communities do happen because of that shared interest. It certainly takes that to get one to last. It was what I was hinting at when I said affinity, but you said it more clearly. I like that.

    Thanks for making this one just that much better. :)

  12. says

    Hi Dave,
    Don’t mean to hedge my answer. But I think that it really is “it depends on the community and how it was formed.” To me it seems for every act of good or bad behavior online or offline, I can find the equivalent in the other venue.

    The essence of a community is the people who make it and grow it together. They offer it their values as the basis for the culture. People of all sorts can be found in both places.

    Great question. I’d like to know your thinking as well. :)

  13. says

    Not sure I understand your question: Do you think our communities will connect with other communities eventually? Do you mean will our real life communities and our online communities blend? I think if logistics work they would quite naturally – whether in person or online I think the law of attraction applies.

    I too try to live by the same rules in “both worlds”. What I have been wondering about though is more about the different expectations we may have in different/new contexts. For example, someone I had just started following @replied to me telling me “if they could help me in any way just ask”. Out of curiosity I DM’d them saying I was a new blogger and did they have any advice. The reply said something like “I like to help peeps out but it is hard to do in 140 char” Is offering to help in the twitter stream like asking people how they are – it’s a polite thing to say but you don’t want a real answer, “fine” will do. For the record I don’t have an issue here – it’s just a small example that came to mind as I think about how to read social cues in the online world (perhaps social cues would have been a better word to use than rules in my original Q)

    Anyway I find this whole conversation very rich – as always you make me think and provide wonderful insight. Thanks!

  14. says

    Hi Susan,
    Sounds to me like jerks online are the same as jerks offline. The offer for help you got was probably canned spam in the form of auto dm?

    I know lots of folks, myself included who, in the same situation would have taken the question off Twitter and asked what you needed help with.

    I’m wondering whether it’s possible for smaller communities to connect to form one huge community. I’m guessing “no.”

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