Creating Genuine Connections: A New Vision for Community in Digital Publishing

In the fast-paced world of digital media, the term “community” has become a ubiquitous buzzword among media, brands and publishers looking to boost user engagement. Yet, there’s a palpable disconnect between the concept of community as it’s commonly understood and its implementation within the digital publishing landscape.

What is a Community?

At its core, a community is not merely a group of people who follow or interact with any content at the bottom of an article page. True community involves a shared sense of belonging among its members, united by common interests, experiences, or goals. It’s about interaction that’s deeper than surface-level engagements, such as comments at the end of an article.

The Misconception of Communities in Digital Publishing

Many publishers equate the ability to comment on articles as community-building. However, this is a narrow view. Comments can be a starting point, but they often descend into echo chambers or, worse, battlegrounds without proper moderation and purpose-driven design.

Real communities connect and empower users. How much do you feel connected through commenting on a news page to the other users? Not really.

Real communities foster meaningful interactions that contribute to mutual growth and understanding among members. You need to become a platform yourself and give users more rights to interact and start conversations. Your community should empower others!

Building Authentic Digital Communities

To transcend traditional models and foster true community, publishers need to rethink their strategies. Here are some ways to build more engaging, sustainable communities:

  1. Purpose and Shared Goals: Start by defining the purpose of your community. What unites your members? Whether it’s a passion for a local football club, a particular social cause, or a hobby, clear common goals set the foundation for meaningful interactions.
  2. Interactive Platforms: Beyond comments, consider social features that encourage richer interactions and integrate them seamlessly into your own products. This might include threads and forums, chat groups or 1:1 chats, interactive live streams or webinars, where users can engage in real-time with each other and with content creators.
  3. Moderation and Guidelines: Effective communities require rules and moderation to ensure discussions are constructive and inclusive. Establishing clear guidelines and having dedicated moderators helps maintain a respectful and engaging environment. If you allow users to post content not just a comment, this needs to go beyond comment moderation.
  4. Feedback Loops: Encourage and facilitate feedback within the community. This not only helps members feel valued and heard but also provides publishers with insights to refine their content and strategies. Use the patterns that people are used from chats and forums.
  5. Recognition and Reward: Acknowledge active community members with recognition programs or rewards for their contributions. This can deepen their engagement and foster a sense of investment in the community.
  6. Content Co-Creation: Engage your community in content curation and creation. This could be through guest posts, community polls that influence content decisions, or collaborative projects. Shared creation adds value to the community and enhances member attachment to the brand. Eempower users to show their expertise in a way others can benefit!

The Future of Community in Digital Media

As digital landscapes evolve, so too should our understanding and implementation of community. Publishers need to look beyond conventional article comments or shares and focus on how to build genuine relationships among users. By fostering true communities, media companies not only enhance user engagement but also build loyalty and trust, which are crucial in today’s saturated media environment.

In conclusion, redefining community in digital publishing means moving away from passive consumption and towards active, meaningful participation. It’s about creating spaces where conversations can flourish, ideas can be exchanged, and relationships can grow. Only then can publishers claim to have a “community”.