Virtual communities are social networks of individuals interacting through the internet on social networking platforms. Due to the recent massive increase in internet usage, virtual communities are starting to replace the “real” community. As pubs and traditional meeting places empty, chat rooms, blogs and social networking sites are filling up with people. Even those that are not internet savvy are being sucked in to the trend, people who would not normally consider this form of interaction are drawn in due to the increasing popularity of the medium and the social expectation that goes along with it.
These days, if someone is not on Facebook, then it is usually seen as something of an oddity, a quirky personality trait. A virtual business community will never be as popular, but it is important to look at the key factors which helped make Facebook a success.
Most members will log on as their first port of call on the internet because the site keeps them engaged (doing stuff) and it has mobile integration and email notifications to pull the users back when they are away. It also provides rewards in the behavioural sense. When users check their notification bar, they receive an update in acceptance within the community, or positive reinforcement as they find out who liked their comment, link or video.
To replicate these sorts of luring factors will enhance any virtual community’s appeal and sustainability.
There are a few problems with social networking from both a business and evolutionary point of view.
There is clear evidence in our daily lives of the infringement of social networking (or “antisocial networking” as it has been referred to by those of a cynical persuasion).
The increasingly more frequent necessity to access Facebook and Twitter is a distraction that is proving both costly and time consuming to businesses. Their employees are constantly checking their iPhones and computers to read the latest Facebook/Twitter message when really they should be working/serving customers/putting out fires.
More importantly, the world becomes more and more robotic as people cut off from real world connections and begin to rely solely on a virtual stimulus, but surely the virtual community cannot completely replace the real life interaction of people?