How to Find the Right Online Community For You
While I firmly believe most Facebook Groups are created with the best intentions, not all are created equal. Does anyone else need to #konmari their online communities like I do? Most of the ones I’ve joined are full of self-promotion, spam comments and threads of useless information. There are a select few that are heavily monitored and filled with like-minded people who contribute regularly. As online communities grow in members, monitoring can easily become an issue. This is frustrating not only for the creator, but for the members (like you and me) who want to be a part of an uplifting community. As a freelancer and frequent traveler, I find new friends online more than I do IRL. Since I’m beginning to be more careful about the content I consume and how much time I spend online, I want the groups I’m part of to mean something. These communities need to add value to my life and allow me to share my knowledge with others who might be in a similar situation.
Before you join any online community, it’s best to do your due diligence. Get a feel for how the group is monitored, what the members are saying and what type of content is being published. If the group is public, finding this information should be fairly easy. If the group is private, you might have to take a chance and join; thankfully, most online communities are easy to remove yourself from if necessary. On Facebook, this is as simple as the tap of the “Leave Group” button. (You might have been invited to this community by a friend or family member; if it’s not doing you any good, don’t apologize for leaving it.)
If the group is public, you’ll be able to find most of the information you need to make your decision before joining. Pay special attention to the conversations happening on the comments of posts; is there negative talk or gossip? How many people are actively participating? What does the “About Us” section say? How often do they host online events? What are the topics during those online events? Are there any group rules in place? What can you post? Answering these questions will help you determine whether the group is a good fit for you. If the group is private, there’s no harm in joining, because you can leave just as easily as you came.
When you join a community, there are some red flags to watch for. Unfortunately, there are “lurkers” who like to join these communities. Lurkers will sit on the sidelines, waiting for a chance to promote their product or service. Instead of engaging in meaningful conversation, they only participate when it’s time to share their business. Does this sound familiar? “Oh, girl, I’ve got a great fix for this! PM me.” I’ve read that exact comment 10 times over in a hundred different ways. When we join these communities, we’re looking for connection, conversation and sometimes help with a problem in our personal life or business. Instead of receiving valuable input, you might be bombarded with “PM me” comments. Following along the trend of tossing out things that don’t bring me joy, I’ve removed myself from countless groups and even unfollowed people on Instagram who fall into this category.
Another red flag that ties along into self-promotion is “follow threads.” There might be instructions to share your Instagram handle or your latest blog post, and follow others who’ve posted in the same thread. While this sounds great in theory, it normally winds up being a small handful of people who actually follow the instructions, and the rest promote their page and leave. A group I recently left had a regular schedule for follow threads. After discovering this is how they operate, I decided that wasn’t the community for me. People who are arrogant, selfish and just want to participate when it benefits them—those aren’t my people.
Finding the right online community, especially as an entrepreneur, can be tough. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, and if the local community you’re in doesn’t host a lot of networking events, finding your tribe online may be your best bet. These online communities allow you to find and connect with people you wouldn’t normally meet. Since starting my online business, I’ve connected with people from all over the U.S., and even some across the globe. Regardless of the type of community you’re looking for, I’ve found a few thing helpful for figuring out whether I want to click the “Join” button or not.
2019 was the first year I joined a community for which I had to pay a membership fee. It wasn’t much (around $40), but it was enough to make me consider the decision carefully. There are a few things I noticed immediately about this group: guidelines explaining why the group was created and what type of content would be allowed was very clear; documents were created in the “files” tab that actually provided value; the comments were insightful, full of questions and weren’t spammed with self-promotion. It’s been almost a full month since joining, and I have zero complaints. Communities with a membership fee cost money, but they often provide extra value for that cost.
With a constant stream of content flying at us 24/7, it’s important to choose what we consume wisely, and this includes what online communities we want to receive notifications from. Finding the right one can take some time, but it’s absolutely possible; I’m part of three wonderful Facebook groups that add so much value to my personal life and business. Do your research, and if something doesn’t fit, toss it.
Ashleigh is currently traveling the U.S. with her husband, Jake, while finishing her B.B.A. at Southeastern Oklahoma State University (cue grad cap toss in May 2019). She’s a content creator, social media manager, and blogger on all things business. When she’s not working, you can find her out exploring new cities with her husband or wandering around the office supply aisles of Target. Connect with her on the ‘gram @ashleighkluck.