Online communities are becoming more and more prevalent as social media grows. They are the 21st century’s way of bringing people together. Personally, when I was a younger teenager, I found a great online community in another blogging website called Tumblr. I actually ended up meeting one of my followers in real life too, so online communities really can mean making friends.
From a business perspective, online communities have been defined by a woman named Constance Elise Porter of Notre Dame. She defines online communities in her research paper ‘Typology of Virtual Communities: A Multi-Disciplinary Foundation for Future Research’ as “a virtual community is defined as an aggregation of individuals or business partners who interact around a shared interest, where the interaction is at least partially supported and/or mediated by technology and guided by some protocols or norms.”
On the other hand, a community of practice was first proposed in 1991 by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. By definition, a CoP is either a prefession, a craft, a hobby, or something of the like, in which a group of people share.
However the difference between online communities and communities of practice, is that a community of practice is that online communities are purely online, whereas CoPs can be online, or in person. Obviously CoPs have been around longer than online communities because online communities are only available online, and the internet hasn’t been around forever!
Communities of Practice have certain characteristics that help to define exactly what a CoP is.
Firstly you must have a domain. A domain is the actual craft, profession hobby, etc, that all members have a keen interest in.
Next, you must obviously have the community. The community is essential, otherwise the community of practice is null and void .
Finally, you must have the practice. This is the act that is completed and shared with the rest of the community.
The benefits of online communities are that they have to potential to increase the overall clientèle of the company, which lead to increasing overall profit. Online communities can also improve customer satisfaction and can also improve product development.
The benefits of online communities of practice for the individuals within it, include the fact that employees in a company are able to handle, manage and adapt to change with ease, as well as having access to a wide range of shared communal knowledge. Being a part of a community of practice also helps people to cultivate trust amongst each other and also gives all members a sense of communal purpose.
CoPs from an organisational perspective allow businesses to encourage new knowledge from their employees and create a unique skill set for their company. Companies can also discover which ways are the best, fastest and most simple way to complete tasks and meet goals.Finally, all companies can use KM to push forward The business strategies and plans the organisation holds, thus making it a successful company that will continue to thrive.
Porter, C. (2006). A Typology of Virtual Communities: A Multi-Disciplinary Foundation for Future Research. Journal Of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2004.tb00228.x