Guest blog: creating collaboration through online communities

Guest blog from Henry Hall​, Head of Business Development at CrowdComms.

“If you want to liberate a society, just give them the Internet.” – Wael Ghonim

There seems to be no limit to the potential impact that digital communities can have in the real world. Tweets empowered the Arab Springs. Signal, Telegram and other encrypted communication groups, have been a key part of the success of grassroots mobilisation for movements such as Extinction Rebellion. Even down to the micro-level, there has been a resurgence (perhaps encouraged by the physical disconnection of COVID-19), of local neighbourhood communities that have benefited from online collaboration. 

Some may argue that it’s essential to find more routes for collective participation in an ever-disconnecting world. Digital spaces disrupt many limitations we have in a physical space such as the requirement to travel, potential for ongoing collaboration, and vastly increase audience sizes, as well as having the potential to encourage and stimulate collective ideas and action with data-informing decisions from digital analytics. There are so many online platforms and options for us to choose from, all invariably offering an impressive suite of interactive features and marketing tools.

But the above are redundant if those who your message should resonate with the most, do not adopt or participate with the technology.

To counteract the above, any online community needs to finely hone its values and beliefs and carve out a story that’s unique to them. Your digital platform should support these values and embolden your messages by encouraging interactive and asynchronous user engagement, ideally within a friendly User Interface (UI). The space should be completely customised with targeted content that stimulates and drives participation. A standalone environment focused on your message with features to lubricate collaboration. 

At CrowdComms we support several ‘standalone’ community platforms. As digital communities have no limits, and are applicable across industries and formats, I enjoy the many scenarios I get to talk about each day. One moment I am exploring how our platform can be used for a political community, where supporters can vote on motions and policy, then it’s on to student communities who want to digitally meet each other spontaneously. After that, I am potentially speaking with a roadside assistance organisation that wants a real-time mobile native and reactive resource hub for ‘on the ground’ engineers.

Scientific communities have been using our platform to share peer-review abstracts, and gain CPD certification by tracking their digital footprint measured by participation and collaboration. Regularly, I come across the need for an internal employee communication tool that’s more focused than just a conferencing tool, with the ability to host webinars and resources, launch products and develop conversation, alongside being able to organise 1:1 or group meetings.

Membership portals are perhaps the most common, as tools like CrowdComms can target content based on the user group. Having a platform that can be shaped depending on the individual users’ personal journey and the content they have absorbed is a very powerful tool.

What connects many of them, if not all, is that events, whether in person or virtual, are peppered throughout the annual year, acting as touch points for  communities to reconnect. The digital space has the power to target, and market these touch points, in a one-stop shop environment where users can register their interest, and receive new agendas, content and information based on their interaction. Communities can now be seamless between mobile and web-based platforms, meaning the digital tool continues to connect users in a live environment by becoming a specific event- targeted event app.  

Let’s take the isla community, for instance. The events world is a wonderful industry because of its strong sense of community and collaboration between organisations. isla is a testament to this, bringing together agencies, suppliers and corporates with the same goal and values of sustainability and change in events. 

The transform virtual event on 25th May, may see the birth of a new community in an online space. CrowdComms have been a member over the past 12 months and have been progressing through the training and sustainability guidance programme. This inaugural event is curated by isla and the members to launch the industry-defining report together. In a single space, the community can attend training or expert-led workshops, access a community directory, personalise their agendas and network with one another even after the event.   

For the first time, we will have a medium whether on our desktop computer or in our pocket, to be able to continually engage with content and collaborate with others.

I look forward to the sessions isla will be hosting throughout the year, and I am equally looking forward to meeting and collaborating with other members, whether in person or virtually.

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