Product Stuff Vol 2. Communities vs Social Networks
We've been spending a lot of time in the office thinking through the difference between a Social Network and a Community. This is really important for SQUAD SOCIAL for two reasons.
Reason 1. We need to know who we are if we're going to make the user experience feel great. This includes things like how we make sure people feel comfortable sharing things, how we facilitate introductions and how we communicate what makes us special.
Reason 2. Research shows that when we are connected to communities of like-minded people this has a strong bearing on improving our mental health. There are plenty of social networks (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram) that encourage us to have as many Friends/Followers as possible But the research shows that we've now got so many shallow relationships that we've started to lack deeper connections.
So here's what we learned.
Social Networks centre around the individual. Like in the real world, your own social network is a group of people you've hand-picked over time to be your friends. You choose who your friends are and you've probably worked to develop those friendships. In fact, every person has a different social network of their own, comprising of friends that they've made over successive years.
This makes sense to us when we think about our Facebook friends or our Instagram followers. Like in any friendship we engage with each other by sharing stories, photos and experiences and listening to other people do the same. We offer support (likes) to individuals in our network.
Communities form differently. They're more like a collection of people from all walks of life who are brought together by a common passion, location, experience or activity. To some extent, you don't get to curate who's in your community (though shared boundaries and rules do influence this).
People participate with online communities differently too. Generally they stick around for two reasons:
1. They want to contribute to the community
2. They think they will benefit from the community
For example, people who love to travel will probably gather around TripAdvisor's community to share their experiences and to learn about insider tips from other travellers.
So is SQUAD SOCIAL an online community or a social network?
That's the million dollar question. To answer this question, we go back to our purpose and look at our Vision.
Our Vision is:
An inclusive world where all queer people belong.
To achieve this we're focussing on building communities. Like the example of Trip Advisor we want to encourage people to share their "insider tips" on navigating the queer world, and to learn from what others have to say. We want people to share their experiences, to find other people to connect with and eventually to make a variety of new friends and relationships that will last the test of time.
That's important to understand if you want to have people you are close to when things get tough or when you want to celebrate when things go well (most of my Instagram followers wouldn't come to my bday party next month, for example).
We need your help to shape our communities
We'd love to hear about the topics, interests and locations that our communities should centre around. If you've got ideas (or even a community you think would benefit from being on SQUAD SOCIAL, please comment below!