Online communities are forming at an amazing pace with 41% of those online
involved as a member of a some community
Large numbers of US Internet users joined online communities last year, and membership in such groups is now a mainstream activity.
Nearly half of US Internet users surveyed for the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future’s “2008 Digital Future Project” report said they belonged to a hobby-oriented online community. A full 41% of respondents belonged to an online social community, and one-third belonged to an online professional community.
“It is extraordinarily significant that hobby-oriented and social groups online already reach close to half of all Internet users,” said the report’s authors.
With sites like MySpace and Facebook capturing the limelight, it is easy to overlook smaller community sites to which the US online population belongs.
In October 2007, The Economist reported that the “future of social networking will not be one big social graph but instead myriad small communities on the Internet to replicate the millions that exist offline. No single company, therefore, can capture the social graph.”
Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst at eMarketer, predicts that advertisers will be able to reach even small community members as user profiles become portable.
“Consumers will eventually need to create only one profile and use it in many places on the Web,” she said. “Small applications, or ‘widgets,’ that today work with only one destination site will be designed on an open platform and thereby extend their reach.”
The rising popularity of online communities has gathered advertisers’ attention. Although e-mail sites such as Hotmail and Gmail accounted for the largest share of ad revenue in November 2007 according to Nielsen Online, general community sites drew about $50 million—more than shopping, entertainment or local Web sites.