Internal vs. External Communities

I’ve been thinking about different types of communities lately. In particular, different types of communities that a business or organization would be involved with.

Generally speaking, a community is a group of people that have something in common, right?

So imagine you’re running a business. You have customers. You have employees. Maybe you even have investors. They all have you in common, so I think of these as internal communities.

And if you decide to create a place for these communities to gather — maybe a Facebook group, maybe a support forum, maybe a company intranet, maybe an investor relations portal — you’ll have certain obligations.

You’ll need to maintain these platforms. You’ll also need to look after the people who are using them. You’l need to handle their inquiries, settle their disputes, and encourage their ongoing participation and use of the community platform.

But your business doesn’t exist in a void. You’re also a member of different, external communities.

If you have a physical storefront, you’ve got your neighbours, a local community of residents and businesses. You could participate in this local community by taking part in fundraisers, sponsoring a youth soccer club, or referring customers to each other.

And depending on the type of business you run, you may belong to an association with other businesses that sell similar products or services. You could participate by showing up at events

And then you’ve got your vendors. Maybe they have a community for customers or partners that you’re a part of, like Shopify’s Partner Program or GoDaddy Pro or Beaver Builder’s Facebook group?

So what’s the takeaway?

You’re a facilitator of your internal communities. You’re the thing that everyone has in common. How you facilitate these communities, and to what extent, is up to you. What you decide to do, the goals you decide to pursue, that’s your call. But any level of facilitation requires a level of commitment and investment.

You’re a participant in your external communitiesYour level of participation, and to what extent, is up to you. (Deja vu!) Maybe you’re just a casual observer, listening to what others have to say? Or maybe you’re a more active participant, kickstarting new initiatives?


You facilitate internal communities. You participate in external communities.

So here’s my challenge to you…

If you’re running or working for a business, think about your internal communities and what you’re doing to facilitate them. (Are you missing an opportunity to bring people together and provide value for everyone involved?) Then think about your external communities and how you’re participating in them. (Could you be doing more?)

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