One dilemma I’m facing as I research and gather notes to begin writing my book, “Online Community Management for Dummies” (sick of hearing about it yet?) is how I keep repeating the term “online community” or “community.” It was drilled into our heads in writing school that we need to break out the thesaurus in order to not sound tedious and repetitious. And I am. But collecting words that mean “online community” is more of a challenge than one might think.
Take the word “clique,” for example. Not everyone sees this as a positive word because it often implies exclusivity, and many online communities are welcoming to all. Ditto “tribe.” This is a more hip term for online community, one that’s widely used at this juncture, but there are plenty of people who see it as something that doesn’t allow for outsiders.
Thesaurus.com has an interesting list of synonyms for “community” but not too many fit:
- Body politic
- Neck of the Woods
See what I mean?
To me, a community is a group of like-minded people who work and share together. I don’t think the definition varies much online and offline.
As so many of my online friends, my own online community, are also into this community thing (see, I’m overusing the word again) I thought I’d reach out on the social networks and see what others thought about the lack of usable terms for online community. I asked folks to suggest their own.
Here are some of the terms we came up with:
- Tribe – Probably the most popular term being bandied about the web, most people think it’s cute, but plenty of people said they cringe when they hear it used because they don’t see it as a positive.
- Collective - A favorite as it indicates the true spirit of community.
- Clique – To many, this indicates exclusivity.
- Members – This is what I call the people who make up a community (another overused term in my writing) but it does indicate a sense of belonging.
- Group – General term, works but kind of vanilla. Still, I’ll use it from time to time.
- Murder – Another name for a flock (of crows, according to dictionary.com) but it’s a little too negative and violent for me. What do you think?
- Flock - Not sure how I feel about this one. It sounds religious (see: congregation) but I don’t mind it either.
- Congregation – Might be too religious for some.
- Klatsch – Fun, kind of folksy and Linda Richman-ish but might be a good name for a small, tight knit community.
- Gaggle - Which Jodee Redmond described as a “disorderly or noisy group of people,” but reminds me of a flock of geese. A community of geese?
- Pack – Has a kind of wild inference, what do you think?
- Pod - Suggestion of a few tweeters, I’m not sure that when I see “pod” I think “community.”
- Clan – Another word for “family.” Could work – I think I like it much better than murder.
- Mob - I don’t think I want my online community to be described as a mob. I get a torch and pitchfork vibe.
- Posse – Hmmm. Have to think about this one.
- Cult - Come and drink the Kool Aid.
- Gathering - Like it. Has a sort of company or family picnic sort of feel.
- Club – Indeed, a club is a community but is it too exclusive?
- Circle – Like it – like “circle of friends.”
- Crew – A group of people working together? I can see the benefits.
- Friends – How can I find fault with that?
- Advocates – A nice word for folks who are feeling the vibe and spreading the word.
- Team - There’s no “I.”
- Folks - While a comfortable term, one I use a lot, I tend to use it more for individual people than an entire community.
- Participants - Like members I find this term to be more about the individual than the entire group.
What are some words you can think of for online community?