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Inside the Walled Garden of Social Media Communities

Sarah Steimer

How online communities give marketers a uniquely personal perspective on customer language, behavior and motivations

Across the world, at all hours, people are seeking support.

But they’re not calling their psychiatrist, a trusted confidant or family member. They’re tapping into a network of near-strangers going through similar trials and tribulations. In social media groups and other web communities, people share recipes, discuss workouts and seek advice for side effects of medication. They comment, lament and sometimes just passively observe.

Support networks have long existed to help people reach their goals or grapple with hardship. Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers are familiar examples. Their members are drawn to the camaraderie, accountability and outlet the groups provide for sharing stories, soliciting encouragement and celebrating accomplishments. As with so many other forms of communication, many of these groups have moved online, where they’re sometimes visible to marketers.

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Sarah Steimer is managing editor of Marketing News. She may be reached at ssteimer@ama.org or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.