Logging into Fast Company’s new online community (fastcompany.com now in public beta) a few weeks ago was a neat perk of having a social media friend at a big company. I took my head start, got in, played around for a few hours, liked what I saw, then moved on to something else, forgetting to come back to it. Silly me.FastCompany.com screen shotShel  Israel’s post Friday reminded me I was a member of the Fast Company community and I should go back and see if I could find more friends that might start hanging out there, producing content, sharing ideas and all the things that come from social networks.

The Fast Company online community is, on the surface, a Facebook-type environment for those interested in innovation, technology, business and management. However, on this login I began to notice the little things that make it different.

Like the single question community forum off to the right side. FastCompany.com senior editor Lynne D. Johnson’s question was the one cued up for me when I logged in. It read, “Can a business publication blend journalism and online community to create something better than either by itself?”

My answer inspired this post. Here’s why I think the future of media outlets is bright if they follow Fast Company’s lead and build branded microcommunities for their readers instead of boring information sources.

It is easier to self-identify as someone who reads a publication than someone who evangelizes a brand. That, mixed with the fact that everyone wants to feel included, to own a part of something, and you have media outlets offering perhaps the best opportunity to build branded online communities.

I see myself as a Fast Company reader. I see myself in that demographic, not because I fit their demographic profile but because people who read it are people I identify with and share commonalities with. These are folks I’d want to hang out with. As much as I like a certain brand of whiskey, car, restaurant or vacation spot, there is a higher chance that people who aren’t quite like me are there, too.

Publications, particularly magazines, offer that unity in mind, spirit and sometimes even body for their readers. Think of it like this: Picture what you imagine to be the typical Car and Driver reader. Now picture what you imagine the typical Better Homes & Gardens reader to be. They’re different, aren’t they? They probably wouldn’t choose to hang out with each other when given the opportunity to socialize. But give them the option of attending a cocktail party or lunch with other readers of the magazine they like and there’s a tendency to think, “There will be cool people there I share interests with.”

Now picture the same thing for Target and Coconuts, a chain music store. Can you see Target enthusiasts wanting to hang out with each other? Coconuts? Sure there would be segments of these customer bases that would gravitate to one another, but I’d bet you could take the divisions in the room and find commonalities in what they read for fun.

Your media outlet of choice doesn’t necessarily define who you are, but who you might want to be. Everyone wants to be a part of a something greater, so it’s only natural to gravitate to the greater that is just like you. This is why media outlets with branded microcommunities can and will succeed.

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. The New FastCompany.com: Most Social Of Media Company Sites
  2. FastCompany Goes SUPER Social
  3. Niches Happen
  4. B2B Social Networking Usage
  5. Identity Fragmentation And Social Networking

[tags]Fast Company, microcommunities, social networking, networking, FastCompany.com, media, journalism, newspapers, magazines[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/02/09/an-initial-analysis-of-the-fast-company-community/ Jeremiah Owyang

    Jason

    While I agree with you that this is an interesting blend and very innovative, that’s not enough to guarantee success

    I’ve posted some additional analysis here:
    http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/02/09/an-initial-analysis-of-the-fast-company-community/

  • Pingback: Fast Company launches Social Journalism Network | Blog World Expo Blog

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Jeremiah,

    Thanks for again stopping by. I enjoyed your assessment and commented there as well. Agreed that there are always technical and user experience issues that might hinder the ideal operation of a community tool, but I think the important factor is the community. Media sites, especially magazines covering niche topics, have a much better chance of bringing like minds, backgrounds and aspirations together. Thus, I would still argue Fast Company has it licked. I want to hang out with other Fast Company readers. These are movers and shakers and those who want to be movers and shakers in the tech/marcomm/business world. They’re my kind of peeps.

    As on your site, I would say that’s much more appealing as a community than a Sony affinity group. Lots of people, many of whom I share nothing else in common, dig fancy big TVs.

    Thanks for your thorough and thoughtful analysis, however. I would encourage everyone to read it and see a more critical take on FastCompany.com.