By Pamela Parker | ClickZ News
Nearly 40 percent of Americans say they participate in online communities, with sites around hobbies, shared personal interests, and health-related issues among the most popular. That’s according to a survey conducted by ACNielsen and commissioned by eBay.
The survey was conducted in late September. Of 1,007 respondents, 87 percent say they are part of a community. Of those, 66 percent say they participate in shared personal interest sites. Next comes hobby sites (62 percent), health community sites (55 percent), public issues sites (49 percents), and commerce sites (47 percent). Others participate in social or business networking sites (42 percent), sports sites (42 percent), alumni sites (39 percent), or dating sites (23 percent).
“We are finding that affinity is quickly replacing proximity as the key driver in forming communities,” said Bruce Paul, vice president of ACNielsen.
The survey is particularly interesting given the trend toward marrying marketing with community. E-commerce sites such as Overstock.com and Buy.com are incorporating social networking features into their sites. InterActiveCorp’s Evite is expanding the social networking aspects of its service. POPstick last week said it’s developing social network marketing. Meanwhile, startup players like Judy’s Book, Insider Pages, and Yelp! are using community to add value to their directories of local businesses. EBay, which sponsored the study, uses discussion boards and a feedback system to foster a sense of community. The auction giant also recently bought an interest in community site craigslist.
“I think that a lot of people initially connect [on online communities] because they share information, which for a site like eBay is beneficial because they learn and grow from each other,” said Rachel Makool, director of community relations for eBay. “Then, of course, relationships form, and they grow from there.”
Researchers note that among offline communities, only membership in religious congregations (59 percent), social groups (54 percent), and neighborhood groups (52 percent) are more common than participation in online communities (39 percent). Professional groups (37 percent), activity groups (32 percent), school volunteer groups (30 percent), and health/country clubs (31 percent) came in behind online communities.
The study also shows that though 30 percent of online community members interact on a daily basis, only 7 percent of offline community members interacted that often. It also reveals that 47 percent of offline communities have an online component, such as e-mailing or chatting online.