SocialExternal, Hybrid, and Internal Communities: Why You Should Care

External, Hybrid, and Internal Communities: Why You Should Care

Exploring three social communities and some typical business problems that effective engagement can solve.


Organizations have the above three communities. They have always had these communities.

Whether communication was done via focus groups, feedback forms, 800 numbers, internal meetings, or phone calls, these communities have always existed and have been engaged in some form.

Now we’re seeing new emerging collaborative tools that allow organizations to engage with these communities in a more efficient and mutually beneficial way.

But, who cares about these communities? What business problems can these communities help organizations solve? Glad you asked!

Let’s take a look at what these communities are followed by some of the typical business problems that effective community engagement can solve.

External Communities

This is the “typical” community that is comprised of customers or prospects of a brand or product. These types of communities have little insight into how the organization actually functions and instead relies solely on the information the organization provides. Twitter, Facebook fan pages, message boards, customer community deployments and the like are all usually external communities.

The business problems solved:

  • Innovating new products and services with customer feedback (or modifying existing ones).
  • Marketing or sales relying on social tools and public customer data to improve reach or close deals.
  • Service and support of customers helping each other (or brand helping their customers) via community platforms.
  • PR and crisis communications initiatives.

Hybrid Communities

These communities straddle the line between internal and external. They aren’t quite on the outside of the organization, nor do they have as much information about the company as employees.

Typical hybrid communities exist between partners, suppliers, and vendors. We typically don’t hear as much about these types of communities but they are nonetheless extremely valuable.

Typical business problems solved:

  • Forecasting for a product or service between a brand and a supplier (e.g., Target and Whirlpool) that may sell products in a store. In this case they can collaborate on forecasting units sold.
  • Compliance between a brand and suppliers. Again using the example between Target and Whirlpool, Target can manage all of its suppliers and products via a collaborative portal, allowing Target to see who is meeting standards.
  • Partner collaboration on projects, services, or products. This can be between any two-partner organizations that have a common problem they want to solve. For example, two large architecture firms looking to share best practices around safety with one another.

Internal Communities

These communities are comprised of employees within an organization. Employees are able to find information and subject matter experts as well as manage information and collaborate with each other to solve business problems. Change management and technology adoption is typically a challenge here.

Typical business problems solved:

  • Improved productivity as employees are now able to find information and collaborate in projects more effectively, time in e-mail is reduced.
  • Employee ideation — employees oftentimes have great ideas for how to improve something or cut costs. Internal communities allow these ideas to be heard and implemented.
  • Standardization of processes and business operations, allowing organizations with a widespread geographical reach to “stay on the same page.”
  • Decrease onboarding time of new employees via collaboration tools which allow employees to find the information they need to get up to speed.

Hopefully you find this overview helpful. It’s great for organizations to think about who makes up their communities and what business problems these communities help solve.

This isn’t about social media. It’s about solving problems.

I know I missed some “typical business problems solved,” so if you have any you would like to add, please do so in the comments, perhaps some that pertain specifically to your organization!

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