They say you learn something new every day.
Today, I learned about the existence of the Orlando Facial Hair Club:
A community of people organized specifically around appreciation for mustaches and beards… featuring products and beard-related content and meet-ups of bearded (and beard-loving) people.
Notice that little number down in the corner. Their Facebook supporters number over a thousand strong.
When I found out about this club, I couldn’t help but wonder — could this kind of group have existed without the Internet?
An admittedly quick Google search yielded little information. There are similar clubs throughout the United States, even an annual World Beard and Mustache Championship. And, as best I can tell, all of them have popped up since the rise of the Internet (and most since the rise of social media).
Community Building with Niche Interests on Social Media
Last week Greg asked me (somewhat rhetorically) how people made new friends before the Internet.
But I thought about it seriously, and concluded that, in my view, it seemed like the majority of communities prior to the Internet were contingent on a location, an activity, or both. (Think of churches, exercise classes, sports teams, and things like that.)
The Internet, though, is a wild woolly public forum for ideas and passions of all varieties. Social media buzzes with content of all kinds, putting a spotlight on the day to day, even inane, passions of our daily lives — things like food, movies, music, books, beer, even beards.
And because our online forums can be tailored for local use, we can move those conversations from where they start on the Internet, and take them offline — or make offline communities stronger by supplementing them online. We can pursue our passions together, offline, and geek out about them and share them with other people online.
It’s a beautiful thing.
(Personally, I’m grateful because I believe that the same phenomenon is fueling the rise of nerd-friendly gaming pubs in my area. But that’s another article for another time.)
Community building got a lot easier — and the potential audience got a lot larger — when it moved online. However inane the topic may seem, there are other people out there who care about it. And sometimes it’s the small passions that bring us together in the most powerful ways.
What are your favorite niche online communities? What offline or online communities have enriched your life the most?