NYU + Facebook + Network Capital = Power of Virtual Communities

Key takeaways + ideas for the community you want to build

NYU’s The Governance Lab has launched a report on ‘The Power of Virtual Communities’. How did this report come to life?

🛠50 community leaders

✅ 26 experts in the field

📚Review of over 150 academic articles

📝29 pieces of internal Facebook research

It is a huge honor for us to be featured here alongside Harvard University and University of Oxford professors, all thanks to the wonderful Network Capital community we have co-created. Thank you 🚀

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Key Takeaways and Insights

  • Issued by The Governance Lab, The Power of Virtual Communities report examines the role and impact of digital communities today. 

  • The report shows these communities play a vital role in connecting people and providing emotional support. 

  • In 11 out of the 15 nations surveyed the largest proportion of people said the most important group in their lives is primarily online. Forty-six percent of Americans say their most important group is online while 30 percent say it’s in-person. 

  • Many of these communities exist in Facebook groups. More than 1.8 billion people use Facebook Groups every month, and more than half of all users are in five or more groups. Report findings note that: 

    • People can experience a strong sense of community from membership in Facebook groups despite the lack of physical proximity.

    • In many cases online groups attract members and leaders who are marginalized in the physical societies they inhabit, and who use the platform to build new kinds of community that would be difficult to form otherwise.

    • With more than 70 million admins and moderators running active Facebook groups, it’s important to understand the conditions under which these groups are able to successfully become meaningful communities, as well as the characteristics of the community leaders that create and support them.

    • New kinds of community leaders have emerged in these groups with unique skills in moderating often divisive dialogues, sometimes among millions of members.

    • Most groups are run as a labor of love; many leaders are neither trained nor paid and the rules that govern their internal operations are often uncodified.

This report further shines a light on the role leaders have and why it is important to further support them in running their community. Facebook provides support to all community leaders through tools and programs such as the Facebook Certified Community Manager program and Community Accelerator. 


Q. What is The Power of Virtual Communities Report?

A. The Power of Virtual Communities Report has been written by The Governance Lab, a nonprofit, nonpartisan action research organization with deep expertise exploring the nature and impact of digital communities. The report builds on a 15,000 respondent global survey by YouGov, interviews with 50 community leaders and 26 community experts, and a review of over 150 academic articles and 29 pieces of internal Facebook research. 

Q. How did The GovLab choose which Facebook groups to profile? 

A. With 1.8 billion people participating in Groups on Facebook this report sought to understand the factors behind the success of those that are most impactful and effective. Facebook’s Community Partnerships Team surfaced a selection of several hundred thriving Groups from which the GovLab team selected those they wanted to interview. 

Q. Who was interviewed for this report?

A. The GovLab interviewed 50 leaders of Facebook groups from 17 countries, 26 digital community “experts” in 11 countries, analyzed internal Facebook research, conducted a literature review of more than 150 academic articles and studies across disciplines focused on virtual communities. 

Q. Who funded the report?

A. While Facebook funded the report, provided access to its own internal research and introductions to community admins and moderators, the GovLab team are the sole authors and maintained the highest standards of academic integrity. 

Q. Where is the survey data from that is mentioned in this report?

A. In August 2020, Facebook and the data analytics firm YouGov conducted the Communities Insights Survey, an online survey in 15 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Egypt, France, Indonesia, India, Kenya, Morocco, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. More than 1,000 respondents in each country were asked about the groups they belong to, what makes these groups meaningful, and the leadership traits that make them successful. 

Q. Will this be an annual report? 

A. We are always looking at opportunities to spotlight and support communities and community leaders. While there are no immediate plans to launch an annual report, this report is intended to serve as an anchor for future research around virtual communities and its role in people’s lives. 

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Network Capital’s minimum viable product was a facebook group and we still use it for distribution and community engagement. Big thanks to all our community members, especially those early adopters who made this day possible.

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