How to map your online audiences

Our map explores the types of online communities that exist and how you might use them as part of your community engagement work

Whatever community you’re looking to connect with or learn from, you’ll be able to find them online. In this guide, we map out five types of online community you might want to find and work with:

What types of online communities are there?


This is where people share their views on local issues, and ask for help when they need it. You’ll need to invest time in these spaces and think laterally in order to find the most relevant groups.


Tiny villages or small housing estates will have their own online communities. These are likely to be more restricted but by definition are very relevant to a small audience.


Whatever industry or type of work you’re looking for, you will find busy communities of relevant staff online. Sometimes these will be official spaces linked to membership organisations, or they could be unofficial and volunteer-led.

Campaigns & issues

Online communities are the perfect way for people to mobilise around a single topic. It’s tempting to reach for the nearest hashtag search, but the most informed and long-standing conversations are likely to be in forums that represent broad audience groups.

Hobbies & specialists

Whatever the topic, however niche, there will be an online community talking every day. There’s a depth of passion and knowledge here but be sure to balance the views you read in these spaces, with others.

Download: Mapping your online audiences (PDF)

How can I find and engage the online communities relevant to my work?

It helps to have a method in mind for your audience and influencer mapping. We help our clients use low-cost tools to search, triage and analyse for influence, and apply thoughtful interpretation to the influencers and communities identified. We can bring the landscape to life in workshops or as clear mapping reports, helping you to integrate community outreach into your communications strategy.

Social listening skills are important. It’s not just about putting tools in place and counting mentions of keywords though – we help clients set a clear strategy for listening aligned with business goals – not simply reporting numbers of mentions or engagements.

Because ultimately, the point of online audience mapping is community engagement: being able to offer something valuable to your customers or stakeholders, and be a meaningful participant in their space. Taking a community management approach helps with this, whether it’s a space that you’ve set up, or one where you’re a guest.