Term to know: Affinity Group

Affinity Group

I’m starting to hear this term more and more as it relates to modern Web Marketing.

Thanks to the “live web” or the “interactive web” or the “Social web”, birds of a feather can find each other, share, and build communities around common interests. These groups communicate fluidly amongst each other, and are known to be able to push out ‘top down’ marketers and advertising. Which, as we know is a threat to corporations and organizations that do not adapt to the changes in communication.

In many ways, Affinity groups act like a collective being:

“Affinity groups are organized in a non-hierarchical manner, usually using consensus decision making, and are often made up of trusted friends or other like-minded people. They provide a method of organization that is responsive, flexible and decentralized. Affinity groups can be based on a common ideology (eg. anarchism), a shared concern for a given issue (eg. anti-nuclear) or a common activity, role or skill (eg. street medics). Affinity groups may have either open or closed membership, although the latter is far more common.”


These groups share many of the following traits:

  • common interests or goals
  • decentrally organized
  • rarely a clear leader
  • trusted by other prospects
  • empowered to act
  • able to share product and brand experiences with each other
  • often void of invasive marketing
  • may have restrictive membership
  • likely use the web to find each other, then congregate
  • I find this term to represent a specific part of a community, it appears this is the “inner track” of a community, those that actively share, and actively lead others.

    A Community may includes those who just watch and do not participate, while and affinity group appears to be more active in a consensus type behavior.

    As it relates to the web, these types of communities even around products are starting to form. I can think of a dozens and dozens of car sites where membership into the regional areas around a car brand is exclusive. This means, that dealers, auto service, and other vendors have difficulty penetrating these groups. Anywhere there is passion, will you find other affinity groups.

    How to handle?

    Marketers and Advertisers will need to start gearing the war machines not to carpet bomb with ads, direct mail, and other intrusive methods, and start to use the tools that these groups and communities are also using.

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