Ever wonder how some businesses and content creators just seem to get everything right? As a result, they have excellent products and amazing content.
It's as if they know exactly what their customers and audience want. The truth is, they do!
So, how do these brands acquire such crucial information? The answer is Micro-Communities!
A micro-community is a group of people laser-focused on a particular topic (genre or niche). People in a micro-community are ever-ready to deliver feedback and participate in productive discussions.
Companies are building micro-communities made up of people that are laser-focused on their brands, products, and services. These micro-communities provide the imperative feedback and research needed to develop exceptional products, services, and content.
Content creators are also developing micro-communities that provide feedback and useful ideas for new content.
In this guide, we talk more about the benefits of having a micro-community and how you can build your own micro-community from scratch.
But first, let's take a closer look at what actually is a micro-community.
What Is a Micro-Community, and What Are Its Benefits?
A micro-community is a small, distinct group of people with similar values, interests, or relationships.
This could be an online forum between animal enthusiasts, a rural town with the same culture and beliefs, or even colleagues at work.
The Vent App is a platform that allows users to freely vent their frustrations instead of negatively venting on social media (and having to face the consequences).
This community has people that provide support, advice, and more. An essential part of such a community is that members provide value to each other and to the cause they support. In this case, it is having an emotional outburst online.
While a micro-community doesn’t require specific characteristics to define it, what makes one unique is that there tends to be strong communication and understanding among its members.
Online micro-communities have increased in popularity. People find value in a community willing to provide genuine insights (feedback, advice, reviews, etc.).
Benefits of an online micro-community:
- Youtubers can research the type of content to make through suggestions from subscribers.
- Online Course Creators can provide additional knowledge and accept feedback on their courses. They can also take part in discussions that can lead to updating their course, or ideas on what course to develop next.
- SaaS Brands can provide support to customers. They can achieve this by directly chatting with customers or by assigning volunteers from within the community. A micro-community of beta testers is essential to developing new software.
- Online Stores can conduct research based on their customer’s experience with their products. This valuable feedback can be used to develop and improve future products.
Youtuber, CinnamonToastKen encourages his audience to share new content ideas or videos that he can react to.
Source: Twitter @cinnamontoastk
Micro-communities very much exist in the real world. People in a close-knit community with similar interests or beliefs foster a sense of camaraderie that often benefits its members in practical ways.
From sharing resources such as cars for transportation to providing emotional support during difficult times, the people within micro-communities often have what it takes to assist one another beyond just conversation.
This guide will focus more on online micro-communities and how your brand can benefit from having one of your own.
The Different Types of Micro-Communities
Micro-communities are all around us, found in the most random places—from an online book club to a weekly pick-up soccer game.
They may be tiny and often contain only a handful of community members, but they can form powerful connections and grow into larger communities.
The types of micro-communities vary: some are based on lifestyle and interests, whereas others concentrate on specific types of goals such as conflict resolution or economic and social justice.
Whether the motivation is friendship, intellectual stimulation, or activism, micro-communities come together to achieve shared objectives or just enjoy each other's company.
Micro-communities have been around for ages in forums, social media groups, and messaging apps like Whatsapp Groups. Online micro-communities aim to mimic the benefits of real-world communities.
By definition, most online micro-communities are less than 30 users. However, brands like Glossier successfully built a micro-community on Slack comprising 100 of their top loyal customers.
A Slack channel of Glossier’s top 100 customers allowed the brand to receive exceptional feedback. Brands would pay top money for this kind of feedback and research.
Glossier can easily upgrade its products as per customer feedback. Over time, Glossier’s products and services will evolve into a unique and personal experience tailored to their community of customers’ needs.
Online Micro-Community Platforms
Brands, marketers, and content creators regularly find success through constructing online micro-communities. Similar to how Glossier built its close-knit Slack community.
So, which online platforms are best for micro-communities? Here are a few:
- Facebook - Creating private groups on Facebook that includes customers is ideal for research purposes. Users can provide valuable insights regarding their experience with your product or service.
- Discord/Slack - These communication services allow brands to build communities filled with channels open to discussions from users. While both are similar in many ways, there are some considerable differences. The niche you and your customers are in will determine which platform you use.
- Reddit - Users can create posts that initiate conversations and discussions. With Reddit, there’s a lot of control given to the users that continually post content. You will have to moderate duplicate or irrelevant content consistently.
- Website Forum - Online stores and blogs can benefit from integrating a forum into their site. Customers can get support for the products they buy and provide support and feedback to other customers that buy the same product. If a need for a product arises in the forum, then that user can simply be redirected to the store.
You can build online communities on social platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. However, You may not have as much control over your audience as you would in a private forum or group.
Your audience can become saturated with inactive users who do not contribute to your online community.
3. The Importance of Trust in a Micro-Community
Trust plays a vital role in micro-communities, where trust builds relationships, ensures safety, improves communication, and fosters collaboration.
Without trust in each other, a micro-community can dry up quickly as individuals start to become less willing to put faith or trust in one another.
For example, trust boosts efficiency and productivity when community members understand each other's strengths and weaknesses and are willing to collaborate. They also are quick to trust the competence of the other members of the micro-community, which helps them take the initiative without waiting for approval from others.
Building trust between team members encourages risk-taking, boosts morale, and enhances commitment.
Micro-communities with high trust levels experience increased engagement among members, improved team performance, and fast decision-making, which ultimately leads to increased economic benefits for the community.
Source: Shopify Blog
The challenge is to build a valuable micro-community. This may depend on your goal. If you are looking for feedback, then it's best to invite your top customers to your community first. Brands looking to research ways to improve their product or service can invite people within their niche or users from a competitor's audience.
It's crucial that you moderate your community accordingly. Unruly users (if not dealt with appropriately) can discourage valuable community members from participating in discussions.
More on micro-community moderation in section 6 below:
Choosing the Right Platform
Micro-communities differ from traditional communities in that they focus on a particular niche. Niches such as music, fitness, or even discussing current news topics.
You must choose a platform that is relevant to your niche. For example, it's no use creating a Discord community when most of your users are on Facebook.
All brands and industries are not created equal, so you must carefully select your platform before investing your time in building your community. Research competing brands and your niche to see which platform is popular with your target audience.
For example, product-centric communities are becoming even more popular. There's a Sub-Reddit dedicated to just the Apple iPad.
Source: Reddit r/ipad
This iPad community offers support, tips, buying advice, and more to each other. Apple can undoubtedly benefit from such a community. So, it makes sense for brands to build micro-communities around their products (and brand).
Reddit is an excellent platform that encourages users to build and support their communities by creating posts and commenting. So, a product-centric community will certainly work on Reddit. However, beta-testing communities may not work best on Reddit. Slack might be the right place for this.
Here are some ideas and examples of brands with micro-communities in their ideal platform:
- VYPER created a Private Facebook Group exclusively for customers for feedback and support.
- MKBHD created a Discord to accept new video suggestions and ideas. Great idea to figure out what content to produce next.
- Daybridge created a Slack channel for their beta testers. Their email client software is free and in beta mode. Daybridge continually improves its software based on feedback and discussions from chatting with its beta testers.
- Neil Patel has a Private Facebook Group for everyone that buys his online course. This allows users to exchange feedback with each other. New users can post questions that older users can easily answer. This is a perfect onboarding strategy for course creators.
- KSI (and other YouTubers) use Reddit to encourage subscribers to post content to make him laugh. He then films himself reacting to the content and then turns it into his own content for YouTube.
Pro Tip: Content Creators that offer paid memberships (like a Patreon) can further develop their members into a micro-community. Let paying members offer content ideas, requests, shoutouts, and more.
Releasing new content to paying members first is also a good idea to test out new ideas and content before it gets uploaded to larger platforms.
Do you want to know how to charge your audience (or micro-community) for your content?
Click here for a comprehensive guide on How To Charge For Content.
5. How To Maintain Healthy Relationships in a Micro-Community
Maintaining healthy relationships in a micro-community should always be a top priority.
It can often feel like maintaining strong relationships with micro-community members is an ongoing, time-consuming process. However, it's important to remember that maintaining these relationships makes your micro-community stronger and more successful.
To maintain great relationships within a micro-community, you should
- Ensure that everyone follows effective communication practices by listening actively and showing empathy and understanding.
- Maintaining open lines of communication is key for encouraging trust within the group.
- Making a concerted effort to be helpful and supportive contributes significantly to maintaining positive micro-community relationships.
- Climate all conversations with active listening, so everyone feels heard and respected in an open dialogue.
- Celebrating accomplishments together as a team can be powerful for maintaining strong collective bonds among the members of the micro-community.
6. The Role of Moderation in a Micro-Community
Moderation is vital in providing a safe, comfortable space for micro-communities.
Since information is spread quickly and widely among community members, moderation is necessary to ensure that all content follows specific guidelines. This helps to protect the safety of everyone involved.
Moderation prevents malicious content from being posted and can help intercept conflict before it becomes an issue. The moderation team also ensures that members remain respectful of one another, avoiding insults, threats, or other forms of abuse.
So, moderation helps create a safe environment and a strong sense of harmony in any micro-community.
Here are a few tips on moderating micro-communities:
- Establish Rules - Clearly state your community's rules and develop a Code of Conduct. Users should have easy access to the community rules. If it's difficult to find the rules, then banning a user who cannot view the rules can seem unfair.
- Escalate and Enforce - Create a clear path of moderation that has genuine consequences. For example, a 3-strike rule that allows you to issue warnings while educating users before you can suspend or ban them.
- Be Consistent - Consistently moderate infractions early on to set the tone of the community. If you let things slide often, users may take advantage and remain out of line. This can discourage other users that play by the rules.
- Let Others Help - Once you have set the tone, let other community members have a go at moderation. If you notice an infraction, wait a while to see if a community member reports it. If this happens often, you should consider recruiting volunteer moderators.
- Listen - A user may have broken your guidelines, but for a good reason. Allow that user to dispute the strike you may have given them. If they have a solid case, then you should consider reversing their strike.
With moderation in place, members are more likely to remain part of the community and support each other's growth.
TL;DR: What is a Micro Community
Micro-communities are a small group of people that share a common interest in a niche, product, or brand. Members are usually razor focused on their topic and are dedicated to sharing knowledge, advice, expertise with each other to the benefit of the community.
Popular brands and content creators use micro-communities to conduct valuable research that will help them develop better products and unique content. Brands that have found success with micro-communities have used social media platforms like Slack, Discord, and Facebook.
Micro-communities seem to work best when its a small group of dedicated members, around 30. Some brands like Glossier achieved so much with around 100 members. Larger brands achieve similar success with micro-communities that have thousands of members because they have the resources to handle that many people.
So, tell us, what do you think of micro-communities. Do you think it is beneficial for brands? Should all brands strive to build a micro-community?