People are seeking more community on social media. Discover what micro communities are and how they can help your brand connect with its customers.
The Dalai Lama once said:
“We human beings are social beings…there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.”
This has been true throughout human history. Long ago this looked like small groups living together in caves, bonding over their shared need for safety and resources. As we evolved humans found different ways to connect over shared interests and needs—religious groups, artisan guilds, universities, social clubs, and so on.
And in our modern society, we have a whole new panorama for creating community: the Internet. It’s now easier than ever to connect with people who share the same interests and needs, even if those are super niche.
Despite the sometimes overwhelming span of social media, it allows us to create close-knit communities with people who we come to know and trust. These are called micro communities. Keep reading to learn more about them and find out how they can benefit your brand.
What are micro communities?
Micro communities are exclusive online spaces that unite people for a shared purpose or interest. They exist on Instagram, Facebook, Discord, Slack, and other platforms that let people connect and interact.
The purpose of micro communities is for people to cut through the noise and find a place that matters to them. Social media is a massive landscape, and everyone has something to share. It’s easy to feel lost and anonymous on these platforms.
That feeling of anonymity is what micro communities counteract. A micro community is a safe space, where users feel comfortable and can be raw, leading to more authentic connections with others.
For example, the She Hit Refresh Facebook group is a micro community for women 30 years or older who want to refresh their lives by traveling long-term or moving abroad. Here, women can ask questions, trade stories, or just look for motivation from other people with similar interests and situations.
With micro communities, it’s all about quality over quantity. It’s like that old quote: It’s better to have a few good friends than many acquaintances.
How are micro communities different from brand communities?
There’s an important distinction between micro communities and brand communities.
Brand communities revolve around a specific brand and its products. For example, Glossier has a private Slack channel for its top 100 customers. And Gucci started a Discord server.
In these communities, people get together to discuss their favorite products, get validation for their purchases, ask questions to other users, and chat about topics in the brand’s industry.
Micro communities aren’t built around a brand, but an interest, like vegan recipes, clean beauty, vintage designer fashion, learning Korean, and so on.
Here’s an example to help you visualize this. There’s a very large online community built around beauty. Then, certain people who are interested in beauty also belong to the micro community that focuses on vegan beauty. Finally, the people interested in vegan beauty have a range of brands to choose from, but some of them will belong to the brand community for vegan, cruelty-free beauty brand Versed.
For brands, the magic happens when they can connect the two smaller circles. You want to create a micro community that’s not overly promotional, but where user interests align with what your brand can offer.
Setting up engaging communities on social media cuts through the clutter and attracts the audience to a space where they truly want to spend time. And this gives you a prime space for getting your brand mixed into the conversation.
Why are micro communities worth it?
So what makes micro communities worth it? Why should brands start and nurture them?
Micro communities build brand loyalty and trust
When done well, micro communities build empathy and loyalty for your brand. And this can mean more sales in the long term.
Micro communities enable you to interact with your audience on a much more personal level. This helps the audience feel more connected to your brand, and these positive connections in turn increase the chances of people becoming customers and even loyal brand advocates.
Brand advocates are incredibly valuable to businesses. These are the people who are most likely to refer customers, help with testing out new products, and leave good reviews for you on review sites. These things might sound like throwaways, but take it from someone who works in marketing that they’re incredibly valuable and not always easy to achieve.
Members can offer you valuable feedback and insights
Another benefit of micro communities is that they can help you get valuable feedback about your products. When you want to know what customers think, don’t assume or guess. Get into your micro communities and ask them.
You can also get feedback about your industry. I said above that you don’t want to make your micro communities too brand-focused. If you leave it more open-ended, you allow users to speak more freely about industry-related topics. This might help you identify new customer needs and pain points, or inspire you to create a completely new product.
Micro communities can help you amp up your branding
If you’re not focusing on promoting your products 100% of the time, you can delve into other aspects of your brand. This gives you the freedom to try out different tactics in your niche and see what resonates with people.
For example, you might provide insider tips or resources that help the audience solve or avoid common problems. Or you can help people network by hosting discussions and online events to drum up audience participation.
These types of actions might not get you a certain number of new sales in any given week, month, or quarter. But what they do is build your authority as a reference in your niche, and build those positive relationships with potential customers that I mentioned above.
Micro communities also help you see how real people talk about your products and industry. This can help you tweak your brand positioning and communications. Maybe you’ll discover a new use for your product you’d never thought of. Or maybe you’ll find there’s a simpler, clearer way to describe what your product does.
Micro communities can bolster your content strategy
Another benefit you can reap from micro communities is user-generated content, or UGC. UGC is content created by users (or UGC creators) that brands later repurpose for other marketing channels, like their landing pages or paid ads.
74% of customers feel frustrated when website content isn’t personalized. In today’s fast-paced world, just a single moment of frustration can be the difference between a sale and a website exit. UGC can help you avoid this, as it lets you show potential customers content from people like them, thus personalizing their experience and hopefully removing their frustrations.
And if you set up and nurture micro communities, you might find users posting this type of content without even being asked to. If you get their permission to recuse this content, you have new, customer-personalized materials to work into your content calendar.
Even better, if you identify a few users creating this type of content, you can bring them on board as UGC creators to create content for you in the future. Imagine you’re launching a new product and want some content featuring users using it. Set up a product seeding campaign and reach out to the creators you found in your micro community.
You can find new influencers among members
Similar to finding UGC creators among your micro communities, you might also find new influencers you can work with to promote your brand. And discovering influencers who are already brand fans will lead to stronger collaborations.
Keep in mind that micro influencers are perfectly viable options for influencer marketing, and a lot of the time are more successful than top influencers because of their highly engaged audiences.
If you identify influencers within your micro community, they may be able to introduce you to other relevant micro communities, too. This gives you even more opportunities to capitalize on the benefits of micro communities.
Tips for starting a micro community
So, convinced to start your own micro community? Here are some tips to help you get started.
Know your audience
You can’t build a community without understanding who that community is for. Who’s your target audience? What do they want out of a community? How do their wants match up with what your brand can provide?
There needs to be an obvious link between the micro community and your brand. If you’re a sustainable fashion line you’ll want to find people who are interested in ecological issues, for example.
Whatever your topic, the ultimate goal should be an engaged community. You want to create connections between your brand and the people in the community, and between the customers themselves.
To do this, think about what these people want, need, and expect from such a community. If you’re not clear on this, do some research before starting your micro community. Ask questions, post surveys, and even host some user interviews to get on the same page as your audience.
Choose the right platform
Knowing your audience also includes knowing where they spend their time. You have lots of options of platforms where you can start your micro community. A few examples are:
- Facebook groups
Think about how your target audience consumes content, and what type of content resonates with them. If it’s highly visual content, Instagram might be a good bet. Or if they want to be able to comment and reply easily, Reddit might suit them better. Do they love video games and coding? Discord might be more up their alley.
Tell stories and ask questions, don’t just promote
As I’ve already mentioned a few times: micro communities are not places where you should shamelessly promote your products. People tune out overly advertorial messages, and being too pushy can drive people away from your brand.
Instead, focus on engaging the audience. Tell stories, share experiences, and focus on creating an emotional connection instead of an economical one.
Also, remember that your goal isn’t just to connect your brand to the audience. You also want to connect audience members to each other. Ask questions that help community members get to know each other, host member takeovers, or encourage short videos about member experiences.
Bringing out these shared experiences will help people feel more comfortable, connected, and fulfilled in your micro community. And this can then transfer into positive brand affinity.
Work with your existing brand ambassadors
When starting a micro community, take advantage of any existing brand ambassadors you’re already working with. They might already belong to other micro communities in the same niche and be able to give you tips about what works and what doesn’t.
Or, they could help you build up your new micro community. Brand ambassadors can get the word out to their followers that there’s a new community forming. And they can be useful in sparking conversations and getting the ball rolling in your new community.
Build an appealing referral program
When you create a micro community, you should consider having an appealing referral program already in place. This way, your customers have more incentive to promote your products. Organic promotion by existing customers is going to come across as more authentic to other members of the micro community.
93% of people have made buying decisions based on online reviews. And when those reviews come from someone you interact with regularly—like what happens in a micro community—that makes them even more valuable.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating a referral program:
- Make it user-friendly. It should be easy to understand and easy to join. Don’t create unnecessary hurdles that will turn people off.
- Set up a great incentive. You might want to offer a discount, store credit to use in the future, or gifts. Consider offering the benefit to both the referrer and the new customer, so that everyone involved in the process feels incentivized to participate.
- Let ambassadors promote referrals as they see fit. Give your brand ambassadors creative freedom when promoting your referral program. If you tell them what to say or where to say it, it will come off feeling forced. Let them use their voice and judgment.
Micro communities are a great way to connect with your target audience. True, you will be reaching a smaller number of people. But the people you do reach are much more likely to be engaged and interested in what your brand can offer. Just remember to converse, not promote, to make sure you add value to the micro community.