Within online communities, you’ll often discover smaller groups that hone in on a more specific facet of the original community’s topic of interest. These, as you may have guessed already, are referred to as ‘micro-communities’.
Micro-communities can, and often do, exist as standalone spaces, without needing a larger community to grow out of. But, what is it that sets them apart from a typical community? And what are the benefits of having a more compact or reduced collective of individuals?
In this article, we’ll be looking at:
- What an online community is
- What a micro-community is
- The benefits of micro-communities
- Micro-community example: the PMA Book Club
Let’s explore. 👇
What is an online community?
Before we dive into what a micro-community is, it’ll be helpful to re-iterate what an online community is. Thankfully, we can look back to our previous article that explained community-led growth (CLG) to help us understand online communities.
We defined them as follows:
“Put simply, it’s a group of people with a shared interest who communicate over the internet. They can connect through discussion forums, websites, email, and more, to chat about the interests that unite them.
“These communities are everywhere online. You’re probably a part of several communities without yet even realizing it! Take Twitter for example. If you’re on Twitter, following like-minded people, and interacting with their content - that’s right, you're part of an online community. The same applies to any social networking platform.”
It’s helpful to note that when looking at a community-led growth strategy, the focus tends to be on the branded online community. Which is just like an online community, except it’s designed for customers of a certain brand. These are used as tools to provide customers with more ways to interact with each other, create networking opportunities, reduce the need for customer service or traditional marketing costs, and increase the value of being a customer of the brand in question.
What is a micro-community?
A micro-community refers to a small group of individuals who share a common, very specific interest. What sets it apart from a larger community is the fact that it will focus on a much more specific topic, and members are often united by a common goal or purpose.
For example, if you were to join a community of people who love to knit, you may find that within this community there’s a smaller group of people who are new to knitting, or another that focuses on a particular knitting technique. In these instances, they’ve united over something that’s more distinct, and share a goal of learning how to knit (in the first example) or perfecting something not everyone else is doing (in the second example).
The great thing about micro-communities is that they offer a deeper feeling of connection and understanding. They offer a sense of camaraderie because it allows the chance to engage with others in the same situation.
For someone who’s just joined a knitting community to learn more about knitting, it may feel scary or isolating to not be as advanced as some other members. However, a micro-community that’s solely for the newbies means everyone is on a level playing field, and reaching out for advice can feel that little bit easier.
Okay, that’s enough knitting examples (for now) - let’s dive deeper into the benefits of a micro-community.
Four benefits of micro-communities
Micro-communities, as we mentioned previously, can offer numerous benefits such as:
1. Providing opportunities for deeper connection
Because of their reduced size, it’s only natural that micro-communities tend to be more intimate than larger communities.
Members have the opportunity to build stronger relationships and connect with each other on a deeper level because there’s a significant chance of feeling lost, forgotten, or missed like you could in a larger group.
This can lead to a greater sense of belonging, emotional support, and social engagement.
2. Creating a more targeted focus
Micro-communities can focus on specific interests or goals that are relevant to their members.
This targeted focus allows for more specialized knowledge, expertise or relatability to be shared within the group.
Members can also find greater value in the discussions and activities, as they are tailored to their specific interests.
It also means that these conversations can avoid being lost in larger spaces, and it won’t be shown to those it’s not relevant to - meaning it becomes beneficial to the larger community too!
3. Increasing accountability
Because micro-communities are smaller, members may feel more accountable to each other.
This can lead to greater motivation to achieve goals, meet deadlines, or complete tasks because the members will want to prove themselves to those around them.
Members may also feel a greater sense of responsibility to contribute to the micro-community, as their lack of participation could be more noticeable with fewer people taking part overall.
4. Increased flexibility
With fewer people comes fewer schedules to work with, which can mean it becomes a lot easier to arrange meetings or schedule activities.
In larger communities, it’s often easier to set a time and simply hope that as many people who can make it there, make it there. In a micro-community, members can work around each other's schedules more easily, find more convenient meeting times and ensure the inclusion of everyone.
This flexibility can also come from the increased sense of connection or camaraderie that a micro-community offers. In a smaller space, members can get to know each other really well and start to build a more relaxed or informal atmosphere.
Micro-community example: PMA Book Club
Before we round up the article, we thought it would be a good idea to show a real-world example of a micro-community from within one of our very own sister communities, Product Marketing Alliance.
PMA’s free Slack community is home to over 30,000+ Product Marketing Managers worldwide who come together to share questions, feedback, ideas, and all-round support around product marketing. Within that, members have created a number of micro-communities designed to reflect their more specific interests within the realm of product marketing and to connect more closely with like-minded individuals in the space.
A great example of this is the PMA Book Club.
Each month, members who have joined the community connect to vote for that month’s book of choice. The books themselves, of course, look at different areas within or relevant to product marketing.
Then, when the book’s been voted for and everyone’s had a chance to read it, they all meet up virtually to discuss what they’ve learned, and the general experience they each had reading it.
This is led by the original member who created the micro-community, and guided by a Community Manager to help make sure everything runs smoothly.
Through the use of this micro-community, the avid readers of the PMA group come together to help each other find books they’ll enjoy, hold each other more accountable to actually do the readings as they’ll all be meeting to discuss them, and can grow together in a smaller space with individuals who enjoy the same things they do.
Creating micro-communities can lead to a number of benefits, bringing community members closer together, providing a deeper sense of connection, and greater opportunities to learn and grow.
When individuals come together around a shared interest or passion, they are able to learn from one another and expand their knowledge and understanding of the topic. This happens in larger communities and is increasingly apparent in micro-communities.
Keen to learn more about online brand communities, and how to build one? Our How to Build an Online Brand Community Playbook has got you covered.