The rise of micro-communities online


As the world tires of Facebook’s hamfisted attempts to monetize a new-old paradigm is starting to rise. The early days of Internet was awash with communities such as Usenet and early 21st Century forums. These weren’t replaced by Facebook as many of these communities are still alive and kicking but Facebook sort of stole the social network crown. That crown, it seems, is slipping.

So before organisations run headlong into creating micro-communities there are a few common mistakes and challenges that are worth covering off:

Growth expectations. Communities take time to grow and should be medium or long-term projects. This does not, typically, sit well with typical organisational needs of profit, customer acquisition and sales. The proper investment of time and resources is critical.

Fear. Businesses still fear communities and the concept of community as such: they fear losing control over their brand, so they miss out on one of the most essential forces of today’s connected world. Imagine what would happen if the customer would talk back or, worse, even criticise. We’ve seen, first-hand, the fear in the eyes of the management executive when the idea of letting customers into the company is mooted.

Planning. Building a successful online community is a bit more difficult than setting up a Facebook page. Unless you’ve run and managed lots of online communities then you’ll be largely ploughing your own furrow and dealing with the vagaries of people, egos and emotions. Each target group and their aims are unique so there is no playbook to use, you must approach it with an open mind.

Managing the community. Enabling the community to grow and prosper needs a gentle, farming hand on the tiller. Many organisations underestimate the need for a community manager and fail to see it’s about engagement, interaction and moderation.

Brand clash. This is getting less of an issue now as major brands are now routinely engaging with communities but there is still a concern that “the brand values will not be communicated in the right way”. Brand needs to take a back seat to community aims.

Build it and they will come. No, they won’t. You’ll have to graft hard, encourage, mentor, coach, reward and nurture the community into life. It’s much like starting a new town. You need to provide the core facilities, infrastructure and content just to provide a credible place to be – once you have this in place you then need to dislodge individuals from wherever they hang-out now.

Loyalty and ownership. Folks will keep coming back if they have a sense of community and part of that means they have to feel their investment in time and effort is being rewarded. This is (almost) never in cash terms but in providing a little piece of their own space to call home; might be a title, or a contributor badge or just a say in the direction of the community.

Connected have been building, managing and growing communities for over 10 years and will happily get you started and point out some of the obstacles that you’ll need to address. Speak to me directly on 0113 818 7800 or email me to get started.

By Martin Dower

About The Author

Martin Dower
Martin is CEO & Co-Founder of Connected. He has spent nearly 20 years buried deep inside the guts of the Internet after a career that took him from programming to marketing. He struggles writing stuff like this in the third-person and uses far too many car analogies. Consider following him on Twitter.


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