What platforms will win the micro-community 'war'? Plus your weekly community tweets and blog posts!
Community Chat Weekly is a newsletter about building and growing communities, featuring collected tweets, posts and thoughts from various community managers.
This piece acts as a bit of a follow-up to a previous CCW issue about Dunbar's Number and limits of community participation. In case you missed it, you can read that post here.
There's a good chance that you've seen someone on Twitter (or 20 people for that matter) talking about the rise of micro-communities over the past few months.
Hundreds of new micro communities are springing up daily on platforms like Slack, Facebook Groups, and Discord – but many people aren't convinced that these platforms represent the right infrastructure for the future of micro-communities.
The potential for 'community overwhelm' or concern over the 'right community infrastructure' is perhaps less a function of the community platforms themselves, and more a result of how we are using the platforms, and limits on our ability to dedicate proper time and level of engagement.
A community is fundamentally different than a social network. You can't treat your Slack communities in the same way that you treat your Twitter and Instagram account — a community isn't (and shouldn't be) something you consume passively through a feed. You can easily follow 1,000 Twitter accounts, but you can't actively participate in 1,000 communities. It is tough to truly be an active participant in more than a handful of communities at one time.
Remember Dunbar's number? A suggested cognitive limit of 150 — the number of people with whom one can maintain active, stable social relationships with. Anything social has a limit, after which a person's ability to keep up with it starts to break down. The higher touch a social relationship is, the lower number of those relationships one can actively maintain, and community participation requires a higher level of touch than social media following.
You get out of community what you put in. And platforms like Slack, WhatsApp, and Discord enable members to participate in significantly more communities than was previously possible. They enable you to access multiple communities within a single app, both on your phone and desktop, rather than having to consciously navigate to a dedicated bookmarked website or open an app for each community you're a member of.
Another reason that we will continue to see micro communities launch and grow on federated platforms such as Slack, Discord and Facebook Groups is because they have strong network effects — each new member increases the value of the overall network and creates stickiness. Community members are already spending time there.
For example, if your target community member uses a Slack team for work, it is much lower friction to get them to participate in a Slack community as compared to asking them to navigate to a dedicated page, forum or app. It is also notoriously difficult to convince people to download another new app – most US consumers download an average of close to zero new apps per month.
Now, no platform is perfect. There is certainly room for new community platforms to rise to prominence and improve some shortcomings of Slack and Facebook, especially if they take a community-first approach. But these new platforms will always struggle to generate and maintain adoption if they aren't capturing network-effect benefits by enabling participation in multiple communities at once.
Discord chat for gamers is the perfect example of a new community platform quickly rising to prominence by allowing users to have one account with access to multiple communities. Discord has quickly become a part of any gamer's daily ‘workflow’.
If you try to treat communities, regardless of what platforms they are on, in the same way that you treat social media, you'll find that you won't get as much value out of them. Pick and choose the few core communities you want to call home, and give them as much as they give you.
How many communities do you actively (at least once per week) participate in?
Let us know by replying to this email or joining the discussion in our community.
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A handful of recommended readings from the past week.
Senior Community Leadership (3 minute read)
The market is getting better at defining what makes a good Community Manager, with characteristics and qualifications such as being a great listener, highly empathetic, a skilled moderator, people focused, and a strong collaborator. What hasn't quite been nailed is what makes a good Senior Community Professional.
Turn Your Customers Into Your Community (4 minute read)
Fresh off the Harvard Business Review Press, this article chronicles the community initiatives of a few notable companies. If companies want to build communities, they will need to keep showing up and be consistent. But beware, the ROI of community investments can’t be measured as immediately or evidently as other tactics like digital advertisements. On the other hand, organizations who don’t make real sustained investments in community will fall behind.
Are Internet Forums Dying Off? (3 minute read)
Before social networks took over the internet, message boards were perhaps the quintessential way for people to come together online and talk about whatever was on their minds. Are social media based communities and new-age community messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Slack slowly killing the forum industry?