On Sept. 10, 2019, Brett Hyman wrote a piece for AdAge, “How Brands Can Build Microcommunities As Cures for Social Isolation.” Although the point of the article was best practices for brands use of influencers, he had no idea how prophetic he would be.
Research has shown that people who spend more time on social media can be twice as likely to perceive themselves as socially isolated. This increased sense of isolation creates a need for more face-to-face interactions, which is why brands like Facebook recognize that community-building in the digital sphere isn’t going to cut it anymore. People need real-life connections.
On December 31, 2019, Chinese authorities rang in the New Year by alerting the World Health Organization of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China, with an unknown cause. Our lives have been forever changed since.
During the Covid 19 pandemic, our social and networking channels have now become our lifeblood: Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn among others. Yet, a deeper human drive to connect in person remains with all of our social distancing and despite our social media usage.
While traditional social media sites have been growing, it seems that we want to do more than just connect through messaging and text — we want to see one another.
– Ella Koeze and Nathaniel Popper, April 7, 2020, The New York Times
Micro community platforms are on the uptick. Zoom Happy Hours and family birthday parties. Google Duo multi-state friend reunions. Nextdoor postings to organize meals to feed elderly neighbors. These platforms are about reaching smaller circles within our direct communities. Their growth is indicative of the need for real human connection. People we care about, people in our actual day-to-day worlds. They’re authentic, not branded blast to the masses or celebrity-driven “we are the world” drum circles.
There is trust in those micro communities; we know each other. In a micro community our voice is more likely to be heard. It brings into the forefront each individual’s role as an influencer and our contributions to the community of which we’re a part.
In our current COVID world, our micro communities are only growing in value. It’s where we share ideas and experiences on day-to-day life: education, parenting, working, entertainment, buying goods and services. They are becoming marketplaces, and as Brett Hyman pointed out even before the pandemic:
Micro-sized communities are the key for modern businesses as smaller channels allow them to connect with highly engaged audiences. Influencers provide one way to access organic, tight-knit communities, but marketers are now moving beyond the digital world and building these communities in the real world.
Brands and marketers are attempting to build these micro communities, part of Hyman’s advice to them still holds true: Let local heroes guide the way. During these times, in addition to connecting like-minded people, do good things in the community to support it, and let the trust and loyal fan base grow naturally.