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Macro vs Micro Community Building

May 31, 2018
April 2, 2024

Is it better to connect 10,000 people with each other or 1000 groups of 10 people together?The answer is they're both good, but offer a *very* different experience for members.In a recent CMX Pro expert call with Carla Fernandez and Lennon Flowers, we discussed this topic of micro vs macro community building. Carla and Lennon are the Cofounders of The Dinner Party, a global community where members cohost potluck dinners, and create a safe space to discuss the reason they're all there: they've experienced a significant loss.They have thousands of members in over 100 cities around the world, but members only experience this community in highly intimate settings: dinners of about 6-10 people.They could be even bigger if they wanted to, but they've chosen to grow slowly, in order to preserve what they believe is the key to their community's success: micro-interactions.When someone applies to join the community, The Dinner Party doesn't just add them to a local dinner. They ask them a bunch of questions about their life, their hobbies, their work and anything else that might help them get a better idea of who they'd want to connect with.Because for The Dinner Party, their goal to date hasn't been to connect their thousands of members with each other. Their goal has been to connect small groups to each other in a highly intimate, meaningful way. Only now, 8 years later, are they thinking about macro community.If this sounds rare in the professional community building world, that's because it is. It's just not how most companies build communities. Most companies start macro, then think about the micro. They grow their community to thousands of members, and then think about how they might be able to connect smaller groups. It's rare they start micro, and then go macro.One way isn't necessarily better than another. But the best communities I've seen do have a good balance of both macro and micro-experiences. They have a space where everyone can come together, and talk to many people at once, and they have more intimate spaces where members can develop deeper, ongoing relationships.Often companies are launching community programs for customers, and they have thousands of customers, so they invite them all at once. It's a hard strategy to get to work, because members lose out on the opportunity to form relationships in smaller group settings.Micro experiences is where magic can really happen, especially if they can happen consistently, with the same group of people. This is how it works at The Dinner Party. The members at a dinner party don't change very often, so members know they'll see the same people every time. This means they don't have to introduce themselves, and go over their story every time. Everyone there knows them, they know their story, and they can just check in on how they're doing at that moment. It's these ongoing shared stories and experiences that allow real, deep relationships to form.Now imagine if even 10% of your community members could develop deep, ongoing relationships with just one other person in your community. How much more meaningful would the community become? How much more loyal and engaged would that 10% be?If you're only building macro community, what can you do to create micro experiences?The only real way to do this at scale is to distribute control. Give your members the opportunity to create their own experiences.Many companies are doing this already with distributed events, like the Google Developer Groups program. With events at hundreds of cities around the world, organized by community members, Google gives their developers an opportunity to connect with smaller groups of people in their own local communities.How can you take it further and focus on micro community building? Can your members host dinners like The Dinner Party? Can it be as simple as coffee, walks, discussion groups, etc?The key is that each group is:

  • Intimate
  • Meets regularly
  • Upholds your community values and guidelines
May 31, 2018
April 2, 2024

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