Q & A of the Month by Fejen Marketing Agency

Will small online communities become even more important for marketing?

Definetly yes!

Read Duration: 12 minutes


Photo Credit: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

A simple definition: we can define online communities as a group of people with a common interest or purpose who use the internet to communicate with each other. From this point of view, we can consider structures such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Youtube as online communities as a whole.

As it is known, online communities have a very important place in today's marketing strategies. Therefore, understanding the functioning and dynamics of these communities in order to develop successful marketing strategies is of great importance for marketers to reach their target audience.

To better understand how online communities work, it is necessary to understand how users feel within communities. This article on GWI's GlobalWebIndex November 2019 report can give us an idea

How do users feel in the community they belong to?

  • I can have conversations that make sense to me
  • I am respected by others
  • I can be myself
  • I am appreciated by others
  • I can make my voice heard
  • I'm experiencing the feeling of belonging somewhere

At first glance, it may seem rather strange that many people who have different values with each other, such as Facebook, Instagram Reddit, feel this way. But if we take a closer look at user habits, it will be seen that it is small online communities within large online communities that lead to the above positive experiences.

Brooklyn Heights animal rights activists FaceBook group. Users in this small online community can share their opinions, positive or negative developments, predictions and wishes about the animals living in their environment with each other, and since they have the same values, each of them can be highly approved by the community they are in.

As a result of this high approval, they begin to nurture trust and loyalty to the community they are in. It's literally a paradise for the marketing department of a brand that provides products or services for pets or a veterinary clinic.

Reddit sub-channel where users discuss how they value their savings. Users in this small online community can share information about how they use their savings more securely and profitably, comment on the shared information, and each can be highly approved by their community because they have the same interests and concerns.

The result is a high sense of trust and commitment. This community is a haven for the marketing department of a bank or insurance company.

These examples can be multiplied. In order to broaden your perspective, you can describe any brand's social media account and its followers or WhatsApp group, which includes your close friends, as a small online community. Moreover, we can define these small communities as small tribes. Just like in prehistoric times. The only difference today is that we can join more than one tribe online.

In his article for Forbes, Disciple Media founder and CEO Benjamin Vaughan digs deep into online tribes by recalling Maslow's hierarchy of needs and offers us important clues about how these communities work. Benjamin states that online tribes satisfy Maslow's sense of belonging at level 3 and that the functioning within these groups is based on our very primitive needs. You can access the article at this link.

Self Realization

Seeking personal growth

realizing personal potential


Self esteem, esteem

with respect, trust, achievements

Belonging and Love

Friendship, family, intimacy, social groups


Body, work, resource, family, health security

Physiological Needs

Air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sexuality, sleep, homeostasis, excretion

If we recall the GWI report again, there is obviously more than that. We can see that Maslow's needs at the 4th level, namely the esteem level ("I am appreciated by others 21%" and "I am respected by others' scales: 28%") are satisfied through online tribes. Moreover, we can also see the fulfillment of the 5th level needs called self-actualization. (“I can be myself: 24%”) online tribes seem to be helpful.

If we approach the subject in terms of marketing, the fact that consumers can produce their own content in order to express themselves and be approved by those who think like them, within the digital assets that brands have, is much more valuable than the content produced by brands (even if high interaction is provided).

The more tribal features the digital assets of brands have, the more consumers feel they belong to that digital asset, that is, to the online tribe, and therefore to the brand, and this process contributes positively to brand loyalty.

To better understand the tribal factor, a few examples from social life can help us:

  • Having the same value judgments of the tribe and their frequent manifestations. For example, environmental sensitivity, climate sensitivity or being an adrenaline junkie, liking speed or giving importance to personal hygiene, etc.
  • Tribe members have their own visual or literary language or jargon adopted. For example, while the definition of "carbon footprint" is very important and meaningful for someone, "ping time" (if you don't know, you are outside the tribe) or "CX" is more important and has meaning, etc.
  • Characterization of those outside the tribe as others. For example, those who prefer iOS and those who prefer android or those who prefer electric vehicles and those who prefer gasoline-powered vehicles, etc.
  • The fact that individuals within the tribe can communicate much more easily than those outside the tribe. For example, families with children meet more often with families with children, and families without children with families without children, or two record collectors who do not know each other establish a much stronger communication from the moment they meet.

So, we can say that the users who experience the brands with the digital assets owned by the brands are the tribes of the brands. If a brand can make consumers feel privileged and create its own communication language, if the distinction between those who prefer the brand and those who do not prefer the brand is sharp and if consumers who prefer the brand can communicate with each other faster that means that brand built both the consumer experience and marketing strategies with the right methods and implemented.

How the Tribe Factor Works?

Brands can gain different perspectives to build successful marketing strategies if they can consider the “tribe factor” when evaluating their digital assets, for example, when managing their online communities, for example, their social media accounts.

Let's take a look at how this process takes place in a fictitious brand, which has the feature of being environmentally sensitive in its brand character, and how it shapes the communication with the consumer by preventing a major communication error:

Today, while marketing strategies that care about individual marketing shape communication, they can create discourses contrary to the brand character due to the nature of consumption. For example, for a device you didn't buy in your shopping cart, two days later you might receive the following email (instead of "..." instead of your name):

Dear …, get our new model now with a special 5% discount.

The message delivered by this e-mail is problematic. How can you be sensitive to the environment if you buy a new model device every year? A discourse that contradicts the character of an environmentally friendly brand.


However, thanks to marketing strategies that add to the equation the fact that our primitive subconscious makes us feel more comfortable in communities, consider the brand's character and culture, gather consumers around common ideals, or care about already formed communities, namely tribes, even while the communication is shaped, the brand character remains clear. you can protect it and the email text you received turns into:

Dear …, get our new model with 20% reduced carbon footprint, now with a special 5% discount.

As soon as the marketing departments of the brands find the way out, they love to get the maximum benefit from that way out.

Dear …, bring your old device to recycle 40% and get our new 20% reduced carbon footprint model with a 5% discount.

Let's examine the above-mentioned process one last time in order to have a different reading, and this time consider the content of the incoming e-mail in terms of address.

Consumer A: The brand called me by my name last week and sent me an email with a special offer.

Consumer B: Seriously? He also sent me an email yesterday with a special offer with my name on.

As soon as you receive the e-mail, you are placed in a different position from the tribe because you are addressed specifically, and you separate yourself from the tribe and place yourself in a different position, as an individual. Then, when you contact someone who has experienced the same situation, your individual location is replaced by a tribe of specially addressed users until the next more customized message.

While brands' personalized marketing messages shatter the tribal feeling, individuals who discover that they have had the same experience return to the tribal experience again. In terms of the tribal factor, we can try to characterize this process as a continuous cycle that transforms from tribe to individual (Dionysiac) and from individual to tribe (Apollonic).

It seems that brands' marketing departments and marketing agencies may need to engage more closely with anthropologists. Reading the marketing strategies of brands through the "Tribal Factor" can enable us to develop new perspectives on marketing.

If you are interested in this article and you have something to share with us or if you want to meet the Fejen tribe, just send a direct message to dm@fejen.com.


Created by Fejen Marketing Agency

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