Why have subgroups?

What problems do your subgroups solve? Why do you have them within your community?

We are in the process of reimagining our community subgroups and retooling their technical functionality. In this process, I want to check and see what other experiences are out there and make sure we are considering all options. For context, I manage an online community of practice. Our subgroups have both online and offline elements (meetups, events, etc.).

Absolutely love having subgroups! We have a similar audience with different people are able to discuss topics of interest to them - and it really solves the problem of “intellectual bullies.” We are international and we learn a lot about the state of the industry in their geographical areas from their contributions in the sub-groups.

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We’re about to launch groups! We’re a product community, but we’re going to launch groups for 2 categories:

Location - We’re a global company with customer user groups in many regions. They’d like a way to plan offline events and that doesn’t really belong in the main product-based area of community.

Industry - We serve 5 main industries and those people want to talk industry, not just product. So we’re giving them a way to connect.

I am a little nervous that they’ll start having product based conversations in the groups, that would be useful to the larger community.

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The use of subgroups will partly depend upon the features of your platform. Subgroups can be a nearly-certain requirement on some platforms to allow further segmentation for marketing and analysis purposes.

We use groups for local branches of a national organisation. We use subgroups where they require private conversations e.g. amongst the leadership team. That’s because it is the easiest method to control access to information in certain categories.

We could have provided this in a slightly more unstructured way by encouraging the use of personal messages to multiple recipients.

If your platform already has personal/private messaging to multiple recipients then that is already possible for your users to take conversations private. If so, then you could explore your database to check on what is actually happening with such conversations before implementing a more obvious method to do the same. If the messages are private then you might only be able to see who the “group” members are but even that could be useful.

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@Kristen_Gastaldo @remah and @Kathy thanks for your replies!

Since we are going with a bespoke platform, I need to wrap very succinct definitions around what things like subgroups are in order to rationalize their existence. Here’s what I’ve come up with which I think lines up with the replies. Feedback is welcome!

Groups are nested within the broader community and should allow members to come together and have a space to have conversations, share/curate resources, connect with like-minded members, and grow in knowledge within a given domain or topic.

Check if your platform has a keyword checker. My platform does, which can flag moderators to certain keywords (and to potentially change / remove / keep). This is great for keeping a watchful eye on competitors or trending topics in a passive manner.

Subgroups can:

  • Segment your client base into more specific geographic or industry groups, which will empower them to solve their problems more effectively. (For example, geographic groups may need language-specific knowledge bases, peer support, or cultural sensitivities. Industry groups will have different technical language, processes, or operational workflows that need to be taken into account.)
  • Build a stronger sense of connection to each other because they’re in a group that is more appropriate for them, which in turn, strengthens their connection to your company.

As a fun example:
One of my platform’s clients is LEGO, and they’re amazing at subgroups. Their community team runs the Lego Ambassador Network, which is the umbrella for something like 300+ Lego User Groups. These are regional LEGO fan sub-groups that host their own contests, show-off days, charity events, and building initiatives. LEGO has done an amazing job at progressing beyond a toy community into an international brand and community. They use a mix of customization + clubs feature of the software. https://lan.lego.com/