Do Larger Social Media Channels Always Have the Upper Hand?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of small scale communities vs. larger more popular ones? Is bigger always better? How does communication differ amongst larger social media channels as opposed to smaller yet more specialized ones?

Come to think about it, it’s true what they say: “sometimes less is more“! Allow me to further explain.

During our ordinary lives, we are always faced with situations that make us wonder: Do we really need many friends or just a few true close ones? Do we need fame or simply a good reputation? Do we need many meals a day or only a few healthy ones? This applies to everything we do offline and online as well!

Earlier on this week, while doing some usual research on the web, I came across the video sharing channel, Vimeo, which is very much similar to Youtube yet on a smaller scale. The first idea that popped to my mind was trying to figure out the reasons why Vimeo is not as popular as Youtube, treating the situation as a problem. After some research, I was able to find out that maybe, just maybe, this smaller number of users is there for a reason: specialization! Although Vimeo and Youtube have a lot in common, Vimeo’s competitive edge probably lies in its ability to create a more intact and integrated chain of users who make up communities that know each other by face and name and who interact with each other on a more personal level than any large social media channel can possibly provide!

But the buck doesn’t stop there!

There are many other social media channels for which this theory can perfectly apply, namely: the infamous social bookmarking sites Reddit and Mixx vs. Digg.

Got 69 points and 25 comments on Mixx, but not even noticed on Mixx!

Got 69 points and 25 comments on Mixx, but not even noticed on Digg!

Let me break it down to you in simple points to bullet-proof my argument…

The advantages of smaller scale social media channels:

  1. Attention: When comparing Mixx to Digg, for example, it is very obvious that the attention span of the users who bookmark and interact with other Mixxers is way higher than that of Digg users.
  2. Exposure: Since the community of Mixxers is smaller, there is more room for fair exposure to any piece of valuable news as opposed to Digg which could sometimes be biased towards certain topics or users based on popularity, rather than activity.
  3. Interaction: It almost goes without saying that smaller communities have more time to spend on evaluating, voting and commenting on different topics.
  4. Communication: Smaller communities are similar to cults; they are closer to each other on a personal level, they have more things in common and they communicate at a higher degree. If we take Mixxers and Redditors for example, you can clearly see how the communication between them is more personalized; they know each others’ names, they give each other helpful tips and they care to provide the necessary feedback on different issues and topics of discussion.
  5. Support: Small scale communities provide each other with support because they want to partake in their online “friends'” success, which in such an environment will reflect on them as well. Any effort put to help another in a smaller community will positively materialize in some way or another.
  6. Quality: Smaller communities have a need to maintain a higher quality of content because they have more “observing” and “critical” eyes are on them! Take Youtube and Vimeo as an example.

Proof of argument– Notice the following:

While scanning through Mixx’s popular stories for the last week, I was able to find that Mixxers janejas, miklskon, cynthiab have actively commented on nearly all the following five different topics and stories which I (kind of) randomly selected. Here are the articles (1) (2) (3) (4) and (5). In the aformentioned articles, you can also see that the same “cults” of people engage in discussions with each other stating opinions and giving advice.

But, as usual, it’s a double edged sword!

So what are the disadvantages of smaller social media channels then?

  1. Resources: Of course, the smaller the community, the more the time and effort that needs to be invested in efforts to reach the desired exposure.
  2. Frustration: If we compare Mashable to a startup blog discussing the same issues, we are sure to find that Mashable, due to its wide exposure on Digg and Twitter in particular, does not suffer from fear that its articles might not be read or seen by many others. It is well covered! Smaller scale communities are always prone to frustration which might even lead to surrender!
  3. Short-Lived Success: Sadly, if the utilized social media channels are not well maintained or publicized, any success on smaller-scaled channels will be short-lived as opposed to short-term success and exposure on larger-scaled social media channels. A great example is Ma.gnolia and how it failed its user community by being unable to provide reliable hosting.

Now, after you have read my arguments for and against smaller-scaled social media channels, I urge you to answer the following questions: Do you agree that bigger is not always better when it comes to social media channels? Would you reconsider using certain tools and sites over others after reading this analysis?

Let the discussion begin!

Comments and Reactions

2 responses to “Do Larger Social Media Channels Always Have the Upper Hand?”

  1. FadiPick says:

    Bigger is not always better! I totally agree with you, especially when you are starting up. I mean it may be wise for a new blogger to start with a small community and focus on building strong relations that would help to spark stronger and more quality debates among his published posts. The same applies to Twitter, focus on small number of quality people, and then with mutual support, you can reach many more.

  2. Tad Chef says:

    On the whole you are right. The Digg vs Mixx as example is not the best one though. Many really good or important stories that get popular on Digg get overlooked on Mixx buried below a pile of self promotional but mediocre stuff. I've been very active on Mixx for almost two years but gave up a few weeks ago partly due to this problem. I'm not using Digg as alternative though. I moved on to Hacker News/YCombinator which is a very small but fine news community.

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