Social Networks? Size Doesn't Always Matter

With so much business, money and ego surging into social media, there's an inherent race to become the biggest -- and fast. 

That's true whether you're with a social network, a business, or even if you're a single user. Indeed, there are benefits to popularity. We live in a world where more is presumed better than less, so implicit judgment usually favors size of membership, number of followers, connections and subscribers. Scale can bring influence, power and the ability to monetize. To be sure, many social media networks work better with scale, and some only work with scale.

Being fat has its place, but being fat is not the only way. Skinny is important, too. My friend Jeff Sass and I came to that conclusion a few weeks ago. While most people focus on scale, we participate in a micro-community that delivers transformative value -- value that simply can't be compared to any large social network. 



It all started when five dads, including Jeff and me, were brought together last year through Sony's DigiDad blogger project. After the program ended, we discovered that we really liked each other and our different perspectives on parenting. So we decided to channel our long-distance friendships and social-media prowess into a new podcast called "Cast Of Dads, The Mother Of All Daddy Podcasts." We'd never even met in person until very recently, because we all live in different cities across North America. 

While we created an online talk show that's building a listener community of thousands, it had the unintended consequence of creating a completely separate and private online community comprised of just us five dads. Our social network goes beyond simply organizing ourselves for a talk show. Its purpose has evolved to become a hub to share important and not-so-important things going on in our lives, typically related to being a dad. We sometimes have several interactions a day, and these culminate in a live call every Sunday, when we record our show. Our public podcast aside, this group has become one of my favorite online social networks. The Cast of Dads offers a little more fun and camaraderie each day, and makes each Sunday especially enjoyable. 

The big deal here is that the most important online social networks don't have to be big. In fact, getting big often has the unintended consequence of becoming less focused, less relevant and less intimate. Big is the final step before "has-been." Importantly, online social networks don't even need sophisticated technology -- ours resides on Google groups, email and sometimes the phone! The only thing that matters is that your social network have passion, purpose and proponents. These three attributes alone can achieve transformative impact.

Which micro communities are most important in your life? 

7 comments about "Social Networks? Size Doesn't Always Matter".
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  1. Jeffrey Sass from .CLUB Domains, LLC, April 30, 2010 at 11:30 a.m.

    Thanks Max! Needless to say, I couldn't agree with you more. Size DOES matter... (but sometimes the better size is small!)

  2. George Watson from Plain English, April 30, 2010 at 12:01 p.m.

    Well said, Max. How quickly we overlook the media trend of the past 30 years - fragmentation through specialty publications and channels. There is nothing inconsistent about the co-existence of mass media and personal media, only the need to know which is which and what business you're in. That digital/online media is replacing broadcast media, and we can carry personal media in our pockets just means an endless array of new and evolving touchpoints and opportunities. It will just take a while for everyone to find their comfort level and utility/value points with so many new choices. Glad you found yours.

  3. Jonathan Hall from American Pop, April 30, 2010 at 12:03 p.m.

    Scale can be achieved by reaching lots small communities with tailored messages/assets. Scalability in social media is going to take a lot more work and creativity than most are willing to commit at the moment. We executed a successful campaign which hinged strictly on reaching a lot of small targeted groups centered around Hair Styling in the African American community. It took a lot of work, but it paid off with the targeted reach that would have been difficult if you only relied on paid media placements.

  4. Karen Read from Freelance, April 30, 2010 at 12:41 p.m.

    Max, this is brilliant. So many of us can't help but cram the new media environment into the old media framework. What a great reminder that a fundamental element of media -- scale -- is really what's changing. Bravo and thank you.

  5. Liza Hausman, April 30, 2010 at 12:46 p.m.

    Didn't we used to call this kind of online community a friendship?

  6. Kevin Dwinnell from Brand Thunder, April 30, 2010 at 3:31 p.m.


    Our company is experiencing this directly. We rebrand a common Internet app, and help brands create a communication channel to their consumer. We've had some very large and well recognized with, what we thought would be, very avid fan bases.

    Turns out, those larger brands can't compare to the smaller but more fanatical fan base of web comic readers. When we release for a web comic, it simply blows away the metrics from an awareness, viral and conversion standpoint. These smaller communities really do deliver big.

  7. Marian Mangoubi from Sassy CEO, LLC, May 1, 2010 at 12:05 a.m.

    a reminder that quality should always trump quantity. this also re-emphasizes one of the many reasons I like social media -the ability to meet and create new friends even if you don't live in the same location.

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