Facebook – over 70 million members. MySpace – 110 million members. How can you beat these communities? The fact is, you can’t. But you can still compete and be successful despite their dominance. This article will explain how.
Do large online communities have everything?
The huge, corporate social networks have the numbers and they have the money. That is undeniable. To successfully compete against them, you need to work out what they don’t have. Let’s say you have decided to establish a community based around your love of martial arts. Your community reflects your passion. Your community has passionate, friendly, welcoming members. As soon as new visitors join, they are welcomed and made to feel at home; they immediately feel part of a close-knit community. Large social networks cannot offer this.
Do large online communities create new friendships?
Online communities such as Facebook and MySpace attract members because people don’t want to feel left out. Some people join to find new friends and some will join to find people with shared interests. I will place a bet though, that most simply join because all their friends are members. The large social networks cannot match a niche community that is based around a subject the community owner and its members are passionate about. If your site has these qualities, you don’t need to worry about the huge players – carve out your own niche and you will find success.
Smaller communities have a bright future
Some argue that niche forums and social networks will disappear as they are overtaken in popularity by the large social networks. I disagree. People want to visit sites that are made by people that share their passion. Sure, it’s great being a member of a site where there are millions of members, but it can be easy to feel lost and unnoticed. Smaller, focused communities cater to the needs of their members based on a shared interest. This makes it easier to make changes that are appropriate for the majority of their audience.
In such a community, you are far better placed to build meaningful, personal and genuine relationships with your members. Large communities can lose the community feeling that made them attractive in the first place; as new members join, the perceived closeness of a community can suffer. This doesn’t have to be the case though – just make sure you work hard to retain a close-knit community; continue to welcome new members, encourage them to get involved, and ensure they are accepted.
Smaller communities are more personable and more personal
Large social networks sometimes forget about their members and focus on making money. If you focus on creating a close-knit, niche community that offers something unique, you can still be successful even in the presence of such giants. If you want to compete against the membership numbers of the corporate social networks, forget it. If you want to compete against the revenue they are earning, forget it. Compete only with the quality of your content, the happiness of your members and the passion you have for your niche.
Remember – don’t focus on what larger communities have. Work out what they don’t have, and make sure you offer it!
Do you think smaller online communities have a future? Do you think the large social networks are taking market share away from smaller, niche communities? How do you compete against larger communities? Share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below.