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When Building Online Communities, Smaller is Better

When popular online dating site eHarmony sets you up with potential matches, you receive seven prospects per session. Why seven? Wouldn't 500 be better, giving you more variety to find your ideal mate?

No, and the reason is that seven choices makes you focus more on the people at hand. You find out more about each, and are more likely to actually engage with them rather than flitting from prospect to prospect. eHarmony may be on to something: the company claims to be responsible for 2 percent of marriages in the United States.

I thought of eHarmony while reading Harvard Business School professor Anat Keinan and collaborator Debi Kleiman on the common mistakes made by companies attempting to establish online communities.

Number 2 on their list: Don't believe bigger is better,

"Companies often believe that the bigger the online community, the better the insights, and so they build communities with thousands of members. In fact, large communities are less effective than smaller ones at nurturing relationships among members, and between members and the brand. They are more transient, less "sticky," and less satisfying all around. When the goal is deep customer insights, smaller, private communities (up to 400 members) are best for developing trust. What you're after is participation, not reach."
Read their full post on HBR.org, Don't Make These Mistakes with Your Online Brand Community.

Have you been attracted to an online brand community? What does it provide that caught your attention and remains of value to you?

(Webdate image by eflon, CC 2.0)