Often when we build communities, we're focused on building the biggest place possible for the most amount of people, but is that always the best thing for our communities and is that what they're destined to be?
This has been a question looked at by many community experts over the years and I'm here to explain my thoughts on the matter as well as some arguments why smaller communities help make more intimate and personable communities for members.
How Members See Communities
I want you to imagine for a moment, that you're starting a new school, job or placement for the first time with hundreds, if not thousands of other people. Daunting right? You might find it tricky to get started, or settle in or even meet new people (arguably it might be easier with a bigger pool).
Members see communities as a similar spaces, schools and workplaces are different types of communities that have different standards and social rules for how we feel and behave with others in them.
If we extrapolate this into online spaces, how do you think a new member feels when joining a larger community with thousands of people talking it in daily. Definitely nerve-racking in my opinion. New members have to find their place within a community and that can be quite difficult at first if they don't know anyone or aren't too familiar with the community background, history and topic.
On the other hand, smaller communities can better cater towards individual needs such as the need for quiet spaces or the ability to have a slow and quiet conversation in a channel where they can share who they are as a person and connect with others more easily.
How Leaders See Communities
We've discussed how members see communities, but what about the people whose job it is to lead and look after not only the community but all of its members. Community leaders play a key role in the survival and growth of a community, without them it would likely be a bit of a free-for-all all with members from all different places with all different intentions coming together which could cause issues in terms of conflicts.
Leaders want to be able to talk to their community members and interact with them, after all, that's why they work in the community. Community after all is about talking with your members and helping them receive value from your community. When communities scale, we lose that ability and have to rely on automations and tools to help us manage all of our members, The human element disappears and the AI/Bot movement moves in to take a weight off the humans which can make a community feel artificial.
Quality vs Quantity
Is it worth having 5,000 community members if there are only 3 who talk regularly, or is it better to have 50 with 10 who talk more often? This is often a question asked by many and it really is debatable depending on what your KPIs and target metrics are.
Generally though, as communities are about coming together and talking with others, the quality of your members is more important than the amount you have. If you have 5,000 members and no one is talking, it doesn't look all that good for new members joining the community as they'll not want to invest the time if it looks like they won't get anything from it.
It is a very debatable idea though, Some communities get huge because they are awesome and they should be rewarded for that, but sometimes it's better to keep a community small for the personal effect that the members exhibit on each other.
Feel free to let me know your thoughts and arguments for and against larger vs. smaller communities.