The Social Media Popularity Paradox...
Social media websites, like Digg and Reddit, rely on users to generate their content. It's something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, they don't need to hire a team of journalists to cover news stories; people submit stories to them and vote on which are the most newsworthy. On the other hand, the more stories someone submits, the more influential they get on the site, and, over time, those power users can skew the results.
In August, Digg wanted to re-balance the system and changed how its website functioned in order to mitigate the influence of its power users and give some power back to The People. Naturally, those power users would get upset, but the thinking was that, by making the site more accessible to new users, Digg would net more traffic and wind up with more users overall.
They were wrong. Digg did indeed tick off their loyal core supporters, but no significant number of new users signed up. This led to Digg's CEO apologizing for the changes and rolling back many of them.
Now, GigaOm asks the pressing question... "Can Digg Apologize Its Way Back to Popularity?"
It's likely that the true Digg power users will remain loyal to the site because online influence isn't easily acquired and certainly isn't easily tossed aside, disgruntled as they may be. It's also likely that many Digg users have permanently moved on and now frequent different social media pastures.
The moral of the story is summarized in the GigaOm piece...
The upheaval at Digg shows just how difficult it is for a social network to change the way it functions on a fundamental level. Many of the changes were clearly designed to blunt the power of hard-core users and make the service more appealing to a broader range of users, but the revolt made it obvious that the changes had seriously alienated some of the site’s loyal fan base. This kind of strategy only works, however, if enough new users arrive to justify the loss of that traditional fan base.
For all social media websites that rely on user-generated content, the paradox is this... In order to become popular, you need to develop a strong group of loyal followers; however, in trying to raise your ceiling and gain in popularity even more, it is that same group of loyal followers that will restrain your growth and hold you back.