What Mixx.com’s Sale Can Teach Us About Community

by Jason Falls |

Mixx.com has been acquired by UberMedia. The new Mixx.com launches sometime this month according to the Mixx blog. Apparently, the social news voting element of the site will be retired.

On the surface, this appears to be a nice endgame for Chris McGill who created Mixx in response to the soap opera-like community vs. site politics that Digg.com experience in the 2007-2008 timeframe. Grow up, do something well, build an audience and get acquired. But if you look a little closer, what happens with Mixx and its niche, but vibrant social news community, might just teach us a thing or two about how communities work and that they often have lives of their own.

Image representing Mixx as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

My friends Jay Fowler and Greg Davies (SilentJay74 and cGt2099 in social news avatar world) are turning their blog and podcast site, MixxingBowl.com, into a Mixx replacement, citing the core Mixx community’s frustration with the voting feature being removed. I also get a sense there’s an undertow of fear that new ownership will commercialize the site they so love. Under-the-radar communications are flowing around to encourage current Mixx users to move over to MixxingBowl and I’d be willing to bet a set of the Mixx community will make the transition.

UberMedia may or may not do anything to prevent the migration, but in reality all they can do is hope that Jay and Greg represent a small portion of community purists and nutters put off by the sale and the majority of Mixx-ers will stay.

My friend Brian Wallace, a Mixxer and social news expert, plus founder of NowSourcing, a social media marketing firm here in Louisville, had some interesting perspectives on the Mixxingbowl development:

“Mixxingbowl probably won’t bring all Mixx users along for the ride. That would be a really tall order,” he said. “Mixx.com has been as high as an Alexa 500 site, and Mixxingbowl staff is going to run this is a side project not for profit. They simply don’t (yet) have the resources to have that kind of bandwith – and that’s ok.”

Wallace pointed out (accurately) that most Mixx users don’t see the site as a “community” per say, but as a content vending machine where they get their news. This distinction — seeing the site through the eyes of a social media type, then also through the (very different) eyes of the mainstream public — is the perspective you should look for in a smart digital marketer. Wallace is one.

Regardless of the outcome, the potential story here is an important component to community building and managing we should all take a look at.

The community is dependent upon the community, not the brand, for its lifeline.

We’ve seen this before. Mixx.com is a perfect example in and of itself. Mixx evolved out of the need for banned Digg users to have a safer place to play, market, game or whatever the hell it is they do. McGill tapped into the need and Mixx quickly became a social news player. The community there migrated from Digg, though many of the non-banned set maintained dual memberships. Still, Mixx went from nothing to legitimate social news destination in a matter of months thanks to the community going with the community.

I’ve been associated with a project recently that a corporate entity has tried to sink its teeth into and alter a bit. I’ve fought it furiously because, in my opinion, it alters the way the public perceives, and will continue to be involved with, the project.

If your brand is building or has built a community, formal or informal, online, please understand that your company, product or service has very little to do with why the community is successful. Changing their environment or level of expectation to better suit you or your product may just be the death of the community itself.

“The worst thing they can do is nothing,” Wallace advised of brands making a switch in their own community platforms or strategies. “I’ve seen so many ghost town social media campaign starts, it’s painful. Just be up front with your audience and tell them what’s up. You will see lots of social media sites go out of their way to explain every little downtime on and on in their blogs and social accounts – they are smart, and that’s not even a change of direction, just a hiccup in otherwise great progress. Luckily the Internet is no longer if you build it they will come, but rather if you don’t build it, someone else will. Companies must be congnizant that if they don’t act and maintain a direction, their community may rebel or outright leave.”

Will Mixx die out as a result? Probably not. But it might.

Your thoughts? The comments are yours.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).