Over 570 new websites are written, designed, coded and published every minute. What does it take to get noticed? What must be done to create a website or Social Network that is that much better than the 820,000 new Websites uploaded to the Internet every day?
Why is it that some networks have become so successful? Let’s analyse some of the most popular ones individually.
Obviously we have to start with the king of all networks, Facebook. For a Social Network to be successful it most likely has to have a niche. Now, Facebook had the advantage that at the time it’s only other competitor was MySpace, this resulted in (the) Facebook not taking long in finding it’s niche. Something, which would attract a user to the network, it found it in the form of an email address. harvard.edu. This limited the user to only gaining access to the network if they owned an email address of this nature. Exclusivity is what got the ball rolling for Facebook, they eventually expanded to other Ivy-League Colleges and then to the British Russell-Groups until their following was so large it was safe to expand to the general public.
Foursquare’s niche was to take an application, which uses the basis of search and discovery of your friends. It uses GPS tracking signals to locate your friends and advise you when you are close to each other. It is a genius idea to bring people closer together. It now also uses an algorithm based off what you like, search frequently or where you go frequently to determine where you would like to go in the future. These recommendations are then sent through your phone to you in the form of a notification.
Instagram is a very visual Social Network consisting only of photos or videos. With the closest to a verbal post being found only in he comments of a photo or video. Released in late 2010 Instagram is now a Social Network within a Social Network. It was initially in idea known as ‘Send me some sunshine”, it was an application that would mean people could send photos of the sun or anything cheery over to the other side of the world where it is less bright and cheerful. What the creators observed was that people were not taking photos of the sun or anything cheery, they were taking mundane photos of anything ordinary in everyday life. The Instagram team then spotted the gap in the market between Hipstamatic (an application that gives you the option to take photos and put filters on them) and Facebook. Hence the birth of the Social and modern photographer’s network.
Although a lot of the start-ups for Social Networks are literally based off being in the right place at the right time. Pinterest’s CEO Ben Silbermann went the extra mile to try and get the network off the floor and get going. He designed the network and made the website live on an invitation only basis. Once he had his first 5000 users active online he sent each one of them a message offering his personal mobile number, inviting them to a meeting to discuss the improvements of the website. Invitations got sent out and the number of users grew continuously and more rapidly every day.
Tumblr has been around since early 2007, as of March 1st 2015 Tumblr held around 225.1 million blogs. The creation of Tumblr was another case of finding a gap in the market and exploiting it. The co-founders of Tumblr were interested in a ‘tumblelogging’ platform where a blog wasn’t something individual, but part of a platform where there are as many blogs as the eye can see which, you decipher through finding the ones suited to you. After the first week they acquired 75,000 users.
It’s quite obvious that the vast majority of start-up Social Networks will be a flop, but the interesting cases are the ones, which were very successful and way beyond the threshold of not having enough users to become a viral network. Some cases to be evaluated are as follows.
What came from the Social Network which was a part of the ‘stupidest sales of the dotcom era’? It once was a thriving network; to the extent that AOL paid $850,000,000 for the company. To the ordinary eye there was nothing strictly wrong with Bebo, according to some sources 11 the network had between 7 and 40 million users. Where it went wrong was when it was sold to a corporate giant. It seems to be common knowledge now (after the failure of Friends reunited and MySpace, see below, failed for the same reasons) that a corporate giant taking over networks or any small once qwerky start-ups, restricts creativity. Sending the Social Network into a downfall.
After evaluating MySpace compared to Facebook in a previous post I won’t dwell on this too much. Facebook threw MySpace to the floor online metaphorically. This is because practically everything MySpace had, Facebook had better. Facebook was a lot more user friendly, you had to know basic coding knowledge to alter your profile on MySpace! The little things MySpace even got outdone by, having no equivalent like (Facebook) or retweet (twitter) button, these were little but large things to the average user. Advertisements. The bain of any networking site. Facebook does have some now, but nowhere near to the miserable extent of MySpace. Point after point stacked up against MySpace ad it just got driven into the ground over time.
Ping, surprisingly to many was a creation from Apple via iTunes7. At the time of Release Apple had 160 million active iTunes users, this did not result in the same number of active users on Ping13, instead 2 million subscribed and soon turned their noses up. Ping didn’t have a niche or selling point; it was a Social Network for music. You could share music on Facebook and Twitter so no luck there. It was not accessible which is just bad design; it was lost in the interface of iTunes so difficult to reach. They went too independent. There was no interaction with other networks so was a stand-alone profile which was just quite useless unless all you cared about was your favourite artist.
Friendster along with MySpace were in the competitive era against Facebook. Friendster was on a level playing field with Facebook until Facebook added the news-feed. Once Facebook added the news-feed it sent Friendster along with MySpace into a downhill spiral. Friendster just had a problem with timing. What they did was sometimes the right thing to do but was way too late in relation to their competitors, therefore their users just moved network until it was deserted.
Having looked at the successes and the failures of past and present Social Networks, certain conclusions have become apparent. A key point, which is obvious to the eye without analysis, is good business management. Whether that’s Pinterest’s approach by treating your new users extremely well and get as much feedback as possible to keep them happy. Or Facebook’s freedom approach where they had a similar technique to Google in a way, where employees are given ‘free reign’ (within reason) to increase productivity.
Another point that has to be made is just simple start-up necessities; finding the companies niche or the gap in the market to infiltrate, some examples are as follows; Facebook- A social communication network with accessibility (at the time there was lack of), Foursquare- Using location sensors to improve every day bit by bit through different techniques and Instagram- A social platform where users interact with each other through an interesting photo filter application.
The chances are that this point in time the idea you just thought of for a network, has been thought of, designed, published and fallen through. Unless you are some creative genius it seems that if you are going to create a new network, it is going to have to be based off a successful network already. From this you are not only going to have to out-do them in a number of ways, like Facebook did with MySpace. But also, somehow find a marketing ploy to attempt to transfer all of these users to your new network. Not easy. I’d stick to investment to find your millions.
- Accidental Billionaires, Ben Mezrich