Love how blogging works! Today, Jonathan Melhuish left a comment on my Climate Camp post. I clicked on his name, and landed on his personal blog. Then noticed his professional blog. There, I discovered Jon’s latest post on Bodder, his new mobile social network. Stopped on his Wikipedia link on ‘network effect’ and really got into this part:
A more natural strategy is to build a system that has enough value without network effects - underlined by me -, at least to early adopters. Then, as the number of users increases, the system becomes even more valuable and is able to attract a wider user base. Joshua Schachter has explained that he built Del.icio.us along these lines – he built an online system where he could keep bookmarks for himself, such that even if no other user joined, it would still be valuable to him. It was relatively easy to build up a user base from zero because early adopters found enough value in the system outside of the network aspects.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? On line, I am not social just for the sake of being social. There needs to be something in it for me. Videos on YouTube, insiders’ info on Twitter, objective book reviews on Amazon, a place to show my stuff on Facebook, bookmark storage on del.icio.us, interesting stories on diggs, etc. In other words, there needs to be something worthwhile spreading in order for the network effect to take place.
Also digged this comment at the bottom of the post, from other Bodder‘s co-founder, Simon Hammond:
The main lesson for me was probably that the technical engineering is relatively straightforward compared to the social engineering - underlined by me - In other words, it’s not enough to merely provide a nice platform and interface. You have to account for social factors - underlined by me - as well. Few people will try something completely off their own bat – they need to be personally introduced to it. At heart, we are still apes and we learn by copying. Getting the visible endorsement of the group leaders is probably essential to getting group adoption. Think Scoble/TechCrunch and Twitter.
Embedded in Simon’s comment are two very important points. First is the need to not just push a technology, but also to take into account the psychological aspect of ‘the user’ and also the community. I have noticed lots of social networks get started by developers with no understanding or appreciation of that essential dimension of any social venture. Second is the need for the nascent network to receive the validation of one or several recognized or credible leaders. I know I always look for the personal story behind any new network. Who started it? What are thought leaders saying on Twitter? When cuil came out a few weeks ago, it only took a few negative tweets from the few social media gurus I follow, and a quick, unsatisfactory trial, for me to ban it from my toolbox. We are very much like cockroaches in that respect!
Thanks Jonathan, thanks Simon, for teaching me a few things about social networks . . .