Thursday, October 27, 2005

Facebook and building social networks

Jeff Clavier posts some remarkable metrics on Facebook.com. Apparently, 93% of their 5M registered users visit at least once a month. They get 5.5B page views per month. Wow!

Mark Zuckerberg (Founder & CEO of Facebook) has some interesting thoughts on why his social networking site succeeded where others have failed:
[Mark] thinks that [other sites] have not focused on providing a set of utilities to their audience, they were merely about creating connections.
Exactly. Social networking sites like Orkut or Friendster have no purpose. Sure, it's fun. You go there and, in a flurry of activity, set up your profile and list all your friends. It's always good for a little ego pump.

But, then what is there to do with your social network? There's no purpose, no reason to come back, nothing to do.

Social networks should be a tool to solve some other problem. The idea should be, "Now that I have listed all my friends, I can come back to do incredibly cool thing X everyday." That's why sites like Facebook succeed where so many others have failed.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

i'm totally with you there. i think almost all the social networking sites will fail for that reason, including ones like 43things. people get all excited about... exactly what i'm not sure. ooh, look, other people want to give their cat a tongue bath... that's kewl.

Mainly setting us up for another "tech crash" as everyone realizez there's no "there" there.

gavin said...

Social networks provide value to everyone except you. My analogy is that your social network is a currency. It should provide you with value. Current systems are set-up to provide others with value, not you. Those others are typically biz partners, investors, advertisers, etc.

Greg Linden said...

Anonymous, I agree that some of the hype is unjustified. Seems to me that a lot of these social sites require too much work to attract a mainstream audience.

But I'm not sure I agree on using 43things as a bad example. Seems to me that it's an interesting experiment in social networking with a purpose, a service where the friends network takes a back seat to performing some other task.

Yes, most of these sites won't survive, at least not in their current form. But the experimentation is good. It helps us discover what works and what doesn't.

Bernhard L├╝cke said...

gavins "Social networks provide value to everyone except you." should be taken seriously.

As a member most often I'm an unpaid contributor. Quote "By posting Member Content to any part of the Web site, you automatically grant ... to ... an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, perform, display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such information and content and to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such information and content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing."

Lets say, the network I'm registered with could be the ideal plattform to form business-groups and lead them focussing on an idea, as long as I'm giving away automatically every right on any idea this service is useless.

At least these social networks should provide the "function" of taking their members seriously.

BTW, this is the reason, why in my view the product Google Base will not be as usefull to the users as the provided technique could be.

Bernhard

Greg Linden said...

Great point, Gavin and Bernhard. It is important to provide value back to the people who generated the content.

We thought about this carefully at Findory. It's part of the reason we show only excerpts of articles from news sites and weblogs, requiring clickthrough to read the full article.

Interested audiences see snippets of relevant articles on Findory, then go off to the content producer's site to read each one. Findory helps people find interesting content. The content producers get traffic and revenue from Findory. Everyone is happy.

Anonymous said...

what other purpose does 43things serve? looks to me like every other networking site, in that people want to amass a list of other people doing the same things as them and then...?

Do you think that even 5% of people there really connect with the people in their network who want to do the same kewl stuff as them? I doubt it, unless they already knew that person and just didn't know about their hobbies.

The truth is none of these sites really connects people. That requires ongoing new information (like web bulletin boards, attending meetings), Or heaven forbid, actual human contact.

even sites like linkedin suffer from the same thing. no one really connects. it's all just an exercise, and then people wonder why they all feel so alone.

at least findory serves a purpose. show me some interesting news i might not otherwise find. i'll come back for that.

Mind Valley said...

I think your post is excellent and dead on! There needs to be a "there" there. I think at the end of the day, you have to appeal to self interest and there has to be a reason to come back often. Flickr, TheFaceBook, and BlinkList do fit into that role. Many other sites like Friendster do not.

Mike

Greg Linden said...

By the way, Gavin and Bernhard, don't miss Anil Dash's post about how services like Flickr are "not sharing the wealth" and are "cashing in on my interesting work."

Andrew Hitchcock said...

Okay, I think I'll share why FaceBook works for me and keeps me coming back. I was hesitant to sign up in the first place, I was afraid it would be a lame fad and I was burned by Orkut in the past.

Since college is fairly dynamic (new classes every quarter), a directory of friends and students remains very dynamic and gives me a reason to come back (to see how friends are doing and what classes they are taking). Also, it is cool to look up people you have in classes and see what they are interested in. Who knows, it might help you start a conversation sometime (although, it might freak them out if you already know their interests).

I don't really use the other features, and I'm not going to use the photo uploading service. I'm mainly interested in the directory aspect. When looking for the e-mail addresses of friends for a party, I was able to find almost all on Facebook.

Andrew