The Rise and Fall of a Social Network

This week I was thinking about Social Networks. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all hugely popular Social Media sites with millions of users and whose influence has saturated our everyday lives. Facebook has surpassed 1.23 billion monthly users, and Twitter postings are regularly used as part of news stories or articles. But what about the smaller Social Networks? The ones plugging along with a sufficient number of users, but that haven’t reached the mainstream. And what about the failed Social Networks? The ones who tried but could never quite get enough users to latch on. What makes a successful Social Network? What makes a failure?

Twitter’s success can be attributed to it’s short and quick social nature. Twitter’s 140 character thoughts, updated in real time, allow for friends and fans to stay up-to-date on the most current news, events, and goings on as they happen. Its incredibly informal nature allows you to follow anyone (friend or stranger) and share their posts with the click of a button. Twitter also has an incredibly simple and easy user interface. These factors all contribute to its massive success.

While Facebook has many factors that can be attributed to it’s success – great user experience, solid infrastructure, simple social sharing and the feeling of community and connectivity – it’s success just may be contributed to Mark Zuckerberg’s initial actions. As Business Insider writes, Zuckerberg “didn’t write a business plan.He didn’t “research the market,” apply for patents or trademarks, assemble focus groups, or do any of the other things that entrepreneurs are supposed to do.” He just launched his idea, and we adopted it (source). His quick actions and his assuredness in his idea allowed him to get his product online before anybody else – a factor that separates Facebook from many other Social Networks.

I believe Facebook and Twitter’s willingness to grow and expand by adopting new technologies and embracing new trends also contributes to their immense success. For example, Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and Twitter’s purchase of Vine. Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion, and Forbes writes that doing so was an attempt to rejuvenate an aging tech behemoth (source).

Let’s take a look at some failed Social Networks. Friendster, Google Buzz, Google+, MySpace, Digg, iYomu, Akoha, and Sprouter are all examples of failed Social Networks.

The failure of Friendster, a Social Networking site that is now the focus of a Harvard Business School case study about how not to manage a tech company (source) can be attributed to programming issues and a flawed infrastructure. They failed to address issues with sluggish loading times and didn’t focus on social sharing, and when Facebook came along providing a better user experience, Friendster users flocked over.

Google+ has failed to take off in the Social Networking realm. With it’s powerful Google name, the networking site was able to attract 1.15 billion initial users, but now only 35% of those users are active (source). The main issue with Google+ is that it doesn’t really offer users an experience that they can’t get elsewhere, where all their friends are as well. “Google was the rich kid, who, after having discovered he wasn’t invited to the party, built his own party. But everyone is already partying with their real friends on Facebook” (source).

It seems as though there are common factors among failed Social Networking sites, including poor infrastructure and user experience, the inability to provide something new, and making social connections and sharing difficult.

There are many factors contributing to the success and the failure of Social Networking sites. Do you think there are any factors I haven’t mentioned? And what’s your favorite little-known Social Networking site?

One thought on “The Rise and Fall of a Social Network

  1. Interesting to really consider what makes a social network grow and then thrive. There is no doubt that quality infrastructure, good user experience and uniqueness/newness all play a big role. Quite frankly, I think the site marketing plan needs to include knowing how to ride the momentum and leverage it to help catapult the tool into the daily lives of users. Lots of users! The $64 thousand dollar question of course, is how is that done effectively? Hummm…something worth researching.

    Had a quick look for site to watch for in 2014. Check these out (cut ‘n pasted from)
    http://blastmagazine.com/features/5-social-networking-sites-look-2014/

    1. Whisper.sh (http://whisper.sh/)

    This site allows users to post secrets or thoughts anonymously through the use of pictures with bold quotes at the top, a lot like memes. It has a serious and thought-provoking sentiment with people posting comments they normally wouldn’t say in public. Users can provide support or respond to one another anonymously.

    In the 18 months since it began, Whisper.sh has hit 3 billion page views a month – definitely a site to watch out for in the New Year.

    2. Impossible (https://www.impossible.com/)

    This new social networking site by Lily Cole is based on the principle of gift exchange. It lives up to its idealistic premise by not allowing any money to change hands through the site. Users simply post wishes and are answered with gifts. For instance, someone might wish for more motivation to exercise and be answered with encouraging statements from other users.

    Users can respond to a wish-fulfillment with a thank you post. These thank-you’s are recorded on the user’s profile for all to see their generosity.

    3. Nextdoor (https://nextdoor.com/)

    Backed by Google and Amazon, Nextdoor.com is a community-based app. It allows users within a defined community to make or request recommendations for everyday services, share neighborhood news and sell or loan items. It is the modern day equivalent of a block party.

    4. Medium (https://medium.com/)

    The brainchild of Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, Medium is a long-form blogging platform. The aspect that makes it unique is an algorithm that helps identify the best posts on the site. It is open to public submissions with many of the best minds in technology, design and culture writing for it.

    5. Flock (www.itsflockable.com – already seems to have bitten the dust!!)

    No, it’s not the defunct social media-based web browser. A new, do-good approach to social media is arising in 2014, and it’s called Flock. Flock appeared in the fall and promises to: “Solve the World’s Problems by Becoming the Solution. We’re Greater Together.” The site is the brainchild of Zachary Hamilton, a former substitute teacher and Air Force tech.

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