I posted a poll on this blog asking “What’s the biggest challenge in starting a social networking website?”
Members of Social Networks
In response, 48% said: “getting and keeping members.” An article in Wired on the social network UrbanBaby highlights this business problem. UrbanBaby had build up quite a following, according to Clive Thompson’s “The Wrath of Moms.” (Buy the November Wired – no link on the web yet.)
Then in 2006, CNET purchased the site and “improved” the interface. “The changes weren’t huge, but each one of them subtly altered the flow of conversation,” says Thompson. So in their spare time, power users created a rival site with the old format — YouBeMom — draining traffic from UrbanBaby.
Thompson estimates the new site has three times the traffic of the old one. All social networking websites face this paradox, he says: “It’s very hard to make money off a social network site, but it’s incredibly easy for a competitor to emerge.” Not statistically significant by a long shot, my tiny poll gives you a feeling for the hard parts of running a social network.
What’s the biggest challenge in starting a social networking website?
Here are the results of my very informal poll on this site.
Designing the software features 10% (2 votes)
Startup financing 14% (3 votes)
Developing a marketing plan 14% (3 votes)
Projecting ad revenues 14% (3 votes)
Getting and keeping members 48% (10 votes)
Clearly the most difficult part of managing a social network is obtaining, engaging, and retaining members, just as UrbanBaby found.
How do you keep members engaged in your social network?
What are your contingency plans for defections? Please share your ideas or experiences in a comment.
See all 18 Posts in This Series
How to Create a Social Networking Website Series has 18 posts on various aspects of this topic.