Recommended: Social Networks Aren’t Products
From Vitamin: It’s the cold hard truth, and a reminder of how difficult it is to launch such a site: Social Networks Aren’t Products.
Nobody gives a damn how good the cupcakes are; if scarcely anybody shows up, your party is a failure. Equally, nobody goes to MySpace or Match for the cupcakes — or, to be more precise, the quality of the user experience. People flock there because that’s where everyone else is.
That point brings to mind the Twitter versus Pownce debate. I have parallel networks on both (i.e.: same friends, different sites) and most of them are pretty hard-core Twitter-ites. In fact, Twitter is king even among those who prefer the features and interface of Pownce. Why? Because Twitter is where everyone is conversing (though some would argue that Pownce’s lack of an API is the reason why it’s community isn’t as active).
In other words: community and activity is what counts. Before your launch your social networking site, make sure you have a plan for driving community — not just attracting users. Flickr’s founders, for example, greeted every new user on signup. MySpace tapped into a vibrant, established off-line community.
However you do it, remember that your site’s value comes from the people involved. It’s not features. It’s not ease-of-use. It’s the people.