Social networking it’s just a matter of connecting the dots
Social Media Marketing

Social networking it’s just a matter of connecting the dots

9th March 2010

Today we welcome Jeroen van Eck as a blogger on State of Search. Read his bio here, and enjoy his posts! Welcome Jeroen!

Everyone wants a slice of the social pie. While the classic social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter keep developing by adding new functionality, other companies are trying to create their own social networks. But building a valuable social network takes an enormous amount of time, or does it? Building a social network could be as simple as connecting the dots, all you need is a lot of dots.

The value of a social network is in the amount of users and the amount of usage. So all you need is a large group of users with an account on your social network and a user friendly interface with the proper functionality. A user friendly interface and proper functionality can be developed with a good analysis of the behavior and wishes of your users. Creating a large group of users takes a lot more time. It took Facebook almost three years to reach 10 million users while Twitter reached the 10 million users at the beginning of their third year. To start a new social network with the potential to grow to such amounts your platform needs a major benefit in usability or functionality. Therefore the secret is not in building a new network but connecting the existing dots.

Google’s already connecting their dots

With the launch of Google Buzz, Google didn’t wait for Google users to sign up for Buzz. They pushed it to every user of Gmail without waiting for a single signal from the user that they were interested. It was a bold way to launch the new social network but it generated an enormous potential network. The first two days Google claimed “tens of millions of people have checked Buzz out”. Although we don’t know what ‘tens of millions’ means exactly means, it’s fair to say they’ve built a network in two days which took Facebook and Twitter a few years to build. Just by connecting existing Gmail users.

The launch of Google Buzz also generated a lot of criticism on the way Buzz works. Not everybody was happy with the privacy measures Google took, or better: didn’t take. Also a lot of people didn’t see the added value of Buzz in a world with different other large social networks. But Google can easily work on that (and probably should). With the pushing of Buzz, they’ve reached such a large group of people that can give feedback on their product. They can get enough input to develop it into a more user friendly service. Google skipped two years of growth by connecting all the Gmail users and pushing Buzz. All they have to do now is putting a major effort in development so the users will see the added value of Buzz before they drop it altogether (like they did with Google Wave).

So where are the other dots?

Google is not the only company with a large network of individual users. There are a lot of services and communities on the web with large amounts of dots just waiting to be connected into a social network. Below you find an oversight of a few of those big players. Especially Microsoft reaches a specific group of user who are already connecting through Windows Live Messenger. Messenger already supports the option for status updates and these users already have a profile page with their Windows Live ID. These dots are just waiting to be connected into a social network.

Yahoo!: 600 million users
Windows Live Hotmail: 49,759,000 unique users
Windows Live Messenger: 14,845,000 unique users
ICQ: over 42 million active users
iTunes: over 100 million users

I’m not saying it’s simple to create a large and successful social network. But there are certainly opportunities for the larger web companies to create a social network out of an existing bunch of individual dots. I honestly can’t see why leading companies like Microsoft and Yahoo! never connected their dots. What do you think?


Written By
Jeroen van Eck is a consultant search engine marketing at the online marketing company E-Focus in the Netherlands.
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