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Are social networks for your startup?
by Hernan Amiune Wed, 03/20/2013 - 14:46
In the boom of social networks I heard an entrepreneur saying that he didn't knew what the web 2.0 mean and he didn’t care to know, the company was the fastest growing company at the time in UK and a couple of years later he sold his company to Google for more than 50M.
By the time he said that I was starting a similar company in the other side of the world and with my naïve thinking I thought I could make my company to grow even faster by using all my knowledge about social networks and programming.
Today my company is growing fast but as you may guess already the growth is not due the users that came from social networks and here I’m going to share the details of what I have learned.
First I want to make clear that when I say social networks I’m talking about Facebook and like some of you would know Facebook users are now vaccinated, so getting viral is a hundred of times harder than it was at the beginning. When Facebook started you could write an app that when accepted by the user you can spam all her friends and your app will get that exponential growth but today thing are different you need a lot of permissions from the user and then invitation for apps are displayed just as a small number in the left menu that nobody see.
I don’t like to give advices, I think each person is smart enough to read and decide if some use cases applies to them or not and if they want to try them or not, so the following are the things that I would do before start spending a lot of time, effort and money in social networks.
First I would ask myself: Is my company suitable for virality? This is a tough question and to answer it I need to know the probability of contagion of my product or service. The lower the probability of contagion is, the more effort, time and money I will need to “infect” everyone.
The following questions should help to approximately know how much contagious my product is:
1. Is my product/service in the Productive category or in the Entertainment category?
If my product is in the Entertainment category then I would definitely spend some time and effort to integrate it with Facebook. If my product is in the Productive category then I would give a second thought before I start spending time and effort in a Facebook integration strategy.
The reason behind this reasoning is that Facebook users use Facebook in their spare time, even when they are at work they use it to relax to forget about work so trying to push them productivity stuff is like trying to sell ties at the beach.
2. Is my company a local or niche company?
This is a very important point because with a niche product I will be interacting with users of the same specie and this increase the contagion probability. But with niche and local companies you need to work on creating a community and strongest relationships between the community members which are your users. This will allow to maintain your users and don’t lose them which is also as important as getting new users. In this case you can use facebook as a tool to engage your users to be part of the company.
3. How often my users use my product/service?
If you provide a service that people use very often the contagion probability increase exponentially and you should put some effort in social networks. In the case that your service is useful to people once a year or once every 6 month then forget about social networks because at any given time you won’t have enough connected people to produce a viral effect.