(… if you compete with them)
Mistake #6: Building a Social Network
When you start a pitch with “We are building a social network for…” my brain will already have stopped listening before you get to the end of the sentence. Building a social network is a terrible, terrible, terrible idea for making things happen.
The biggest problem with launching any sort of social network is that it’s very difficult to bootstrap. Networks grow based on who’s already on them. If it’s mostly empty, then there’s very little value in signing up. But when everyone is already there, there’s huge value in joining too. Lots of people hate Facebook, but they have to be there because their friends are all there, and it’s the de facto way for organising events etc. You’re very very very unlikely to be able to replicate that (look how much trouble Google is having), but it’s almost certain that you don’t need to.
If you really need to harness a social network somehow, just build on top of Facebook, rather than trying to replicate it. But most of the time you don’t need to, because, rather ironically, the best way to achieve social change is usually by harnessing individual self-interest. I’ll write more about that in a couple of days at H, but for now simply consider why you think you need a social network. People can, do, and always have, been able to work together on things without needing that sort of structure. Just Don’t Do It.