Sunday, September 16, 2012

Three questions to consider when building cross network utility

After reading Fred Wilson's post Cross Network Utility and Networks, I spent a few minutes thinking about what makes a social network not a cross network utility.  This post resonated with me because I have been working on cross network utility.  When we started, it seemed clear to me that we were not in business of building a new social network.  But as I started drilling in deeper into how to make our service more compelling, I found it difficult to just focus on building cross network utility and say no to creating a new social network.

I think the reason is a simple one.  If a cross network utility is serving a niche user segment, users want to share ideas and data with each other in a way that benefits everyone.  In other words, users see the win-win situation from collaborating with others.

One way to solve this problem is not
to create social profile on all social networks
(Image from
When users are logging in to a site and the site is closely integrated with social networks (such as cross network utility), they expect to share information, send messages and leave comments for their group members to see within the site, not in other social networks that it integrates with.

This makes perfect sense when you break down the reasons of why anyone might use a new site.  When user signs up for a new site, there are three main reasons why users decide to become a fan of the site.

1. What is the value?

User must be convinced that it solves a problem that she has now.  Not something that might be useful in future, not problem that has already been solved, but a problem that she has that needs to be solved right now.  The landing page should clearly lay out the problem and the solution that the site provides.

2. Why should I come back?

Once user signs up with the site, it's easy to forget that she even signed up unless she sees a reason to come back.  There are just too many things competing for her attention, and it's up to the site to make it clear that why her next visit will be better than the first.  Make sure follow up email is sent and give her a reason to come back.

3. What can the service provide that nothing else can?

As user starts interacting with the site, it's important to allow users to interact with each other especially if your target audience is narrowly focused.  Note that as more users start engaging with other users, the new site gets transformed into a community by creating a new social network.  Once a community is created, it is difficult to substitute the site because users care about context and historical content.

What I'm seeing now is that because of the third point, it makes sense for both the site and users to create a new social network out of cross network utility.  Remember that there won't be just one winner in social networks.  Your site could be one of the many successful ones.

1 comment:

  1. It’s always great to visit a helpful and useful post like you did. Ideas like this are amazing; it can be applicable to my marketing. Thanks for sharing this.
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