10 Common Mistakes Made by web 2.0 start-ups:How to avoid them
Do you want to build the next killer Social Web Application such as Digg, Flickr, Del.icio.us or YouTube. There are more than 1000 social web applications that are released there with different purposes, but only a handful of them really succeed at finding and retaining the users. What are the common mistakes made by the web 2.0 start-up companies who build these social web applications?
Joshua of Bokardo has written a two-part article on Common Pitfalls of Building Social Web Applications and How to Avoid Them. The list include,
1) Underestimating The Cold Start Problem - Understand the fact that 90% of the web users would like to sit back and relax. Many of them don’t actively edit Wikipedia or upload photos in Flickr – even though these applications have been here for years. When a new, funky wen service is introduced, expect cold users. You need to work your ass out to get your product our there. Bloggers, Forums, Newsletters, Traditional Media – the ways are many. But, don’t assume that people will come flocking around instantly.
2) Focusing on Too Many Things - Well said. How many mash-ups do you regularly check in? Do one thing, do it as if no one can do it – this is the key. If you try to combine many things (Digg + Delicious + StumbleUpon + YouTube), you are bound to fail.
3) Lack of Sustained Execution – It is closely related to the cold-start problem. This is like launching a rocket in to the Space – you need tremendous energy to push against the gravity, once it crosses the atmospheric limits, it will free flow. Unless, you battle out the initial years, new web services hardly survive.
4) Pointing the Finger when Missteps Happen – Admit mistakes and take responsibilities. Mistakes can be corrected and reworked towards a great success. Move on.
5) Not Appointing a Full-time Community Manager – I am not surprised to know Flickr developers frequently interacted with the users (added comments on photos) to listen to their suggestions on improving Flickr. I have seen at humblevoice as well – where in I am being treated like a VIP.
6) Not Building Archived Knowledge – There will be always new users and they will be asking the same questions over and over. You can have a simple FAQ list. But, the smart thing to do is to provide the answering powers to the users themselves. Develop a support community / forums for helping your users.
7) An Over-Focus on Social Value – I agree with this because, I would use a social web application for what it can do to me. Flickr helps me to organize my photos, Orkut helps me to keep n touch with my friends and StumbleUpon provides interesting sites to view. I have a personal satisfaction attached to each of these websites as well – Flickr helps to boost my pride on how good my photos are and Orkut proves my social network (how many friends have you got?). If you can’t satisfy a personal need, do not build a social application.
and I would add few more to the list.
Addressing a future need – Flickr founders saw the rise of digital cameras and realised people would need an online application to organize the digital photos. YouTube founders realised there should be a way to share ‘home made videos’ to the world. What is the future need? Rise of SmartPhone. People will be on the move – what they would be interested in? Can you serve them?
9) Buy your first users – It may seem unethical, but to avoid the cold-start problem, you need to do it. Buy or hire users who would pretend to be the users of your new Internet application. They would ‘actively use’ your web application, demonstrate the new users what you can accomplish with it.
10) Reward the Top users – Either by directly listing the "Top Users" as Digg did it or just listing the "Top Things" as Flickr and YouTube. But, reward your users with some pride so they can show it off to their friends, brag about their accomplishments (with your application) in their blogs.
Another important feature that we learnt using the big web 2.0 applications is that they give more or less equal emphasis on its developers and founders. We know we can contact a Google developer or a Digg founder, Right? Be available to your customers – they know how to improve your web service.
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