In the last week or so I’ve read two posts which stress the importance of personality on social media sites. First Danah Boyd’s essay on why Myspace won out over Friendster has a whole section which describes how Myspace founder Tom Anderson was a nice guy and popular with his members whereas Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams was positively disliked by his. Then today I’ve been reading Reddit Case Study: How personality impacts product success over on Startup Review.
Personality on a site is one of those intangible little things that can make the difference between success and failure, but is impossible to design in. Somehow it is either there or it isn’t, and it comes direct from the founders. I think it’s absence goes a long way to explaining why a lot of corporate social media sites struggle to get traction.
Writing this I am reminded of a point I have made before – that the best sites are often designed by entrepreneurs for themselves and their friends, at least initially. Much easier to get the personality right this way.
Also of interest in the Reddit Case Study was the discussion of how they got the site moving. For me, two things stand out – firstly that they got initial traffic of 3-4k users per day from Paul Graham’s site, and secondly that the company posted all the initial stories themselves, but using a variety of pseudonyms. In just about every consumer internet success story I have heard there has been a similarly scrappy approach to getting to critical mass.