Facebook for dogs?

Building websites for startups and entrepreneurs is an exciting and invigorating part of our business. We love helping our clients bring innovative ideas to life across digital and print platforms. However, we have had more than the occasional inquiry from a bright-eyed dreamer with the Next Big Idea, and we’ve found ourselves in the position of bringing the project back down to earth.

Most often, these projects involve a nebulous “social networking” site catered to a niche audience (we literally were once asked to bid on a social network for pets). Gladly, the tools and frameworks now exist to build a robust social network on a common-sense startup budget (unlike the millions invested in the early networks). However, just because the tools exist, doesn’t mean it’s right to use them.

We can build the most beautiful, robust social networking site ever made, but if there are no users, it will fail. At the end of the day, successful social networking relies more on people using the network than the design or functionality. An active, thriving userbase literally provides the value to a social network, as this weekend’s article in the Times points out — your average facebook user is “owed” $50 if you divide the value of the company by its number of users. (Facebook Users Ask, “Where’s Our Cut”)

Whenever possible, we urge clients not to reinvent the wheel, but to leverage existing social networks and find a unique way to embrace them into the fold of their work.

Considerations for Building a New Social Networking Site

What will your new social network do that Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus don’t already do?

Who will use your site, and how will they find out about it? Do you have a marketing budget?

What will convince users to use your site instead of finding like-minded folks on existing networks?

Ways to leverage the power of existing networks

Use Facebook Connect and sharing buttons such as ‘like,’ ‘tweet’ and ‘plus’ to share your content with your users’ networks. The effect can be exponential!

Integrate Facebook accounts into your chat & discussion boards

Use an embedded twitter feed to keep your content fresh and encourage twitter mentions