Welcome to the SlapStart magazine. This letter is intended to be a place for our thoughts, comments, and observations about the start-up world that don’t fit anywhere else in the site. Although the format may change in ensuing issues, this one consists of three parts- marketing strategies, forecasts, and announcements.
At the end of the day, marketing is all that matters. You can make the most beautiful and useful website in the world, but if you don’t have an effective marketing strategy then you’re dead in the water. We have come across a few exceptionally well built sites that appeared to be heading in this unfortunate direction. Many websites approach marketing strategy with the, “if you build it they will come” tactic. Although maybe this succeeds in some cases, we find a better goal to be, “if you build your marketing strategy into your site design, then they will come.” Let me explain. Many sites have taken to adding sharing buttons such as the Facebook like button or Twitter. These are helpful, but they’re calling the user to an action that they aren’t already doing. To have one’s marketing plan rely on the benevolence of one’s users isn’t always effective. To contrast, building your marketing strategy into your design allows users to share pages with their friends as they use the site. For instance, many sites use Facebook or Twitter for registration. From there it’s easy to share their actions with their friend networks. If they earn a reward or do something notable on your site, then they can post it to their Twitter stream. Facebook games are well known for this. I’m probably not the only one who has turned off all updates from MafiaWars or FarmVille. Every time someone buys a new sheep it’s announced on their Facebook wall. This is effective, but there is a fine line to observe as well. People don’t like applications posting to their social network boards without their knowledge. It’s our opinion that sites should be 100% transparent about the posting settings. Although, we’ll concede turning notifications on by default it more helpful. Many people don’t mind, as long as it can be readily adjusted.
The unbeatable marketing option is when your users start placing links for you. Thus, we list it as the #1 marketing strategy to consider when launching a website. This could be a widget that bloggers place on their site, or anything at all that users can place elsewhere on the web that links back to you. Whatever the case, sites need to ask themselves the question, what will compel our users to place a link back to us. Any answer better than, “because they like us and want to market for us,” is a good answer. Ideally they should post links in the process of using your site as it’s meant to be used.
These are our forecasts of various sectors and market segments.
Social News Sites
The social news market is in a state of flux. Digg launched a new version of their best of brand social news site last fall and immediately lost a huge percentage of their users. Their famed founder, Kevin Rose, just announced his resignation. Where did the users go? Some went to Reddit. Presumably others went to Stumbleupon. Still others disseminated out into the outer webs never to be heard from again. Reddit has had numerous outage problems and doesn’t seem to be handling the load. Also, all social networks take on certain cultures and not all will fit in there. Stumbleupon is relatively popular amongst users but could use a viable alternative. I’ve seen a few projects that attempted to provide a competing service, but none that seemed to be well put together. Given the recent migration of social network users, there’s likely room for a new contender in this space.
I’m not sure anyone expected MySpace to fall so fast. Facebook has clearly taken over the social networking planet. Whenever there’s change something is always left behind. The major thing left behind is music. MySpace lingered for so long in part because people liked checking out the bands hosted there. In the garage band world you weren’t ‘real’ if you didn’t have a MySpace page. Now there’s no central place for bands to place their music and for people to see it. There are many contenders but the social network/music combination would likely work again. We’ve seen more than a few sites take direct stabs at Facebook. They often revolve around the perceived weakness of Facebook- that it’s too open and all your information is displayed to everyone. Although there is truth to the fact that Facebook has had some privacy concerns, this is actually their strength. I think for every one complaint about Facebook privacy, people are connected ten friends they wouldn’t otherwise be in contact with. In short, if you’re making a social network, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The stickiness to those sites is the social aspect and sometimes people benefit from the site making the introduction. Our observation is that there may be room for a social network that incorporates music, social networking, and respectfully disrespects people’s privacy enough to play matchmaker a bit.
Craigslist did not make the mistake of Digg and revise a not broken so don’t fix it website. They hardly make any updates to their site at all. That said, we include it here since some how, some way, the online classifieds sector needs to get with the web 2.0 program. Heck, they need to get with the web 1.0 program. Right now we think they’re at about a web .08, just barely past the legal drinking and driving limit. More than a few sites have cropped up around the web, including geolocating services. Various web and mobile applications show you the general location of the item and help facilitate the directions, and introductions. The huge hurdle in that sector is classifieds are only as useful as the entries they contain. Figuring out how to break through the glass ceiling in that market will take a stroke of clever ingenuity, and possibly integrating it with a social network.
Photo Sharing Sites
Currently there’s a hole in the photo sharing site market. It is as follows. A lot of people attend a gathering of some sort, but they may or may not be friends on Facebook. They all take separate pictures but there’s no central location for them to upload their pictures so they can be seen by all. Many sites have observed this shortcoming and offered viable solutions. None have succeeded yet in becoming the forerunning solution.
Considering the current climate of the major online sectors, we propose a new social network- one that includes all of the above. A place for social news, bands, friends, classifieds, improved photo sharing, with a seriously well thought out privacy plan. It needs to protects users’ privacy but doesn’t let them end up isolated and alone either. If anyone embarks on building such a site, we’d like to hear about it.
We’ve made a few changes and updates to the site.
- We’ve updated that SlapStart badges pages, dividing them into two categories- the main badges and then extras. the extra badges are the result of design exploration we did. These give site owners multiple options to show off their featured post. We take it as the most telling mark of our success if a site owner posts our badge or links back to their article.
- Next is that our articles are now likable. Well, they were always likeable, but now site owners can indicate they like their articles via Facebook’s like button.
- We now publish every day. Previously we only published on weekdays. Within a day of making the jump our pagerank went up a notch.