I’ve spent A LOT of time on social networks. Probably much more time on forums (which I also consider SNs) than with blogs and the normal SN communities. It isn’t easy to create a successful community that is free and without pretense. And, with doing the time, comes some insider knowledge – some wisdom that everybody that’s done time garners.
What exists at registration – stays ad infinitum
The terms of membership upon registration can’t be changed without the consent of BOTH parties.
We see this all the time – promise the world, say everything is “free and open with possibility” to get them in and then, BAAM! – the knife goes to the members’ throats and it is “pay or else”. Now I’m dramatizing but in essence this is what many websites and SNs do. They lure members in with free promises. Look, you have all this that is free! Sign up your students! Start a cooking group! And then one day, they decide that you have to pay for what was once free, “the audacity!” Let’s not call it that – let’s say, “the criminality”! It truely is a crime, this new trend from free to premium in one fell swoop, without continuing existing member’s initial agreement. Ning did it and it happens all the time. Where once you had no ads, all of a sudden there are ads – you ask, that wasn’t the agreement? and they huff and haw but in the end say – “my way or the highway”. There should be a better business bureau for online businesses and a SN shouldn’t be allowed to change the TOS (terms of service ) that existed upon registration (nor have in the TOS – “we can change them without warning whenever we want” – what an asinine concept but many have this written in).
No Social Network is an Island
Just like there are so many blogs that get started and then are dropped – so too, many SNs that with much fanfair start and then just fade away. The graveyard of social networks is vast. What it means is that no matter how attractive, how many features, how hard you try and “be there” and get conversation going – it is going to take more. A SN can’t exist alone – it must make connections with the wider world and bring in “food” to sustain it. This means outside content (vis RSS, Widgets), this means outside people (guest bloggers, invitations), this means presence elsewhere (like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr etc). This means that members and especially the creator, need to foster strong relationships with other SNs and other online entities – or starve.