Steering Social Network Growth

Raj Kapoor of Mayfield Fund provides some thoughts on how to accelerate social network growth in a post on VentureBeat:

"It’s not easy, not proven, but I believe it is possible to steer a social network. Here are some ideas that could help bring a network back on track:

1) Create a relevance engine showing the right users at the right time. For example, many networks display “recent” or “interesting” users when a user first joins – the goal of this is to get them socializing right away. Instead of randomly pulling profiles from the user base, the networks can regionally relevant users to the new ones in order to build engagement and further virality among the right group.

2) Do proactive seeding trying to find the “connectors” to trigger exponential growth. Just like there were a few Brazilians who were wildly social and popular and brought their friends into Orkut, a network needs to do some seed marketing (yes, that’s a new word for most social networks that have zero customer acquisition cost) to bring in connectors (sometimes through trial and error) and get them to start the flywheel in the right direction.

3) If all else fails, you can tune the virality up or down depending on the desired user group. How do you tune virality? The idea is to promote viral features such as “tell a friend” and “import your addressbook” selectively depending on the user group — perhaps sacrificing short-term growth in non-relevant users."

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