If your brilliant idea is summed up with this phrase, I don’t need a crystal ball to predict some disappointment in your future. Social networking shares some unconformable similarities to casual gaming. The biggest and most problematic issue is simply that it looks easy to the observer.

Let’s consider a good case in point. We’ll call them “Irritated Avians.” You hear from someone that this particular little offering has popped up overnight and is making millions its first month. So you take a look at it – bright, simple graphics that look like they could be from a flash banner (or from a bin of toddler-safe toys at your local department store).

I’m sure I could do better than this, you think. I just need to add in a few clever little bits, and I’ll be a millionaire before the week’s out.

Welcome to the second similarity between social networks and casual games. There is an endless list of imitations that won’t ever see the light of day. No matter how many looping sparrows or green sunbursts get tacked on.

Any social networking system, no matter how small, is a sustained chain-reaction. (Note, I did not say self-sustaining.) This “Networking Fission” can be extremely powerful. The success stories all read like the mix of one “brilliant” idea with the magic of the network made success inevitable. No one tells or listens much to the other stories. All the countless fizzles and flops, the forgotten and the never known. But, you should.

That is, if you’re still interested, after this much gloom and (hopefully) disillusionment. Social networking isn’t easy, but it can be worth it.

In moving ahead with a social media idea, you will be fighting the twin opponents of ignorance and indifference. (Not exactly easy going on you your first day). In other words, nobody knows, and more importantly, nobody cares. If you want to win against these two issues, you’ll need a game plan, and a good one.

I’ll help you get started. Are you ready?

“Hit fast and pull hard”

That’s it. Whatever details you’re thinking of now are going to change. “No plan survives contact with the enemy” (Helmuth von Moltke) as the conventional wisdom goes. Getting out there fast is the first concern.

Start with the simplest painfully pruned down version of your concept that you can imagine. The Minimum Viable state, as the jargon goes. This step of the process is a tough one. The big guys have so much more flash and all those features. But remember the words of John Gall: “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works.”

What you need now is metrics (and a moderate ad campaign) to start the long hard haul of taking those precious few starters and building them into the community that will sustain the reaction. Watch closely and move fast. Every complaint, every quit, every time the site is used, every when, where, how, etc., can and must inform your site into something worth sticking around for.

In the end, if your first venture into a social media project falls short, take the feedback you received and apply it to your next idea. Success lies in paying attention to the details, so you don’t want to ditch all the data that your first project allows you to collect.

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