So you would like to make a fortune in the new Web 2.0? Here is a very useful sight, Startup Review, that provides case studies of web successes. Each case has success factors, launch notes, exit strategy, etc. Here are some of cases I read and the lessons I took away. My comments paraphrase and shorten what is on the site. Check it out for more cases, more lessons and more detail.
Early Mover with Key features: It was not the first movie review site but it was the first to aggregate critic reviews and provide a composite review score of a movie, “Tomatometer”, which is the percentage of reviews that are rated “fresh.” It was a site that people “got” immediately. Right from the start Rotten Tomatoes got great publicity as a cool, new site from web reviewers that drove its initial traffic growth.
Focus on search engine optimization to increase traffic: Almost 70% of incoming traffic was/is from search traffic, so a loyal community may not be enough to achieve mass scale for an information service. SEO may be more important
Stay Focused on Simple Core Mission: Staying focused on movie reviews for a long time ( they now do games) was very helpful
Transparency; users of other services were frustrated because those services operated as a black box. Digg made this process completely transparent and submitters could now see what was popular and fine-tune their submitting accordingly.
Recognition for submitters: The desire to know how one’s views compare with others is a strong motivator.
Element of surprise. Readers enjoy browsing Digg because of the element of surprise - you never know what odd stories you will find.
Fresh Content: Readers can see what the most popular news stories are for any time increment and new ones are always appearing.
Focus on Tech news: tech audience are early adopters, engage in viral marketing, and link a lot to promote search rankings, “blog this” feature helped
Focus on search engine optimization to increase traffic: large audience through search as stories rose in search rankings
Understand the initial problem you are trying to solve and build the product around that. Focus on submitters lack of transparency to editorial review processes at other sites (that seemed arbitrary and unfair) was enough to bring in the initial contributors.
Flickr prioritized the development of viral product features - like easy blog integration / export and post to Flickr icons on for users’ sites were developed early on and nearly 80% of new users found Flickr through the blogs of other users.
Emphasis on making a user’s first interaction with Flickr a positive one. – did not make you register just to view your friend’s photo, unlike other major photo sharing sites
Flickr makes discovering and accessing quality photos easy. – best quality pictures on a theme rise to the top.
Rapid development cycles. “release early, release often” theory of web software development.
Support user community and new users: through online forums where new users can post questions and get help from experienced users and providing very prompt responses to user questions submitted via e-mail. (lack of online help can be real frustrating)
Use initial user community for viral marketing: By promoting their own iStock photos, their photographers create publicity and word of mouth marketing for the service. iStockphoto provides them with some useful marketing tools (like free, customizable business cards) to help them self-promote their portfolios.
Gave users more control over their MySpace pages, enabling a higher degree of self-expression and communication with friends
Rapidly adapted product to desires of user base: started with strategy to not have pre-conceived notions about how users wanted to interact with the site. When users started creating group profile pages around interests and associations, MySpace accepted this behavior and Friendster did not, eventually losing out to more user centric MySpace.
Used combination of viral tactics, offline advertising, and online distribution partnerships to seed initial MySpace community with users. I am experimenting with a digg button here in case you want to share this.