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5,500 New Social Networks in 10 Days!
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Last night, we passed 80,000 social networks on Ning. That’s 50,000 social networks created since February 27th! Along with having a little party about this fact, I also thought it might be a good opportunity to break that number down a little further and talk about what it means.

There are really three buckets of social networks on Ning and they follow the Power Law Curve (or The Long Tail, it’s more easily digestible cousin):

Top Networks

The first bucket of social networks on Ning are the most popular ones. Our top 200 networks represent around 37% of our total page views across the Ning Platform.

Interestingly, they have very little in common with each other in terms of topic, design, or member base. What makes a social network successful? Authenticity, interestingness, and/or a passionate base of members are the only common characteristics of the most successful networks.

What we certainly don’t see is that the most popular networks are the most generic networks. It’s the opposite. Having a purpose is critical. Mass appeal via the same feature set as MySpace or Facebook is a losing proposition for new network creators on or off the Ning Platform.

Active Networks in the Middle and Tail

Active social networks in the middle and the tail represent the remaining 63% of our page views. These networks are just getting started, have a smaller addressable member base, or are created around more niche topics. Like a family. Or a school. Or a group of friends. This bucket is where we see the vast majority of our private networks, but a few of our top networks are private as well.

Again, these networks have very little in common with each other in terms of topic, design, or member base. What they do have in common is that they authentically address niche topics and people.

Networks with No Activity

The third bucket of networks on Ning are the dead ones. And we love them.

What??? You love dead networks on the service? Yes, we do.

Dead networks mean that it’s super easy to create your own social network for free on Ning and that people are dipping their toes to experiment in this particular pond. We love experimentation. We love people trying us out. Not doing anything with your network is perfectly fine.

That’s the freedom to create. To take the step to try the service and successfully end up with a social network after a few minutes for free is a critical part of what we are doing here.

So, experiment away! You might find the whole thing addictive or lose interest after a few days. We’ve seen much more of the former than the latter, but both are required for us to have the type of vibrant service that we’re striving to nurture and grow.