We here at Ning are big believers in being transparent. Our purpose – and business – should stand up to scrutiny.
In fact, skeptics are huge for us. If we’re right despite them, then there are fewer people trying or able to deliver what we deliver with our service. If we’re wrong, well, then, we’re wrong. No one should ever be driven by fear of failure in the pursuit of something in which they truly believe. In our case, we believe in the freedom to create for free whatever social network you want. Your own social network for anything. With your brand. With your choice of features. With your look and feel. With your members. Reflecting your decisions.
Given this, we’ll occasionally use our little Ning Blog here to highlight our current favorite myths about Ning. Here’s our top four myths about Ning today:
1. Myth: The Number of Social Networks on Ning is a Meaningless Number.
Fact: The number of social networks on Ning is the single best leading indicator of our future growth. Why? Because without social networks on Ning, we can’t grow. So, as the number of networks grow, so do our registered users, uniques, and, most importantly, page views. This relationship has played out in the course of the past eight months like clockwork:
More networks = more users, more uniques, and more targeted page views.
Now, why don’t we talk about these other numbers publicly? Two reasons.
One, because we don’t have to. We’re a private company, we’re not looking for money, and our Network Creators don’t really care whether we have 100,000 networks or 10 million page views as a service as long as when they create a social network on Ning it can kick ass. That’s our maniacal focus right now and should be at our stage of growth.
We talk about number of networks because it’s exciting to us to see our service take off and, as I mentioned, it’s the most critical indicator of future growth for Ning.
Two, whatever numbers we put out to people – while we are still relatively small and rapidly growing – there will always be a group of skeptics who will challenge them. If our page views are 10M per day but comScore is only showing us at a fraction of that, then we’re exaggerating our numbers (despite the fact that we’re a global service tracking actual page views and comScore or Compete or Alexa calculate their scores based on an incredibly small sample of users exclusively in the U.S.).
Or if we say we have 7M uniques per month, then someone will say Facebook has 20M active users per month so we’re in trouble (despite the fact that we’ve been up for eight months with Your Own Social Network for Anything and Facebook wasn’t quite a phenomenon in its first eight months either.)
We may talk at some point here shortly about our users, uniques, and page views, but – while we still don’t have to – we have chosen to make public the most important number we track, a number that clearly demonstrates rapid growth at the most fundamental level of our service.
As an aside, the companion to this myth – typically found in a comment in a critical post – is “I created a social network on Ning and haven’t touched it since.” If someone creates a network on Ning and does nothing with it, that’s just fine. As we’ve mentioned before, our networks follow a Power Law Curve. There will always be abandoned networks on Ning – as it’s incredibly easy to set them up by design – but that doesn’t take away from the growth being driven by the rest of the networks on Ning.
2. Myth: Our traffic growth is “spotty”.
Fact: This is my favorite myth I’ve seen so far. This was surmised by a blogger who was comparing our growth prior to March of this past year to our steep growth ramp from March to September of this year.
Rather than asking himself whether something happened in March that might have driven new growth, this blogger concluded our growth was “spotty.”
As most people know, in March of this past year, we launched Your Own Social Network for Anything. That’s why our traffic has ramped up dramatically since March. To compare our growth before March to growth after March doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s why you launch new products.
The adoption of Your Own Social Network for Anything continues today unabated.
3. Myth: We raised too much money.
Fact: This one always has me scratching my head. We had the great fortune to be able to hook up with some phenomenal investors and fund our business for the foreseeable future at a valuation the market supported and all parties felt good about. As we’ve stated before, we’ll use the money for R&D and to fund our operational infrastructure.
Not only is this market gigantic and our service differentiated, we believe that Ning can be a large independent company generating significant revenue through both targeted advertising and premium services. This type of funding not only enables us to scale our current growth, but potentially weather a few storms and come out the other end unscathed.
This is one case where mo’ money does not equal mo’ problems. In fact, quite the opposite.
4. Myth: We Are Smaller than Facebook.
Fact: Ok, this one is true. We are smaller than Facebook. However, this isn’t a newsflash.
In contrast to Facebook, we have eight months under our belt and an entirely different purpose and focus. In the early history of the web, AOL was bigger than the web for a long time. It didn’t mean however that the web as a platform – which gave people the freedom to create whatever website they wanted as opposed to just joining AOL – didn’t have the potential to dwarf AOL’s walled garden over the long run, even as AOL got bigger too. In fact, AOL was fantastic for bringing people online and into the web. On many levels, without AOL there would have not been a web.
By no means am I suggesting that Ning will be bigger than Facebook or MySpace any time soon. I’m just saying that it’s not outside the realm of possibility. The same people who today are suggesting that people should just create their one-page Facebook groups rather than create their own social networks would have also bet on AOL to crush the web. We all know how that played out 🙂
More myths coming soon!