Tools vs Networks

There are many ways to build a social network. However one of the key lessons is that there must be some appeal for people when the network has a few users (before it reaches a critical mass). 

Chris Dixon, an a16z, partner, has a fantastic maxim for how this works:

“Come for the tool, stay for the network”

Chris Dixon

In other words, sure if every single one of my friends is on a new social network, I’ll probably try it out. But when there are two users, what will make me become user number three?

So the next logical question is “What came first the chicken or the egg?” 

For social networks, there actually is an answer to this!

This is the classic cold start problem of social. The answer to the traditional chicken-and-egg question is actually answerable: what comes first is a single chicken, and then another chicken, and then another chicken, and so on. The harder version of the question is why the first chicken came and stayed when no other chickens were around, and why the others followed.

Eugene Wei (Status-as-a-Service)

So what is an example of a network built with successful single-player utility? 

Instagram! The “tool” was the ability to use innovative photo filters for free + easy ability to share on other social networks. Eventually, once enough chickens were on the app, Instagram became the “network” where photos were shared.

Again there are multiple ways to build a successful network but I love the idea that single-player tools can be an incredible form of kindling that fuels the fire.

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