Why did people join Facebook; what made it special?* This is a though I have so often, it’s become funny, but my answer has never been precise enough, “critical mass.”
Critical mass doesn’t tell you anything, except that they manage to get enough people to use it, and as more did, it became almost invaluable to the rest. The problem with such a simple, and ignorant response is that doesn’t really help to understand how they generated that critical response anyways. That’s the real question that needs to be answered.
We all know about FaceMash, and the exclusivity presented by the college email restrictions in the beginnings. I think through every phase of the company it has held momentum by voluntarily limiting growth, and strategically raising the level of suspense, and necessity via critical mass in various markets.
One quote paraphrased as I remember, “When we went to add Baylor, they wouldn’t allow us on campus, so we went to all of the surrounding schools, and added them to the network. In effect, we built the demand within Baylor by adding most of their friends from other schools to the network, and then expanded to Baylor.” [Editorial Remark: It was from The Facebook Effect. The paragraph was about the “surround strategy.” Also, I originally thought it was BYU, and not Baylor.
I find that brilliant, they built demand in the market, before releasing in the market. The same can be said of Mark’s original FaceMash, which provided him with enough notoriety and acknowledgment within Harvard to release Facebook, as well as providing access to a tool that helped to keep up with your friends.
The whole reason I brought this up is I started thinking about how my friend made me create a new account** when I got to WVU, ‘because everyone uses it.’ I find it interesting that it had created such a critical mass at that point in schools, and it seems to have managed to maintain critical mass among it’s markets this whole time, I find it simply amazing.
* = More general “Why did/do people use/join/verb X Company?” I ask these type of questions all the time.
** = I had one for a week or two in HS, because I got tired of fighting the school admins with proxies to get to myspace, and couldn’t remember how to access it.
(Original written January 29th, 2011)(Last Edited March, 17th 2011)