Nothing makes a user feel special more than an invite to an exclusive online social clique. Throw in the fact that most of us geeks were not cheerleaders or jocks in high school and you've got a captive audience.
Successful? Yes, just ask aSmallWorld
Beware: Even the biggest geeks eventually get jaded when this technique is employed by everyone from Google to Microsoft.
4. Open Network - Full Integration
Allowing users to easily transfer their current profile and friends from their address book or other social networking site is a smart move. Almost all of the companies I see allow this. Even the strictly IM companies do this.
Successful? I worked with a company that tried this and we saw a huge jump in Alexa and signups after this tactic was utilized. So, yes, it was successful for us, and it appears to be successful for any company looking to make signup numbers skyrocket.
Beware: If your product is not good, the opposite is certainly true. The easier it is to join your network, the easier it is to leave.
3. User Profile Customization
A user-base that feels it is in control is a happy user-base.
Successful? Yes, just ask MySpace and Friendster.
Beware: Your site may end up being the ugliest thing on the planet and may be plagued by huge bandwidth drains, advertisers who fear naughty content and parents who fear for their teen's morality/safety.
2. Web 2.0 Name
The annoyingly cute (Flickr) and uncommonly weird (del.icio.us) names that companies are choosing today are as curious as they are common.
Successful? Yes, though most are taking the idea of an uncommon, unforgettable name from Yahoo and Google's success. Remember, 15 years ago if I told you that two of the largest online companies of this era were named after a big number and an Australian greeting, would you have believed it?
There is certainly a particular trend in removing, adding or changing a letter (Flickr, Digg, Reddit) or using an uncommon suffix (del.icio.us, dealspl.us).
Beware: Web 2.0 Name blindness. This is similar to ad blindness in that your eye eventually begins to skip over these silly names, grouping them altogether. A name like this is, quite often, more of a detriment than a positive factor. On the plus side, these names make the search for VC easier. For some reason VCs are magnetically drawn to these names.
1. The Beta
Nothing is more overused than the beta term. It's almost a marketing tool all it's own. Gather came out of beta this week. Writely is still in beta. I think Flickr is in Gamma or some such nonsense... Beta is the new black dress. Everyone's wearing it and it looks great on all types of women sites.
Successful? Oh my goodness, YES! It's the easiest thing in the world to release a beta build to generate buzz about your product. You get free product testers and you can always fall back on the 'hey, it's beta' excuse if any data is lost or users are maimed.
Beware: While many sites find success with a beta product, a site that's 'not yet ready for prime time' may not get a second look. Sometimes first impressions are all you get, so you want to make sure your beta is almost perfect before you release it. Of course, that's supposing your bootstrapping a labor of love. If you're just searching for VC, beta is the single most successful way into the heart of a VC investor.