How the Top Social Networks got started

May 21, 2008 - Get free updates of new posts here

It might be unknown to many but the majority of all social networks were started by a spamming of some sorts.

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  • MySpace used their ResponseBase email marketing list of 100 million+ people to send for first users.
  • Facebook spammed all the Harvard email lists to get the first 2,000 users in a day.
  • Hi5 used their previous dating site to send a considerable amount of traffic to
  • Bebo used their original site to have a huge user base to start with.
  • Friendster and Orkut, I think started naturally and virally through a very limited invite system.

Take aways:
1- What can you do to get a relevant email list through non-illegal ways? Get more subscribers by asking! Can you create a light weight system to garner targeted users? Consider having a landing-page (view the original Mint landing pages we used to grow a huge email list) and buying ads on Google. Make sure you don’t lose¬†subscribers…there are tips to keeping them.
2- Things don’t happen by magic. You have to light a match to start a fire.

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10 responses to “How the Top Social Networks got started

  1. J. Bryan Scott Reply

    I’d heard that before about Facebook, but I never heard the history on these other social networks.

    High value post here – I like it when I don’t have to read much to learn a lot.

  2. Noah Kagan Reply


    good question. you can buy lists but sending unsolicited email is spam. need to figure out ways that people willingly give you that email address or other forms of communication. i will go over how i did it at in a week or so.

  3. Vinnie Reply

    and it doesn’t always have to be an email list for ‘social software’: – i think they’re big start was sxsw 2006, core early adopter community – embeddable widgets on myspace – open sourcing their software – that i don’t know, just best option when the idea was coming into play?

  4. John Walters Reply

    Whether you class it as spamming or not, what the sites did worked! They managed to get a large user base in an incredibly short space of time. A lot of sites must have grown in the same way, like Vinnie said. Social networks weren’t the first and won’t be the last that use ‘spammy’ techniques to get well known.