“Synergy.” It’s one of those words that resides alongside “Web 2.0” as business jargon whose power is diluted from misuse and overuse. But, linguistic connotation notwithstanding, I think it is a critical component of sites that are going places in the 2000’s. Don’t buy it? Observe:
Etsy. A site that, at its core, is doing the same thing as eBay: selling crafts between users. Given, they have done it with a better interface, but a blind decapitated monkey could create a better UI than eBay. Most sites have. What has made Etsy so much more successful than nice-looking sites like MightyBids.com is the synergy it generates between items and artists. The preponderance of well-photographed (and thus visually attractive) items on the site exist because artists tend to be better photographers than the average user. Many of Etsy’s most unique and successful features “work” because the site is designed for abstract-minded individuals. Their “time machine” is a perfect example of this. The “time machine” is a flash application on Etsy that scrolls items of decreasing newness toward you through space. This feature succeeds resoundingly because of the synergies wherein A) people expect artsy features on an artsy site and B) art-related items are much more arbitrarily chosen than eBay items, so it is relevant to see random pieces presented. If eBay tried to do the same, you would get toasters and broken laptops and Nigerian get-rich-quick scams flying toward you. And it would not help you shop more effectively.
Biznik. A site that takes one part business, one part indy, and seasons to taste with charm. As Etsy::Classifieds, Biznik::Networking — that is, the world doesn’t need another business networking site. But powerful synergies exist when you take friendly, benevolent, like-minded indy service providers, and mix them with users possessing business acumen. The result is monthly get-togethers like “Biznik Happy Hour” which is a networking event advertised as “Not a room of business card pushing suits,” and which, over the course of the last six months, has nearly tripled in size, to the point that the event has outgrown the otherwise-terrific Liberty Cocktail bar. Why does Biznik work so well? Because its users naturally want to talk to and help each other, and if you’re talking to and helping someone, you want to get to know them, and if you get to know them, you’ll more likely to want to help them. And every time this cycle happens, the site itself becomes better because more people join and more advice is posted. The bottom line is that Biznik fosters an environment that perpetuates helpfulness, and is led by founders who embody the generous, user-first indy spirit that is manifest in so many members of the site.
As I continue to gather data and start putting the words into Business Plan 2.0, it has become very clear to me that this type of synergy is exactly the reason that Bonanzle will work. The classified ads sector is saturated, and the online auction space is beyond saturated. For a new site to make any significant inroads in this environment, there must be a strong synergistic undercurrent that leads users to the site and the site to users and users to users and the site to other sites. Fortunately, that is precisely how the plan is working out.