In the world of social networks, Facebook is getting all the buzz. But despite Facebook’s much-blogged-about $15 billion valuation, MySpace rules the roost when it comes to total members, unique visitors and advertisement dollars. In fact, according to Alexa.com, MySpace ranks as the 3rd highest trafficked website in the US (sixth place worldwide), while Facebook sits at a respectable fifth in the U.S. (seventh place worldwide). So why would College Tonight, a new social network geared toward, well, college students actively going against the two giants of the “social graph”?
According to their ‘about us’ page, “College Tonight focuses on nightlife events and social opportunities both directly on a student’s campus and within their broader communities.” They even claim to be a social network “that promotes actual social interactivity rather than the sedentary lifestyle nearly all “social networks” relegate its users to behind a physical computer screen.”
But how is that really different than what college students already do on Facebook or MySpace? One thing College Tonight seems to ignore is that the internet is the playground for the introverted. Social communities have virtually replaced the pickup line. And, by the way, introverted students already use those other sites to do extroverted things in real life; to go to concerts, promote campus activities, you name it. In fact, doing anything online is an introverted activity.
If College Tonight really wants to peel attention away from Facebook, they shouldn’t define themselves as being “different” than other social networks in terms of how people will use their site. (People who already use other networks will read that message as self-hype.) Instead, College Tonight should try filling the void left by Facebook a year ago, when it decided to let mom, dad and anyone else who wants to, join. They should sell themselves as a network for college students only. “Want to know what’s happening on your campus tonight? Here’s the place to be.” Not only is that what College Tonight was set up to do, it’s the smartest way to get local and big-name advertising revenue. If they tell that story, it’ll be easier for Pete’s Pub (or whatever the local bar may be) to place an ad, and they’ll have cleaner data to help bigger brands target specific campuses and groups.
Although they’re big and getting bigger, there are a lot of concerns about Facebook right now. If College Tonight is smart, they’ll stay small and leverage that by using a Unique Value Proposition that fits.
Otherwise, it’s like David versus Goliath, but without the slingshot.