networkMetcalfe’s law states the value of the network increases exponentially with each additional node that is added. This theory was originally developed for the telecom networks to show how a telephony network’s value increases the more phones that are added. The same is true of social networks, look at myspace, its intrinsic value at this point is that everyone is on it, not that it offers any particular features the others lack. In all honesty it probably has weaker feature-sets than most of the competitors (look at tagworld or bebo or facebook). Now this brings me to the topic at hand: what value does your community bring to the table?Your community can be any number of things, be it your regular poker group, or the business networking group you are a member of, or even your reader community on your website. So now that you’ve established in your mind what your community is, lets talk about it. The first question to ask yourself is: what value is there in my particular community? Why should people join my social network/blog/google group for: high school sports, college fraternities, musical groups, movie fans, etc?Since I don’t really know much of anything about your particular community, I’ll use the Miami web scene and RefreshMiami as my examples. When I decided to get the ball rolling and start the refreshmiami.org site a little over a year ago, I saw it as offering the following values to the community:

  1. Increased networking in a widely isolated local community
  2. The opportunity for people to share ideas and collaborate
  3. Business opportunities for the members
  4. Learning opportunities (heck I’ve learned a lot of CSS stuff from Nick alone)

With those values in mind, how has our little community provided value to its members? Well its created business and employment opportunities for a number of people, it has also enabled a lot of people (we have over 80 people on our mailing list now) to get together and come up with new and exciting ideas.So now when you go to start your very own social network, social group, or fan community you know what questions to ask yourself. In case you didn’t get it, they are:

  1. How do my members benefit from being in my network?
  2. How do my members benefit from getting their friends to joinr my network?
  3. Remember everyone is asking “what’s in it for me?”