How it feels to launch a new social media site

Darren Moffatt

Imagine for a moment you’re a cross-country skier. You’ve spent an eternity grafting your way up a huge mountain (with no directions), beating your own path through rugged country to overcome all manner of obstacle and hazard, when finally - finally - you reach the summit. It’s a sweet moment to savour; it’s all downhill from here. Or so you think. Instead, the immense scale of your challenge is only now fully revealed to you from the peak: the path forward is longer, harder, faster and even more uncertain than the ascent. But, heart-in-your-mouth, you put on your skis and set off into the unknown anyway, running only on fear, adrenalin, and a glorious vision of a better future.

This is how it feels to launch a new social network!

It’s now ten days since we went live with, the social network for real estate and property, and my co-founder Ben and I are….relieved, mostly. That we made it this far, and that nothing serious has gone wrong. Touch wood. Our decision to delay the launch THREE times while we continued to build the team, embed suppliers, and test the site was maddening, but it appears to have paid off. We were better prepared, both for the live date and the immediate post-launch phase. Unforseen problems have emerged, and we’ve scrambled to fix these, but they’ve been manageable and barely noticed.

I must admit, it’s been a tiny bit exciting. In the first week, we attracted unexpected  media coverage and we’ve already got a live, growing community of real people using our site. Brilliant! Perhaps the best part has been connecting with new people all over Australia who ‘get’ our model, and in some cases, have volunteered to actively help us. One amazing woman in Queensland even created a special newsletter and emailed her database of fifteen hundred real estate agents. (Thanks Lisa!)

That’s a fair achievement for week one, but now the hard work really begins because we’ve already made a big mistake: we wrongly assumed people would read our knowledge base. Prior to launch we spent hundreds of hours writing detailed articles on how best to use our site. But guess what? No one is reading them! They’re joining, using the site, and returning – which is great –  but they’re barely scraping the surface of its potential and it’s all our fault. The articles are too technical, and don’t communicate our vision for how we see people using Housenet.

For example, we have five clear value propositions for Housenet users:

  • Create property listings for sale, rent and to share – for FREE

  • Find, compare & connect with top industry professionals

  • Manage your property online with our Property Pages

  • Get tips, share knowledge & make contacts in our Q&A Forums

  • Join the conversation, have your say with

But each aspect then has multiple additional features and applications. See? It’s a complex message! So,  Ben and I are producing a series of videos that will show people how to leverage the powerful platform we’ve built. Housenet is an AMAZING tool, but we need to better communicate the strategies for using it.

This is not my first business (I have a successful mortgage brokerage too), but I’m struck by all the things I’ve learnt (or re-learnt) in just ten days with Housenet.  I could go on, but if there are any entrepreneurs reading this, here are my five essential tips for start-ups:

1/ Pick up the phone. Talking to customers is STILL the fastest way to learn what’s working, what’s not, and what your customers want. This is how I discovered our BIG MISTAKE.

2/ Embrace patience. Things always take longer and cost more than you originally think. Stay calm, and don’t burn relationships with staff and suppliers, you will need them again and again.

3/Be nimble. Start-ups face many challenges, but the ability to move quickly is a major advantage over larger competitors – exploit it.

4/ Build alliances. If you’ve got a good idea that adds real value, reach out to people and work together.  It’s amazing what support will come your way.

5/ Go to the pub, regularly. Ben and I make sure we get out and just strategise over a few quiet beers at least twice a week. This is both an important release, and the source of some of our best creative ideas. But don’t get too carried away!

Cheers, Darren