Facebook turned 10 years old last month. I bet that you either have a Facebook account or know someone who does. I don’t think that Mark Zuckerburg (Facebook’s main founder) could have imagined in 2004 that Facebook would be an online social media colossus that would obliterate all other social networking sites such as Myspace, Hi5, Friendster, etc. I do believe that one of the reasons for Facebook’s success was the fact that its early growth was incremental rather than exponential.
Some companies grow too fast, too soon and this fast-paced growth ends up killing them. Facebook opened itself to different user groups at different times during the early years. You might not be aware but Facebook was never opened to everyone initially. It was originally just for Harvard students. This was because Zuckerberg created Facebook when he was a student at Harvard. He would go on to drop out of Harvard to focus his time and energy on Facebook.
The site was then opened up to other Ivy League universities, after their students clamoured for it, when they heard about its popularity in Harvard. Before long, the site was opened to students in all the North American universities. It was then opened to all US high schools; afterward, it was opened to students at universities in countries such as the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico etc. Facebook was opened to employees of certain companies and finally in September, 2006, it was opened to everyone in the world aged at least 13 years old who had a valid email address.
This incremental growth allowed Facebook to grow steadily in those first 2 years until Zuckerberg and his team felt the site and company was ready and able to handle worldwide demand. Facebook expanded each time there was a demand for the site. Its early exclusivity made it attractive to each user group who didn’t have access to the site.
There is usually the rush by some entrepreneurial businesses to be as big as possible in the shortest time frame. The goal to be the biggest fish in the business pond can be detrimental if you are not fully prepared for such exponential growth. Facebook is a good case study of how slow and steady wins the race.