A few months ago I wrote a post on Pivoting, a term popularized by technology companies, which was rather popular. Another concept I have worth sharing is Network Independent Value, a rather useful concept for any company trying to build a community, be it around brands, products or interests. Network Independent Value is what your social community is worth without any users
I understand the objective of a community is to have active users. Having marketed for small and large companies I also understand that the biggest challenge is always gaining traction or widespread user adoption. To me, Network Independent Value is what differentiates those who succeed for those who fail. There are always exceptions but I see a definite correlation between communities with Independent Value that become successful and those who do not.
For example, if I were to join Facebook there is still value as a photo archiving tool. For brands building communities, sharing relevant, interesting news (note: different to just sharing, I mean sharing incredible things I would not find elsewhere) is an Independent Value. In both cases users are provided a degree of value independent of other users.
When building your technology company, social network or startup, ask yourself: what is the value to users as individuals? If you have no answers that do not revolve around other users it may be time for some re-thinking.