Backfence: Lessons Learned

Mark Potts, co-founder of Backfence, has shared some of the lessons he learned from his experience at Backfence. It’s a really insightful post and I’m thankful that he posted it. A lot of what his has to say is inline with what we debate at eNeighbors. You can read his thoughts here. He really gets it.

I want to piggy-back off of some of what he said:

  1. “A top-down, “if you build it, they will come” strategy absolutely does not work…”-This is so true. Local is a huge space, but it won’t be won by the standard approaches that the Internet industry has come to understand with national web portals and global audiences. A bottom-up approach is clearly the only way to go in local. Unfortunately, this means slower growth and more leg work up front, but in the long run, it represents a competitive advantage.
  2. “It’s about the community” – Community first. This is probably true with any site, but especially local sites. If you engage the community, the content will create itself. More importantly, your site will be relevant to users regardless of the content.
  3. “Hyperlocal content is really mundane.” – Yep. Unless it’s relevant to the community. If it is, then the conversation that ensues is really interesting.
  4. “Trust the audience.”– I love this one. Everyone one is scared out of their mind to let people post their own content, and as a result, we have installed a ton of controls to influence appropriate behavior. But at the end of the day, it works because people take responsibility for what they say.
  5. “Focus on strong, well-defined communities.”– In my opinion, this is the number one most important thing. I would argue that this is where Backfence failed. They weren’t local enough.

He has a lot more stuff to say. I highly recommend that you read the full post.

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