When we talk about Web 2.0, it is not very often we get to see a site that started before this phase of the web and has gone on to take the best parts of it and continue to thrive. Suicide Girls (NSFW) is a great example of a site that started with basic community functionality and has latched on to the positives of this era of the web and has shown no sign of slowing down.
Started in September 2001, SG is based around the images of alternative women posing nude, which in itself should make it popular. Instead of simply leaving it as a gallery site that people would view and walk away from they began to add community functionality to the site to make it more sticky. You have message boards and groups which help people feel as though they are part of something. That along with looking at pictures of naked women would make almost any person happy to be part of the community, but they didn’t stop there.
With typical features like news and interviews, SG also gave each girl a blog so they could keep their fans updated. Now we have podcasts, radio shows, albums, videos and a traveling show. Yes part of their revenue scheme revolves around ads, but those are few and far between. The basics start with a simple $4/month membership which many people are happy to fork over.
Just because SG is able to add all of these features doesn’t mean that each of them is going to be successful. That solely depends on the execution and their branding. They understand the importance of quality design to your brand and have taken great measure in every part of their site to make sure they give the appearance that they want. This is something that our new Web 2.0 sites are solely lacking. Instead of creating their own brand, clients and investors believe that their sites should have a Web 2.0 feel about them and therefore a Web 2.0 brand. You don’t want to brand your site for the era, you want to brand it with your image.
All of the things that SG does are by no means innovative, but they are executed almost to perfection. If you want something successful you don’t have to build something new, but you do have to build something great. Most Web 2.0 sites have the first part of the equation down (*cough* copycats *cough*), it is the “great” part that they seem to forget.
If you already own a community site or are thinking of starting any type of site that has some community features I highly suggest you take a look at SG and learn a few things. Sex sells, but so does a great site.