I am desperate for feedback on why people feel they first adopted major social networks, so I wanted to get the ball rolling by posting my own experience. If you feel the urge to post your own, please do so here!
Name: Tommy Age: 24 Adoption Pattern: Mid-Adopter (just after early-adopters) Professional Biases: Startup Founder and successfully used social networks to promote my bands for years
Myspace: Notifications. Coming home from school everyday and seeing a new Myspace notification was like getting a phone call you knew was for you every day. However, unlike the phone call, it was entirely possible that it was a hot chick, or a new friend with something exciting to share. Notifications had me addicted to Myspace from day 1.
Facebook: Photo Tagging. I'll be honest: I use Facebook, the app, to look at pictures of my friends. Photo tagging took photo aggregation to a new level, allowing me to have hundreds of photos on my profile from all my photo-happy friends. On Myspace, those photos stayed on their profiles. On Facebook, they spread like viruses. The minute I saw photo tagging was the moment I knew I was done with Myspace forever.
Twitter: SMS posting. I'm torn between this and "a better RSS feed", but ultimately the ability to easily post mobile messages from my dumb-phone (before my iPhone days) had me, and I would posit millions of others, hooked. The ability for celebrities to have followings without having to follow back is what started Twitters widespread adoption, but its move into being a social network for the population at large was facilitated, in my experience, by the ability to reach out to the world at any time and at any place. Especially when I was bored. With the widespread adoption of smart-phones, this is no longer a unique feature, but at the time it was and that set Twitter apart.
Instagram: Toggle to share on Facebook and Twitter. If the iOS camera had toggle to share to Facebook and Twitter buttons, I never would have used Instagram. To this day I don't care about the Instagram social network, and for all the hype about hipsters and filters, Instagram is really just the best way to take pictures on your phone and share them to Facebook and Twitter.
Those that I didn't adopt, but do occasionally use.
FourSquare: Mayorships. Mayorships are a brilliant way to tie the entire FourSquare network together in a competition for ownership of the things people know and love. Checking in is a waste of time (albeit a good time waster) without mayorships, nobody cares about the points. It turns out, seeing where your friends are at any given time wasn't a compelling use case, but Mayorships (and now discovery) is.
Path: Design. Dave Morin is right: Path's competitors are SMS and Email. I use them for everything I could use Path for. However, I come back for the design. I love to look at it, I love to use it. If my 5 best friends were on Path, I'd use it all the time.
And finally, the most prominent one I tried and hated ...
Google+ - Circles don't matter. They never did. "I want to share something, but I'm 100% certain only a few people will care about it" is a rare an not compelling use case. Plus, we have SMS and Email for that, as Dave Morin points out. "Sharing, like in real life" is what REALLY kills me: who wants real life? Since when did we want the Internet to be like real life? Google+ was trying to be Path for a Facebook sized audience: and that was stupid. However, I think their strategy is actually not about this but providing a social layer for their other products. I think whether you share directly on Google+ or not is going to increasingly become immaterial to them. Only time will tell.
(This is a re-post edited from feedback I received. I really intend for this to initiate more responses: this is information I think we all take for granted but I feel it's extremely important to know why YOU adopted these networks)