All Work, No Pay?

Congratulations to Manny Hernandez as TuDiabetes.org turns three! As one of the best resources in the world for people with diabetes, it deserves a raucous birthday party.

To commemorate this anniversary, Manny shared a very familiar three lessons learned. They are:

  1. Running a social network is not easy.
  2. Running a nonprofit is not easy either.
  3. Helping others is the best thing you can do in your life.

As the President of a for-profit entity, I won’t speak on point two. But I can wholeheartedly endorse his other points.

It is extraordinarily difficult to build a social network. You must reach critical mass, develop a strong culture, and empower your members to control the direction. And with growth comes a diverse set of characters. 99% of people are decent to the core, but the other 1% is toxic. Managing that 1% can twist you up emotionally and drain your enthusiasm. Along the way you deal with technical problems, growing expenses, and tough choices about which direction to go.

But you are strong. You persevere and succeed in building an active community. Cha-ching!

Not so fast. Social networks are not profitable businesses. At least not for a long, long time. I did a little back-of-the-napkin math and discovered that since December 2005, my wife and have made $6.15 an hour building Diabetes Daily. That’s not $6.15 each, that’s $6.15 combined. Split that in half and we’ve each made about $3.08 an hour.

If we were doing this for a paycheck, we would have folded before TuDiabetes was out of the womb.

Thankfully, we aren’t do this for the money. I fell in love with Elizabeth while she was in post-diagnosis turmoil. I wanted to help her. I wanted to help everyone like here. And so we builtĀ  Diabetes Daily to make life better for everyone with diabetes.

And there are other ways to get paid. Every time I read a “you saved my life” email, I get an expansive emotional payday. Sure, I can plot the future growth of Diabetes Daily and know that we will eventually make a good paycheck. That eases a lot of my anxiety, especially with a beautiful little baby girl starting preschool next year. But it’s my belief that we can give millions of people a better life that makes the 10,000+ hours worth more than $3.08.

So I fully concur with Manny. Social networks are tough to build, but helping others make it worth every bit of effort.