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I have a website which I think has huge growth potential as a social network but before I jump in with both feet id like to re-adjust my vision to insure I model the success of this site according to proven strategies that already work.
Im even more interested in sites like about.com which have many employees. Id like to know what these employees do all day and how they benefit from the company.
Id really like to know how about.com is run from the inside
If your intent is to create a company with as many employees as the one mentioned, you've apparently got plenty of bucks so the question is curious...
Not being EXTRAORDINARILY obtuse/rude, but employees of large companies generally waste time, chat on the web, or have affairs with upper echelon. :)
You can "study" or you can "do". I recommend the latter. Good enough to excite you then it is probably good enough to excite others. Don't worry about the number of employees or their love life, get a company together FIRST then dip into their day to day.
Sorry, raised on the adage you don't put the cart before the horse.
Instead, I'd focus on adding robust social features to your site and working to facilitate growth in your sector. Try to find ways to give users a compelling reason to join and to participate after they join. Don't try to be Facebook or MySpace, but instead try to bring your own twist to it. Piggybacking on something like Ning or OpenID might facilitate acquiring new members, though you give up a bit of control.
Good luck, and keep us posted on how it goes!