From Social Patterns
The underpants gnomes are characters from the comic satire South Park. They had a business plan which included the following steps:
Phase 1. Collect underpants.
Phase 2. ?
Phase 3. Profit!
They were considered to be the product of one child's overactive imagination, until multiple characters saw them.
The underpants gnomes are a prime example of mistaking a vision for a coherent plan. Particularly in the online world, traditional marketing alone will not keep a company afloat. Branding and marketing cannot be separated from the design and value of a site. As Andrew Anker of SixApart observed in 2004, "brand (and everything else) follows user experience."
In social networking, too many sites are following this pattern:
Phase 1: Add social media
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit!
Retail sites, for example, are displaying "a tendency ... to gravitate towards the latest way of "getting noticed" without knowing whether the approach will work." (David Schatsky, Jupiter Research, as quoted by silicon.com.) Instead, sites should focus on the actual needs of the user and the usefulness of the social activities in question in meeting those needs.
--alex o'neal 19:01, 18 November 2008 (UTC)