The Rise and Fall of the Orkut Empire

Heard of the social media giant Orkut?

It’s no wonder if you hadn’t, or don’t remember it. Orkut was Google’s first foray into social media. Born in 2004, when social media was just kicking into high gear, Orkut was designed to connect people within communities. It had a great approach – invitation only, adding an added dose of true connection on the early internet. Orkut’s website had that cute, early 2000s style – pastel colors and bright bubble fonts.

a sweet blast from the past

Another reason Orkut might not seem familiar is that the cast majority of its audience came from Brazil. While the rest of us built up our home pages on MySpace and added friends on Facebook, Orkut users became members of communities that resonated with them and used these communities to share ideas and get recommendations.

Orkut started out on top of its game. People were drawn in by the connection to Google, the prestige of an invitation-only community, and the opportunity to connect with their peers in school and in technology. One particular feature Orkut maintained was the ability to rate people on various aspects of their looks or personality.

Brazil banned outdoor print advertising in 2007, which made it all the more necessary for companies to transition to an online sales approach. Orkut was the perfect opportunity to move advertising to local consumers. In 2017, Brazil had the 5th largest online market in the world, and had more cell phones than people.

Like most things, Orkut needed to advance with the times or step aside. Media across the internet was becoming easier to share. Photos, videos, and more could be posted with a few clicks. Rick rolls were in high supply.

It’s not new Charlie the Unicorn, that’s for sure.

Unlike its competitors, Orkut couldn’t keep up. Its systems weren’t built to handle the massive photo and video sharing volume happening all over the internet, and so, dissatisfied with their previous social networking love, Orkut’s users went elsewhere. Listening to the suggestions and complaints from their users could have prevented Orkut’s eventual downfall. Building up their media sharing and eliminating the friend list limits were just two of the ways that Orkut could have adjusted alongside the market and kept what was once a social media empire going strong.

Nowadays, Brazil has bypassed print advertising laws by showing adds on bus terminal screens, or digital billboards, but online shopping and advertising is stronger than ever. Brazil could have greatly benefited from a stronger effort from Orkut. It goes to show that listening to your users and implementing changes is a necessary component of any online presence. Whether you are a vendor looking to sell your own product, building your individual brand, or starting your own company, it is important to listen to the feedback you receive, interact with questions if necessary, and continue to build and develop what you have created.

You can go to five or six stores… or just one.

*wild dance moves abound*

What if you could do it all?

Well, not everything, of course, but what about online shopping? Calling a rideshare platform? Sharing photos of your recent trip to Bryce Canyon?

I may have gone here when this blog was due, hence the late submission.

Well, China has figured out a way. It’s through Weixin (pronounced way-shin), which is an app that allows you to do all of these things. It’s a news aggregate. It’s a social networking site. It’s a place to shop online. It’s a place to send money to friends and pay for services.

It would take me at least five apps to do all of these things. A quick, somewhat surprised glance at my phone tells me that I have at least fourteen apps to do these things, many for different companies. But what if they could all live in the same place? What if I could order a pizza, message my friends, and split the cost of our meal with them all in one app? I’d be for it, even if it’s a little reminiscent of The Circle.

Based on the book by Dave Eggers

Creepy social media takeovers aside, I’m all for eliminating the inconveniences I have in my life. I’m not a fan of moving between programs and tabs. Weixin’s interface is built for ease of interaction. Everything is viewed through Weixin’s own browser, enhancing usability for not only the Weixin app but other sites used through it. The app is geared toward younger smartphone users, who are increasingly using their phones as a way to connect to others in the world, explore, and take care of basic tasks.

Consumers aren’t the only ones who benefit from Weixin’s interface – companies have fresh opportunities to advertise and sell products, as well as an easy way for their clients to share reviews on items they purchased. Weixin also partnered with Didi Taxi, a ride reservation company, and allowed their users to make reservations and pay through their Weixin account. Not only does this solve a need that consumers have, but actually readies them to use the app for potentially more payment opportunities down the road. One example we have of this in the US is the “Pay with Prime” option that exists on several websites. I’ve used it a handful of times and it’s definitely easier than getting up and finding my wallet from wherever I’m sitting – even if Google has memorized many of my cards so far.

I, for one, welcome our new google overlords - Kent_brockman ...

Weixin is an excellent example of a company that not only caters to the needs and ease of use for its clients, but also intuits and anticipates technology trends. It’s likely that we’ll be using fewer apps to interact with each other in the future, and likelier still that the apps we have will continue to flourish and find new ways to connect us to both people and services. It’s an important thing to remember when it comes to development of future applications down the road. Instead of creating something new and separate, how can companies collaborate with each other and help each other grow? Why focus on creating the perfect rideshare service, when you can create the perfect rideshare service that connects to your social media and bring you groceries?

It’s like one of my favorite YouTube videos of all time – Why use five or six applications when you can use one?

Nude

Yep, that’s the bra color I’m wearing today. When this status prompt first started circulating around sometime when I was in high school, I posted cuter colors – green and pink, polka dot, maybe a slightly sexier red. I thought the idea was cute, especially at first. I liked the confusion that it caused with the guys on my newsfeed – why all the colors? Sure, I made my post, and as a woman, I’ve always been aware of breast cancer. We’re taught to check our breasts for lumps as soon as we need bras.

Now, I was in high school when the Breast Cancer Meme first came out. I didn’t have a job, didn’t have much disposable income that I could use for donations – I might have bought one of those stretchy bracelets at Claire’s once, but that’s the end of my activism. Even so, there wasn’t much about the original social media campaign that made me more aware of breast cancer or more likely to donate or be active towards the cause in any way. To be honest, most of my activism is fairly selfish – I see a character on a television show get a lump, I remember I should be checking myself and do a self-check. Haven’t done one for yourself? Find out how here.

 It’s unclear whether the Breast Cancer Meme actually had the impact it intended – though the Susan G Komen foundation did record a higher number of donations and action while the meme was circulating, this also took placed during Breast Cancer Awareness month in October (Mahoney & Tang, 2017). While the Breast Cancer Meme was so prevalent that I remember it ten years after I shared my own contribution, the action was fairly insignificant and required very little effort on my part. This is an important feature for any successful social media campaign. A social media campaign of this nature is only effective if it successfully triggers real-life mobilization efforts (Mahoney & Tang, 2017).

Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? I never participated in it myself, but I loved watching the videos. Not only did the cause motivate others to a physical action, it asked them to nominate others to do the same or donate in the name of the cause. The cause went so viral that government officials and celebrities took part as well. The campaign made a huge impact on ALS research as a result, with much of the success connected to the social media campaign. Check out Bill Gates:

The most successful media activism campaigns prompt action-oriented mobilization. Not only with these actions directly help a company or campaign, but they can transform audiences into more interested, knowledgeable, and vested advocates for a cause (Mahoney & Tang, 2017). The Breast Cancer Meme was fun, but did it cause us to make a change? Not really. More than that, it isolated men, as they could not participate in the meme despite being victims of breast cancer themselves. Excluding part of the affected audience effects the mobilization efforts of your message, and you should always attempt to reach people outside of your guaranteed audience. Make your message relatable, likeable. Make people want to participate in your message, rather than just aware of it.

So yeah, I’m wearing a nude bra today, but I’m also donating money to the Breast Cancer Foundation. As a bonus, they allowed me to ask my employer to match my donation, and gave me the opportunity to share my donation to Facebook once it was completed.

If you are thinking about using a similar format for your own marketing campaign, make sure that you’re inspiring action in your followers, and giving them the opportunity to take your message offline – because offline is where changes are truly made.  

Warby Parker – Realizing a Vision

I wear glasses.

This isn’t unique – three out of four people in the US need vision correction, and of those people, 71% wear glasses. A quick Google search and some simple math tells us that’s 174,766,500 people who wear glasses.

Let me say it again: 174,766,500.

Glasses aren’t cheap. VSP, the top vision insurance provider in the country, states that the average pair of glasses costs $356, and that’s assuming you’re lucky enough to have your eye exam completed. I can confirm that this average is close – the last pair of glasses that I purchased from a discount eye center cost me $300. I’m wearing them now – the coating on the lenses has chipped away, leaving a blurry spot over my right eye. Getting new glasses right now, especially during a pandemic when thousands have lost their jobs, is a challenge.

Warby Parker is a solution.

In 2010, college students like me experienced the same limited access to glasses. Glasses frames are primarily manufactured and distributed by a brand called Luxottica, whose monopoly on the industry has made things difficult for all of us. Adam Ruins Everything has a great video explaining this company’s control over the market, so if you’re into quirky YouTube videos and want more information, give it a watch here:

Warby Parker truly makes a stand through their community engagement and distribution platform. Accessibility, both physically and financially, is a particular strain on those of us who are visually impaired. They built an online platform that encourages and relies on community involvement to spread the word. Word-of-mouth advertising is a whopping 30% stronger than traditional advertising, and with this in mind Warby Parker encouraged their consumers could share pictures sporting their new frames.

Ever heard the saying that glasses make you look more intelligent? Sneaky marketing, here. Image Credit: Warby Parker Facebook

This was the start of the “Home Try-On Campaign” which really is an innovation in itself. I don’t know about you, but squinting at my blurry reflection through non-prescription lenses in public isn’t the best.

Are people judging my poses?

Is it weird to try out three different hairstyles so I have an idea of how this cat eye style looks on my temples?

Should I follow the advice of the receptionist who says those frames are too big for my face? (They aren’t.)

No. Instead I can follow the advice of my peers and try on glasses in my own home, with my own hairstyles, free of judgement and, not to mention, social distancing compliant. Then, in an effort that benefits both myself and Warby Parker, I can post pics of my favorite frames online or ask the public to help me choose. Everyone wins, I feel great about my options, and best of all I didn’t break the bank.

But this blog is about marketing, not glasses. We can learn a lot from Warby Parker’s approach. The most important aspect of social media marketing, the one that Warby Parker nailed, is creating a community based on similar characteristics and trust. When consumers feel like they belong to a group, they are more likely to participate and share their experiences. In this case, consumers that shared selfies bought twice as much as those that didn’t. Warby Parker creates brand loyalty by identifying problems with our current system, empathizing with customers, and providing solutions. They’ve recognized the global lack of affordable eyewear through their Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program. Social consciousness is always a win, and so is winning trust with your consumers.

More trust = more money.

Key takeaways from the Warby Parker approach to success?

  1. Build a community by fostering trust and encouraging communication. Save your sales pitch for the website, and use your social media to listen to your customers.
  2. Know your brand – create a mission (in this case, affordable eye care) and stay true to it. If you can give someone a better lifestyle, do it.

Social Media is an ever-changing platform that, when used correctly, is key to your marketing success. Always remember to stay true to your customers and, more importantly, yourself.

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