Friday, June 29, 2007

Say What?? I need an invitation to use your service!?!


I have noticed many Web 2.0 companies like Pownce, Joost, Skitch and probably dozens more, requiring potential consumers to obtain an invitation from users to download its software. I think this is a misuse of social networking, especially in a pro-sumer age where products and services are on-demand and immediate gratification is expected. I would not have signed up for Twitter and Jaiku if I needed an invitation. Nor would I have created accounts on MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn Me.dium, Flickr, Deli.cio.us, and others if I needed an invitation. I appreciate getting invitations from friends to join their networks once in but to download the software before the invitation arrives? Pleeeeeeeeeeeezzzzzz!

If you are Apple and releasing the iPhone today, that’s different. Apple has a reputation based on years of creating products that people love, so Apple hype is legitimate and the people standing in line have an idea of what they are in for. But for a new company? It’s transparent and misguided. What criteria are they using to select people requesting invitations directly from the company? Are they checking out applicants? I highly doubt it. So, the invitation thing is nothing but a gimmick.

I have such a problem with new companies creating false hype around products and services. It’s definitely a clever marketing strategy for entering an increasingly saturated Web 2.0 market. But how effective is it? Creating buzz is great and I am all for it. I am, after all, a marketing person and generating excitement is something I am familiar with and rather good at. But making people jump through hoops to use products and services is risky. Are these companies banking on sneezers and early adopters? What if the sneezers and early adopters have to wait too long for an invitation? Disingenuous doesn't work.

It reminds me of the poor peeps standing in line to get into a nightclub while others are granted immediate access. Moreover, why are people standing in line to get into a club in the first place? That club is using the people standing in line for the benefit of people looking for a place to party. They are pawns used to generate excitement. And the people in line are buying into it for that brief moment of validation that comes when they are finally let in. Are we that much in need of acceptance? It’s so obvious. The invitation thing feeds into people’s need to be part of an exclusive group. And it doesn’t create community if others have a hard time getting in. Didn't Rodney Dangerfield say something about wanting to be a member of a club that doesn't want him? Well, Rodney is dead and the way we do business has changed.

I don’t like to wait to try products and services, especially if it’s available! If I want to test-drive a car, I want to test drive that car when I want to test-drive it. I am not going to wait for an invitation. If I have to get one, then I will go somewhere else. Period. And NO ONE is doing anything THAT unique that warrants an invitation. Maybe Linden Lab but they make it easy for users to traverse their world.

I suspect I’m not the only one who feels this way and for us impatient types, this strategy just won’t work. I’ll stick to what I can use immediately, on-demand and on my terms.

Sorry – I just don’t get the whole invitation thing. If you have some thoughts, let me know.

20 comments:

Richard Jennings said...

I like linked in but its just not useful. Its a static directory of names which I cannot even access without paying them. I like congoo.com and facebook for contacting people free although facebook is mostly kids. Congoo seems to have real industry pros and I like the industry news too. My two cents.

Patricia Sahertian said...

Yes, I do think most people are in that much need for acceptance. Also people praise the individual and not the community, you have to be good enough or cool enough. Look at all of the television shows that pit one person against the other. There is only one winner. Being part of that select group seems to make individuals feel like winners.
Until people see the value in community, marketing strategy will be geared toward the individual's ego. Unfortunately.

Adam Nollmeyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Nollmeyer said...

One thought is that limiting the growth can be good for scalability....

The goal of any start up is to have many users, however controlling the rate that users sign up is a good way to

A) Test the system for reliability.
B) Control the rate at which the network grows.
C) Have an excuse for any outages or problems. (hey, just count yourself luck to be a part of our "special" pre release, invite only community...)

Yes, some of it may also be hype. By wanting to get in, then being let in my someone you know, or someone with a big social connection, the network is creating a virtual word-of mouth.

I do agree a bit that it can be smoke and mirrors, but does it work? If it works, then that's why it will continue.

(reposted with spelling errors fixed)

Adam N.
Acme Photography.net
Recent Images on Flickr
MY BLOG

Anonymous said...

Isn't that how Gmail originally started? I think they sent out a series of initial invites and each person could invite a certain number of people but when the invites were used up, there were no more.

Scalability could be a good explanation.

Musings on Second Life said...

I agree with you, Adam; however, there is a much more democratic way of attracting users while testing for reliability, controlling growth, and testing the software. I am not sure exactly what that would look like but maybe asking for volunteers and hold off on releasing the service on a mass scale until some of these issues are resolved. Microsoft is infamous for releasing products without fixing the bugs and people still support its products.

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John Carr said...

I can see where your point of view on this issue and I tend to agree that when it comes to using software or an app,the “invitation only” tactic may not be a good idea. However, I can also see a great benefit to marketers who 'genuinely' have something different to offer.

My business is highly competitive and unfortunately for me (and for the consumer) our service has been downgraded to that of a commodity.

The consumers’ decision of whether to engage my services or those of my competition is based mostly on false and erroneous information.
Therefore, faced with such a huge obstacle, I have decided to create an "Exclusive Group" where the consumer has to qualify in order to avail of our service.

I am in the process of putting together a plan which we will offer only to a select group. The range of services we will offer will far exceed that of any of my competitors. In a sense, I have turned the tables, and if you as a consumer want to receive this type of service, you’ll be required to demonstrate your needs and commitment to working with us.

If you are not willing to do this, that’s fine. There are thousands of providers out there for you to choose from.

I AM a consumer and I believe the consumer is NOT always right. Especially in the case where their purchasing decision is based on misguided, ill conceived perceptions of our services.