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.