Suppose I made the following controversial statement on one of my social media platforms: Star Wars Episode I is the best film in the whole series.
There are several problems with this statement. And none of them have to do with the movie itself.
The problem with my statement is that it was a general blanket overview that wasn’t geared towards any particular audience. Just because I mentioned Star Wars–which admittedly is a popular franchise–doesn’t mean I was addressing the targeted audience I was intending to rile with that statement.
Those who aren’t fans of Sci-Fi probably didn’t care about the statement. Those who were fans of Star Wars probably didn’t care what one person’s opinion was of a twenty-year-old movie.
So what is an opinionated person to do with this bevy of thoughts towards franchises, products, and services that they either love or hate?
Why, join an online community of course.
Online communities are an intended space that function within social media outlets which allow for groups of like-minded individuals to come together and have a collective voice towards something they enjoy, loathe, or want to know more info about. Likewise, they can also gather to share personal testimonials and even help influence potential purchases towards products specifically aimed at these audiences.
This week in my social media class we learned about the social networking site Orkut. Orkut actually became a very well-known site in Brazil and was considered a marketing leader during the span of its lifetime. The website did eventually terminate in 2014.
Much of the success of the website could be attributed to online communities. While the majority of their users worked with technology and were students, Orkut utilized an “invitation only” strategy. This would essentially weed out the users which didn’t have best interest of a particular community in mind. In other words, you had to be asked to join by those which were already a part of communities on Orkut. Or how this might look to the average social media user: “You can’t sit with us!”
According to Mahoney and Tang (2017), another factor of Orkut’s success in the early years of social media was how easy it was to use, “Orkut’s interface was clean, simple and sophisticated, making it easy for users to navigate and join communities” (pg. 192). It was a site where people could interact and speak about products and services they enjoyed, but their user privacy was respected.
In addition, they could even interact with figures they admired and get their take within the intended community the user was a part of. Safe spaces to have discussions were essentially the fuel which made Orkut such a hit, and you could even make the argument that sites like Facebook and Twitter built upon this model for use with their own platforms. (Stay tuned for that argument.)
Furthermore, Brazil apparently has strict laws which doesn’t allow for outdoor advertisements. This meant that much of the shopping done in the country was primarily done online. According to Mahoney and Tang (2017), these numbers showed that “Brazillian social media users have a positive attitude towards online shopping; four-fifths of them use social networking sites to research products” (pg. 192). People today still tend to lean towards customer reviews instead of advertising from the source to help sway them into purchasing a product. Additionally, much of our product buying today is still done through social media apps, which is something Orkut was known for.
So what happened you might ask? Why haven’t I heard of Orkut in the last several years?
As stated previously, the website closed down in 2014. Remember when I said that websites like Twitter and Facebook improved upon this model? That’s because in truth they really did.
These websites were not only easier to use, but they also offered more features like discussing personal life events and the ability to “like” and “not like” what was posted online.
According to Debbarma (2016, August 9th), the Orkut site became seriously lacking with what was available in terms of social media networking for the new decade–the 2010’s. In short, they were unable to keep up with the changing market that other websites were able to cater to, “It is clear that Facebook was engulfing Orkut using its unique features which makes Facebook more interactive, user friendly, and better user experience leading to the shifting effect to Facebook from Orkut” (para. 20). This is similar really to what happened to Myspace. It was no longer the most user-friendly social media platform–and like Orkut–sort of just became forgotten about.
It was definitely a smart idea for websites like Orkut to incorporate online community features to help build their platform. They reached mass audiences this way and were able to tailor their advertisements specifically to what their users preferred.
However, being unable to incorporate features became their downfall and essentially caused online community members to browse elsewhere.
Brazil, for example, has a huge online gaming market. Orkut was unable to keep up with the technological demands that come with sharing news and product information associated with video games, which typically includes high resolution videos. This is why many online gamers now choose spaces like Twitch to build their gaming communities and participate in discussions. Oh, and also the whining. So much whining.
Even companies like Amazon and RottenTomatoes utilize the power of community. This is why there are trusted product and movie reviews by real customers and critics alike. Users can interact and even ask questions about potential products or movies they want to purchase and then see what the community is saying about how effective said product/film is. This is how my wife, for example, learns about which cribs are safest to buy. By reading the reviews.
My biggest takeaway from studying a once-successful website like Orkut is that community really does matter when it comes to making a brand, product, or business known to intended audiences. And the reason why so many successful companies, brands, and even franchises are popular is because people are using/discussing/sharing info about them daily through social media platforms. The communities online continue to grow and expand, and as long as their is a safe place for them to discuss and read about what other trusted users are saying, they will continue to grow.
Or in the case of a website like Orkut, find the next trending place to host a community. I, for example, remember the days of sharing my love for anime on now defunct message boards. Now I can discuss current likes through the use of emojis and memes on widely seen Facebook groups.
And speaking of current likes…
Saturday night is making a comeback.
Stay social, friends.
Debbarma, P., Pin View (2016, August 9th). Case study : Reasons why Google’s Orkut failed after Facebook was launched. Also know what Orkut’s founder is doing recently to start up again. Medium. https://medium.com/@PachaelPhillip/case-study-reasons-why-googles-orkut-failed-after-facebook-was-launched-92dd8a7abf0
Mahoney, M. L. and Tang Tang (2017). Strategic social media: From marketing to social change [eBook edition]. John Wiley & Sons. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=nzMWDQAAQBAJ&hl=en&pg=GBS.PP1