Social Media Adaptation: Its Benefits and Pitfalls

Nowadays, it seems like every social media platform wants to embody everything. I dove into this last time when I wrote about Weixin, and how social media giants are trying hard to incorporate every single aspect of every single platform all onto a single app, to keep users from going anywhere else. But with that mass-consolidation can sometimes come a huge feeling of being overwhelmed — which is why maybe companies shouldn’t be striving to adopt every single aspect of social media, but rather curating their features to the audience they serve. Instagram is one of the best photo-sharing apps for a reason. Snapchat’s stories are the perfect way to procrastinate a busy work day. Twitter’s short microblogging posts add some spice to your evening. Maybe we….don’t blend them all? Maybe each platform should be focused on doing what it does best — while still listening to its audience. That’s just my take on it, anyway.

Cue Orkut: a social media platform owned by Google that catered exactly to its audience’s needs…until it didn’t.

Image Credit: TechnoBuffalo

Orkut wasn’t your average Twitter or Instagram — it was geared specifically toward technology workers and students, with an angle toward rating other users, connecting with friends and people you look up to, and joining specific sub-communities. Another thing that made it appealing was the fact that it was an invite-only platform, similar to Clubhouse, so people who managed to score an invite felt like they were “in the loop” in the way that others were not. People love feeling exclusive, even over something like which social media websites you’re allowed to make accounts on.

Another interesting thing about Orkut is the fact that it seemed to practically corner the Brazilian market. First and foremost, the fact that Orkut was owned and operated by Google gave a lot of users confidence in trying it out, knowing that it was coming from a respected brand. Also, outdoor advertising is not legal in Brazil, which means that people are on their phones — shopping, chatting, and connecting online — more than others may be. Eventually, 90% of Orkut users were tracked as coming from Brazil, so that checks out. From the beginning, they had their audience. They had the backing of Google, one of the most recognizable names in the world. And they still managed to flub it. How?

First, what they did well (for some time): Orkut used the marketing tactic of continuously analyzing what their audience wanted and feeding into the demographic that was using them, which is what helped them be so successful. When people were looking for a platform with different types of connecting, communities, and advertising, Orkut provided. Especially for people who were not getting advertising in places other than the Internet. By knowing what type of audience was searching for their platform, Orkut was able to place themselves front and center and make sure that traffic was being driven to their own site. For awhile, they boomed. But then things changed, and their audiences wanted more, and Okurt made the fatal mistake of failing to deliver.

Orkut’s success had to end somewhere — and when Brazilian users, who were typically accustomed to enjoying online video, found that the platform didn’t do a great job of hosting that type of content, they began to turn away. There were tech glitches, caps on members of communities, and just a whole bunch of general tech issues related to video and streaming elements of the site that were not doing very well, and Okurt didn’t seem to be doing much to fix it. This is where the company fell short — not adjusting their platform to fit the needs of the audience that they were serving. While brands don’t all need to incorporate every single aspect of every single social media platform in existence, they do still need to hear their consumers’ concerns and address them appropriately. So when Okurt’s audience wanted more video content, and they didn’t provide, they lost their audience because they went somewhere else. And that’s where Okurt fell. If they had gone back and done things differently, and maybe adjusted their strategy to focus more on surveying/listening to the needs of their audience, maybe they wouldn’t have folded back in 2014.

Once again, the question of the hour — how does this have anything to do with me as an author? My earlier question about incorporating every element of social media versus focusing on your strengths comes back into play here, because I personally believe that companies should be doing a little bit of both. As an author, when it comes time to develop your online brand, you should definitely be dipping your toe into a few different types of marketing and services for your audiences. (While you’re not a social media company like Okurt was, you can see your “services” as your author social media platforms for fans.) Are you great at Twitter? Excellent, start there. Are you so-so on Facebook? Maybe dip your toe into it and be a little active, even more so on Instagram. Try things out. See how they work for you. But then, once you start developing an audience and gaining significant traction, avoid Okurt’s mistake — start seeing where/what your audience wants most, and start providing it. Is your Twitter account booming, but Facebook is a dead zone? Stop trying to incorporate it all at that point. Once you’ve established your audience, listen to them and focus on providing what they’re telling you that they want.

So, what do you make of this? Do you think it’s better for a platform to take more of a Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat approach, where they try to incorporate a little bit of everything onto their platform so nobody ever has any need to go anywhere else? Or should they stick to focusing on their audience and just giving them what they want, while adjusting as necessary? It’s an interesting question with no clear answer, although I gave my opinions above.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: should you cover all bases (and possibly overwhelm yourself) right off the bat to eliminate any chance of your audience leaving, or do you stick to a few aspects of social media and really make them work for you? There has to be a middle ground somewhere. If there’s anything we can learn from this, I believe that a company’s best chance for success is by dipping into a little bit of everything at first, and once their audience is securely established, zeroing in solely on what those people want.

Because if they don’t, we might have another Okurt situation on our hands.

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