“Remember Orkut?” This was a question posed by the title of an article I looked up for this week’s marketing class case study. To be honest, I couldn’t remember this particular social media platform. According to the article, that’s why it went away. (Well, that and the alleged spam accounts and possible criminal activity, according to the article.) Another possible explanation, one put forward by the text we’re using for the class, is that the online culture shifted, users began to want to incorporate video into their experience, and the functionality of the platform couldn’t do it smoothly enough. And, like many other here-and-gone social media platforms, that spelled the end of Orkut.
Whose platform is it, anyway?
As a semi-early adopter of Facebook (it was after the “college-invite-only” but before my mother finally made an account), the question always arises of what a platform must offer its users, and who owns the experience. One particular meme I recall was posted by a friend; the gist of the meme was that if you weren’t paying for the experience you were the product, not the consumer. As someone who has dipped their toe into the world of Facebook ads, I think of that meme often. From time to time, Facebook (and the other behemoths of Twitter, Insta, Snapchat, and TikTok) have challenged and broken into the public consciousness, and themselves seen challengers arise. Google+, Clubhouse, MeWe, Discord, NextDoor … and then there are the platforms–like Orkut, or Vkonakte– that see most of their success outside the US.
One of the interesting things about Orkut was that it wasn’t able to scale up to incorporate new features, such as the videos. On Facebook, I’ve often noticed people write about some new feature, or some new Newsfeed design (and as someone running pages and groups, I’ve DEFINITELY noticed some changes in the functions I use to promote my businesses and hobbies.) I’ve also more than once seen people post to Twitter expressing frustration at not being able to edit Tweets, or note that with screenshotting, even if something fades away or gets deleted, it’s never really gone. Who gets to make those decisions for the platform? Probably not the user, but still, once the new features are implemented, we start to use them and figure them out. On the other hand, I hate to say it, but if Facebook still looked the same way it did in 2007 when I started using it, I probably wouldn’t be. For the articles and text case study noticing that Orkut’s failure to introduce substantive innovations and changes led in part to its demise, I would say that’s probably accurate. It’s also one of the reasons why I, as a person who lives and markets on social media, may have dipped my toe in the waters of other platforms, but always seem to come back to the ones that, as frustrating as they may be in their refusal to allow users to participate in the development of their own experience, will still be there in a few more years.
People who need people…
When reading the case study of the rise and fall of Orkut, the emotional resonance was what stood out for me and, I think, what stands out when I think about the platforms I use. It starts at the beginning, when Orkut was building his self-named platform on his lonesome at Google. Who doesn’t love a good underdog story? And then, the fact that the site was so well-received in certain places, showing that it was connecting people who craved that connection in a certain way. Even to this day, people are posting retrospectives about the service (although a follow-up platform, Hello, launched in India, doesn’t seem to have quite the same emotional traction.
For me, as someone who relies extensively on social media marketing, I utilize the platforms that have some emotional resonance for me, as well as for the people who read the books I am writing and publishing. Facebook is my old school stomping grounds, a place where I network and watercooler with other writers, catch up with friends from college, the Army, high school, places we’ve lived, or chat with my family on Messenger. Twitter is where I can slip into the stream of news and thoughts from strangers and friends around the world who share passions and geek out about the same things. Instagram is where I go for wholesome photo content. And although I don’t post to TikTok, I enjoy the short videos and catchy tunes that people post.
To infinity and beyond!
As I evaluate my online presence, both personal and professional in light of the case studies in this text, I have definitely been re-looking at where I spend my time and attention online, and how much and what kind of that time and attention I have to spare. For me, I need to use the platforms that have an emotional resonance for me as the user, for the target audiences (individual, group and niche) that I’m trying to reach, and that also allow me to comfortably interact when someone engages. I also can’t spend all my time online, although I should say, more accurately, that while I CAN, I SHOULD not… This particular case study gives me some food for thought, especially as there are a few new social media platforms popping up for authors, and I’ve been thinking about whether or not to join. I’ll check them out and let you know!