I remember when I thought I was special for being able to use Gilt, the “exclusive” online shopping site that originally only accepted users off of a waiting list. Now, everyone and their mother is on it and I no longer feel like I am the only one with access to 50% off boat shoes or 75% off a chandelier that I couldn’t even afford if it was 99.9% off. Regardless of my ability to purchase these deals, it was still nice to know that I was one of thousands “allowed to buy”, instead of millions. There is an extreme amount of power in websites that incorporate a component of “exclusivity”. That is, at least I thought so. Recent releases have made me question just who can be successful by initially limiting users and who is harming themselves with this tactic? I decided to examine three recent “Invite-Only” releases and explore who is throwing the better party.
Google+ – The “Where Are We?” Party
You know the deal. Your friend knows a friend who knows someone and his sister got you into this party. You heard great things but you don’t see many people that you know, there’s not much chatter, and there’s circles of people kind of doing their own thing. You’re not really sure where you are and kind of poke around to get a feel for the place. Are you actually going to enjoy yourself here? A little while later the bouncer lets you and your friends know that there’s space for 10 more people, but you’re not really sure you want to put forth the effort to invite them. You wait for more to come, but then you decide to leave and head back to your comfort zone, The Facebook Pub.
Launched June 27th, Google+ has been the hot topic of social media conversation. You have to have an invite to join right now, but it goes through phases in which it allows users to invite their friends. Traffic spiked July 12th, but has been on a fairly steady decline ever since, with minimal increases in reach every week or so. Attention spiked July 14th but has dwindled since. My interpretation gathered from experience and the endless amount of articles posted about others experiences, is that people aren’t really sure what to do with their plus while they wait for others to join. The initial buzz surrounding the Google+ launch was huge and everyone wanted to be a part of it, but Google definitely limited itself by hiring a bouncer to keep people out. Most of us already have quick and easy access to our networks on Facebook and LinkedIn and aren’t eager to duplicate them on Google+. Prolonging this time is just going to bore us (or, put us to sleep).
Spotify – Party of the Year
Everyone’s talking about this party. Spotify is inviting select people, even targeting social media influencers (See: Spotify Klout Perk) to make sure that the best of the best are promoting their product. But Spotify isn’t going to turn its nose up at someone who shows up uninvited. The guy at the door is allowed to sell tickets for $4.99 (for unlimited streaming and no advertisements) and $9.99 VIP (which adds on mobile and offline access). The Spotify house party is hip, has great music, is making $$$ off those who don’t want to wait, while at the same time keeping buzz high for those invited or waiting for invites. Many free users are converting to paying users: Looks Like the Spotify Hype Worked: Service Spots Itself 70,000 Paid Subscribers In One Week.
The invited feel proud and are able to make the most of the product right away because they don’t depend on others being able to use it – though seeing other people’s playlists is a pretty cool effect that will grow as more people are invited. What has resulted from this successful marketing tactic are the continual bursts of attention and reach to the Spotify website. Though there was a dip around the 27th, Spotify has managed to make two weeks into its release just as exciting as the initial day.
Pottermore – Your Little Nephew’s Birthday Party
You would think Harry Potter fans would be ready to stand in the middle of the street in broad daylight and attempt to cast a spell if they had one tiny inkling that it might allow the HP story to continue. At least this is what J.K. Rowling and her business partners were thinking when they created Pottermore.com, an online portal that will (supposedly) be an interactive way to carry on the HP story. Though the website is beginning to gain attention and engage it’s audience, there seems to have been a real missed opportunity for the entire month of July when Pottermore’s gate refused to open or shine any light on what lay behind it.
Pottermore’s release is what I imagine your little nephew’s birthday party might have looked like this summer. Some kids ran around crying because the Harry Potter saga is over and though others jumped up and down in Berti Botts Jelly Bean-induced highs hopeful about the next Harry Potter release, the Pottermore booth you splurged on for the outdoor carnival really couldn’t keep the attention of anyone at the party. Pottermore was supposed to be full of excitement and promise of more Harry Potter, but the lady running the booth told the kids that they aren’t allowed to touch. Though there were rumors that she would allow certain party-goers in on her secret in a little while, she wasn’t giving away prizes and there weren’t any games. As a result no one hung around the Pottermore booth and she lost a lot of time with a very dedicated audience.
On the day of Rowling’s announcement, June 22nd, traffic to Pottermore.com spiked. For the month of July, the site simply contained the video of the announcement saying that details will follow, a message that select users will be able to login starting in July and a place to leave your email for updates. Like many others, it seems that Pottermore wasn’t saying a lot on purpose. They wanted to build the suspense of their audience so that they will jump right on the bait when access is finally given to them. But for the entire month of July hardly anyone looked at the site! The thrill of waiting for next book or movie to come out has worked in the past, but couldn’t they give people something to do on the site in the meantime? (Google+ has pretty previews and videos to watch, Spotify allows people to pay to use it) People are already comfortable going in a book store, browsing on Amazon, and sitting in the movie theater, but people have no incentive yet to hang out on pottermore.com. Come on, people, what’s a party without a party favor?
Perhaps in efforts to remedy the lack of engagement with Pottermore, the creators released a “Magical Quill Challenge” on July 29th, which encourages users to check out Pottermore.com for 7 days for 7 different chances to get early access to the site.
Though this gave way to a lurch in visits and attention to Pottermore.com, I do wondering if those who showed up for the party in July will end up returning. Also, what will come after the Magical Quill Challenge for invites? Will there be more contests offered in order to increase the number of people involved with the site or will Pottermore remain an exclusive party for a limited time? How will these choices impact the success of the website in the long-run?
Well you’ve heard my thoughts and ratings of this summer’s most talked about releases, but I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Which of these Invite-Only releases are you RSVPing to and which will you be making up an excuse to not attend?
Jen Duguay joins Compete to take on all things social media. She comes from a social issue background, most recently having worked for the Social Innovation Forum, the venture philanthropy arm of Root Cause, a nonprofit research and consulting firm. Jen's interests include singing, marketing, running, art, making guacemole, and using social entrepreneurship to tackle world issues. She has spent time in Belize and the Dominican Republic working on microfinance initiatives and recently traveled to Kenya where she studied the public healthcare system. Follow Jen @jenduguay on Twitter.