Orkut is a now-defunct social networking site, that started out as a place to find and reconnect with old schoolmates. Think of it as Google’s version of Linkedin and Classmates.com having a baby social networking site. Orkut was named after its creator, Orkut Büyükkökten, launched in 2004 and shut down in 2014 and proved to be extremely popular in Brazil, so much so, that 90% of its page view was from users in Brazil. With all the makings of success, Orkut is a lesson in why small dreams end in failure. Just like in life, in all things, we need to dream bigger and evolve to meet the changing world.
But what is Orkut? Just like all the other social networking sites you are used to now, Orkut’s original purpose for existing was so that users could find like-minded people who shared similar interests and communities via keyword search, descriptions and other users. Orkut came to fruition at the same time as industry giants Facebook and LinkedIn and before Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest were ever even thought of.
Orkut was ahead of its time.
It grew quickly, within the first four months, Orkut had over 50,000 communities. The whole premise and strategy for the success of Orkut were built on users wanting to connect and reconnect with friends, classmates, and acquaintances from school, work and neighborhood groups. On this fact alone, Orkut garnered 20 million users by 2012. In the time it existed, we learned a lot about using social networking sites for marketing.
The community structure of Orkut (like more modern-day social networking sites) spoke to the changing role of the digital consumer because it gave consumers a place to interact and engage in communities with like-minded individuals, often of the same demographic, eager to connect and interact. Presenting the right products and services to these people would be beneficial and less commercially than traditional marketing structures.
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Why would consumers be more interested in participating with these messages rather than a diffusion strategy because it feels more organic for the consumer? When social networking ads target consumers by their preferences by what they like, those promotions feel more like word of mouth recommendations from a friend versus an advertisement pushed on a consumer. It’s less intrusive and more welcomed.
As a networking site, Orkut was very popular with the more tech-savvy students and workers in those industries; something for the CES and Silicon Valley crowd. It was great for connecting and engaging with friends, as well as, leaders in the industry and mentors. Many people were eager to be a part of the Orkut community as much because of its prestigious, invite-only membership as its affiliation to Google.
Belonging to Orkut held a lot clout as it inferred that members were highly connected in the technology field.
The site itself was clean, simple and sophisticated for a networking site at the time. It was also easy to use, navigate and join communities. Friends were able to rate each other on how sexy, cool and trustworthy they found each other. This was a predecessor to today’s modern-day likes system.
Orkut also allowed users to make recommendations about products and services like YELP, allowing members to point fellow members in the right direction based on experiences. This was part of its charm for Brazilians.
Why Orkut was such a hit with the Brazilians:
- Brazilians do a lot of online shopping with one of the strongest markets for online retailers.
- They also happen to love social media.
- Outdoor marketing isn’t allowed in Brazil, so you won’t be bombarded by billboards. However, it has made online marketing lucrative and effective.
- In Brazil, 77% of Brazilian social media users like to shop online, most of them use social networking sites like Orkut to research products and of those, they are more likely to trust recommendations from someone they know online.
- In Brazil, online marketing is not an option, it is the way to be successful. It’s about more than just existing online they need to actively engage via blogging, social gaming and online video that required in marketing campaigns. Online video is King and Okrut could have done a better job with the video.
Orkut proves that as technology evolves so must digital platforms to meet the needs of the user.
In the end, functionality problems killed the social networking site. Orkut had issues with its website, including blockages, limiting the number of friends and difficulties in loading and sharing photos. Once Orkut stopped meeting the needs of the culture and audiences they served, they became irrelevant and lost consumers. Eventually, they were replaced by newer sites. In the end, Orkut had all the makings of a successful networking site, however, it didn’t have a plan to evolve to meet user’s needs or the fortitude to push and grow beyond the original vision. Orkut simply got left behind by refusing to change.