Orkut: What Could Have Been

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Within the last 18 years, we’ve seen the rise and fall of so many social media platforms.

From the days, when Myspace was the dominant player and then faded into oblivion; to today, with Facebook, the undisputed king of social media.

In between this period, different platforms have come and gone from the stage. One of such pretenders was Orkut.

Launched in 2004 by Orkut Buyukkokten, Google product manager. At the height of its growth, it has over 30 million users and was adding hundreds of thousands of new users daily.

Interestingly, the social network proved quite popular in Brazil. During those days, over 90 percent of page views were from that country. Unfortunately, the network could not replicate its success globally.

Image Courtesy of Soul Brazil Magazine

One would expect Orkut, the social media backed by the search engine giant Google to flourish in this domain; however, the reverse was the case.

What went wrong?

Looking back today, one can point to a couple of things that led to Orkut’s demise – that’s aside from stiff competition from Facebook.

One is the name of the social media platform. Believe it or not, the name played a role in why the network couldn’t catch on.

Take, for instance, Orkut to an English speaker sounds like Occult – lots of negative connotation.

Secondly, it isn’t memorable – users might even struggle to pronounce it; plus, it doesn’t describe exactly what it does in one go like Facebook.

Another thing Orkut got wrong is, it couldn’t replicate its successes in Brazil and India in other parts of the world.

The nascent stage of the social media coincided with the slow emergence of the middle class in countries like Brazil and India.
So, it wasn’t surprising to see these people who have just found themselves with increased disposable income take to the internet.
And, interestingly in Brazil, Orkut provided the perfect virtual environment for people to organize themselves into communities just as in the real world. It’s common to find communities organized based on interests – so you’d see a football community, politics, sports, and so on.
Another feature of Orkut was that it made it possible for users to participate in communities instead of being just passive listeners.

Why would consumers be more interested in participating in these online messages rather than diffusion strategy?

To understand this, we will have to look at the Brazilian society. In the real world, outdoor banners were banned. Hence, elevating the position of digital marketing to a place of importance.

Also, Brazilian culture holds a strong affinity for digital and social media. At least these data confirm it – 77 percent of Brazilian social media users have a positive attitude to online shopping. Eighty percent of users say they use social media to research products.

In a culture where brands must engage their fans on various digital platforms, what advice would I lend businesses about their future social media strategy?

Understand that technology changes pretty fast. What’s the fad today, will likely become obsolete.

Throw into the mix that user behavior and tastes shift with changing technologies; it becomes a tad challenging to create a change-proof strategy for the future.

However, regardless of trend, there’re a couple of things organizations can do to stay on top of their social media game: one, strive to become the most resourceful, trustworthy brand in their niche.

Secondly, track the data to understand where the trend is moving towards and position to take advantage of it.

One thought on “Orkut: What Could Have Been

  1. I am going to focus on the part of your post that focuses on the name Orkut.

    Harroch (2016) wrote that “Finding the right name for your startup can have a significant impact on your success. The wrong name can do worse than fail to connect with customers; it can also result in insurmountable business and legal hurdles. In contrast, a clear, powerful name can be extremely helpful in your marketing and branding efforts”. While one can appreciate the desire to give a business the founder’s name, in the case of Orkut this concept backfired. The name was easily misunderstood, mispronounced, and did not resonate with users.

    When it comes to naming a startup, there are many factors that should be considered BEFORE landing on a name that will be permanent. Founders should always determine if the name is catchy, ensure that the name sounds good when said out loud, use a name that conveys some sort of meaning, avoid a name that is hard to spell, and, most importantly, pick a name that does not limit the company as it grows (Harroch, 2016). Orkut’s founder experienced many failures throughout the platform’s tenure in the social media network market, however, the company was not set up for success from the beginning. It appears the addition of ego was the beginning of the end for Orkut.

    Harroch, R. (October 23, 2016). 12 tips for naming your startup business. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2016/10/23/12-tips-for-naming-your-startup-business/#1844dfe6904e


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