In the last few days I have been getting a lot of invitations to sign up for new web services. After a few years of generally being a good sport and sharing the word, I have recently scaled back the number of services for which I am willing to create “viral” marketing by sharing it with a friend.
1. Not every service that wants me to invite my friends to join actually needs me to have “friends” to be useful. I am finding myself gravitating more and more toward services where I can actually do something interesting without having to have a large network of friends in order to get value. I only have so many times I can go back to my group of friends and let them know about the latest cool service.
The other thing about this, which is something relatively few people seem to mention, is that I can make a much more compelling “pitch” about why to use a service when I can get some independent value from it before I tell others why they should use it or join. I would put services such as Yelp and LinkedIn in this category — I can get some basic value from out of the application before building out a larger network of users. As important, the services get some value out of having me as a user even if I don’t expand my network of friends but make use of the service.
2. Tools that allow me to discover which of my friends are already on a given service are much more likely to get me to do advertising on their behalf. If I know that a good chunk of my existing friends are already on a service, I am much more likely to invite others who aren’t already on it. A lot of social networking and web 2.0 applications I have seen are more focused on using a contact uploader or some other mechanism to get me to invite my friends rather than using that same information to help me figure out who else might actually already be a user of the service.
Always happy to hear what people think — feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email.