A Lesson in Marketing for ICTs

Technology platforms are now easier than ever to create. That means fewer obstacles and less concerns regarding acquiring the right technology to implement them. However, developers instead face new challenges, like attracting participants to join an alternative social network, especially when it is competing with top dogs like Facebook and Google+. One of the biggest challenges facing these developers and their emerging platforms is competition with the popularity of the already main stream platforms that are of the same type and the marketing techniques that brand a company and are, hence, essential to wide-spread notoriety that determines overall success. This is a huge hurdle that students (from left to right on the picture below) Raphael Sofaer, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, Dan Grippi, and Max Salzberg from NYU faced when launching their new social network platform called Diaspora.

The four creators of the social network generated the platform as a result of an accumulated frustration from the master of all social networks, Facebook. Fed up with the ads, the lack of privacy, and the overall decentralization of the program, they set out to create their own that would ensure the privacy of its users and the limitation of third party interventions. Raising money for the initiative was easier than the three of them had anticipated. In a NYT article Dan Grippi recounts “We were shocked…For some strange reason, everyone just agreed with this whole privacy thing.” But they experienced an abrupt delay in 2010 when the platform was released and membership was less than impressive. Regardless of how improved and additionally protected the program was or the added efficiency it offered to the user, they didn’t have the brand name, professionals, or face to make membership sore like (Google+) did when it was released only a few months later.

Marketing techniques are playing an increasingly large role in the success of new technologies, especially when it comes to social networks whose purpose revolves around the participation of members and the convenience of program in which groups of members belong to the same one. Simply, you want to be where all your friends are and will therefore join or stick with the one you see advertised most often or attributed to the biggest names in the sector (like the brand Google that already has a huge member base and positive feedback from members, or Mark Zuckerberg, who had an entire movie made after him and was the first to develop any like social network in the field).  People who use networks like Diaspora are thus most likely to stay where there friends are, only enticed to switch when whole networks of their friends and family transfer at the same time, which is routinely uncommon. Thus, the lack in fame, title, and/or brand put Diaspora at a disadvantage from the beginning.

The same NYT article from above tried to tag them as the “Four Nerds” from NYU but this title was neither impressive nor catchy. Had they established some kind of promotion pitch before releasing the network, maybe it would have had more of an initial impact. But for now, and until they can amp up a compelling marketing strategy, the network will have to rely on its development investors and its 100,000 members, according to a business article of The Daily Beast (compared to FB’s 750 million members, just to put the number into perspective) to spread the word one user at a time.

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