At its peak, the social networking site Orkut had amassed 30 million active users. With those numbers it might seem like you’d need to be living under a rock to have not heard about it — or just lived in Brazil. Orkut was developed and launched in 2004 by Google employee Orkut Büyükkökten and became incredibly popular among social media users in Brazil, with 90% of page views originating from there (Mahoney and Tang, 2017).
Orkut provided a social networking platform that allowed users to “find communities through keyword search, including titles, description, and browsing through other users’ memberships” (Mahoney and Tang, 2017).
There were four main components that made Orkut skyrocket to success in Brazil.
- Orkut provided a vast network of new connections. Similar to LinkedIn today, Orkut allowed users to connect with users beyond their immediate circle of existing connections for a true social networking experience.
- Google’s strong reputation. Orkut entered the market under the strong brand recognition of Google. Google had already established a reputation as a leader in the technology industry, making new users eager to try Orkut.
- Exclusivity. Orkut boasted a prestigious invite-only membership list. This made becoming an Orkut user even more attractive as a status symbol to other tech users and therefore further increasing the social network’s popularity.
- Good UX. Orkut was simple, sophisticated and easy to use, which is an important characteristic in the technology realm. In addition, connections could rate each other, making for a competitive element that gamified the social networking site.
Take these benefits of the platform and the cultural climate at the time in Brazil, and it’s no wonder that Orkut gained popularity so quickly. Brazil is ranked as “the fifth largest online market in the world” (Mahoney and Tang, 2017) and also places a high cultural importance on digital and social media. In other words, Orkut ticked off all of the boxes for becoming a successful brand in Brazil.
So, where are they now?
With the technology industry changing so rapidly to respond to changing consumer needs, it’s paramount to a brand’s success to be able to read the cultural landscape and respond and adapt to provide consumers with what they need before they even realize they need it. Orkut’s fall from popularity provides a great example for just how important this point is. With the majority of users coming from Brazil, Orkut quickly lost users as other platforms better supported video, a functionality that proved to be important to Brazilians.
Orkut’s case study highlights some important reminders for marketers in social media.
- At the core of social media is the basic human need to connect with people and build communities around similar interests. This can help mobilize groups of people towards a common goal and is important for marketers to be able to reach and understand people with certain interests.
- In today’s world, it has become more important than ever for brands to be able to adapt to consumer needs to stay competitive and relevant in the daily lives of consumers.