Orkut: The Most Popular Social Media Site You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Key Takeaways

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.


Photo by Troy on Unsplash

The Walmart of Social Media Sites

Out of the 7.6 billion people in the world, 3.03 billion are active social media users. And on average, each of these active users maintains approximately 7 different social media accounts. This probably sounds familiar to you as you check your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, etc., etc. as you’re reading this. Whether you want to admit it or not, social media has become a part of everyday lives. We use it to interact with friends, colleagues, and brands. Book a trip. Manage payments. Conduct research.  Share music, photos, videos to express ourselves. The options of what we can do with social media and how it fits into our lives are really endless. Many of us utilize different social media apps for different reasons. But what if one social media site could do all of this, and more?


Enter Weixin.

Weixin is the Chinese born social media site that can do just about anything you would use a social app for all from one easy to use platform. Weixin boasts a variety of functionalities, allowing users to send messages, share news and pictures, book a cab, make a payment, voice to text recording, and even open an online shop. By combining all of these different use cases, Weixin is eliminating the need to download and use any other social media apps making them the one stop shop for all your mobile needs (which is basically all of our needs).

So, how did they do it?

Pretty simple actually — they know their audience. Like really know them. Weixin has performed extensive audience research to understand their users’ wants, needs, and lifestyle behaviors so that they can offer functionalities that satisfy all of their users needs. Weixin is consistently using social listening to find out how their platform can fit into their audience’s lives. Basically, Weixin found out what people are doing in their daily lives and found ways to become a part of it by helping them accomplish these tasks.

For example, in addition to a wide range of base functionalities, Weixin also introduces new functions/campaigns seasonally to satisfy changing needs and moods of their audiences, such as their “Red Envelope” campaign or their new online integration with Starbucks coffee shops. Both campaigns centered around the Chinese New Year, which is a major  gift giving holiday in China. Through these campaigns, Weixin allows users to link their bank accounts to send/receive gifts to friends and family. In 2017, Weixin recognized that many of their users were also Starbucks customers, making for a fitting and well received collaboration between the two brands. Through this tie in, Weixin users have the option to send a Starbucks gift via messaging and the recipient only needs to show the gift from their mobile device to any Starbucks branch to redeem their gift.

Key takeaway? Know your audience inside and out and become part of your audiences’ everyday routine and habit. Ultimately, the first step towards a successful social media endeavor is knowing your audiences’ tastes, interests, and motivations (Mahoney and Tang, 2017).

A “Like” for Cyberactivism

In general, we all want to feel like we’ve done our part to help make the world a better place. Do you agree? We hold the door, volunteer, donate clothes and money, and build houses for Habitat for Humanity, among many others. You can fill in the blank. So when we have the opportunity to support a cause on social media, many of us are quick to jump in, give it a “like” and even dump a bucket of ice on our heads. But how much do all of the statuses, memes, #metoo hashtags, and videos actually make a difference?


Using Social Media for Good is … Good, Right?
Every year at the beginning of October we see an outpouring of support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month on our social media feeds. Most people either directly know someone who has had breast cancer or know of someone else who has been affected by it in their life and because of this, most people would consider themselves to support this cause. When our news feeds start filling up with statuses raising awareness, people want to feel included and feel good about joining in, especially if it’s a fun and engaging challenge. Breast Cancer awareness campaigns get users to share through tongue and cheek challenges such as updating your Facebook with a one word status with the color of the bra you’re wearing or sharing where you like to keep your purse. Ex: “I like it in the closet”. It’s not surprising that these campaigns spread quickly, but unfortunately, there’s no way to quantify the effects these social media campaigns have on breast cancer awareness and involvement.

Does joining in a social media activism campaign increase the likelihood to take action?

While it’s all very “feel good” every October when we see our newsfeeds fill up with support for breast cancer, most of these campaigns are not linked to real-life action. In fact, these campaigns can actually further misunderstandings, which is the opposite of increasing awareness. Campaigns with the color pink, touting “Save the Boobies”, and telling women to share their bra color would have you thinking that breast cancer is a disease that affects only women, but that’s not the case. While all of this is in good intent, it’s problematic to sexualize the disease and ultimately exclude an entire population from the support the campaigns raise.

All cyberactivism campaigns would benefit from encouraging tangible actions, such as:

  • Volunteering
  • Donating money
  • Signing a petition
  • Writing a letter

Walking the Walk:

One example of a campaign that aimed to increase awareness and encourage users to take action is Ben & Jerry’s recent Save Our Swirled campaign. Ben & Jerry’s stands for a lot more than good ice cream and in 2015 they created a national sampling tour and social media campaign with one goal: to increase awareness for climate change and gain signatures for a climate action petition through partnering with social activism organization Avaaz. This was a six month effort leading up to the 2015 Paris Climate Summit. Having a social media campaign that leads to real action and support for a cause is much more powerful for the effort.

What other examples have you seen of brands/organization using social media to incite activism?

Shopping for Eyeglasses and How Warby Parker Changed the Game

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As someone who has had to wear eyeglasses since I was 8 years old, I’m all too familiar with the pains of selecting and purchasing a new pair of frames. From the exams, to dealing with the insurance companies and trying diligently to understand which frames are covered and at what percentage and do they cover scratch resistant? To needing to try on eyeglass frames from the meager selection in the eye doctor’s shop inventory, which I’m too nearsighted to have any idea what I look like in, I might add. After a recent eye infection that caused me to switch more permanently from contacts back to glasses, I find myself back in these woes of shopping for eyeglasses.

Anyone else relate? If you can, I’m sure you’ve also browsed the internet for a better option and stumbled on Warby Parker. Maybe you’ve even tried them. Warby Parker is a company that has totally revolutionized how consumers shop for glasses. The founders of Warby Parker recognized that the traditional way of purchasing eyeglasses was not working for all consumers so they saw an opportunity to provide cheaper options and greater accessibility. Customers can purchase directly from Warby Parker through online distribution rather than the showroom style shopping experience that we’re all used to.

So would you make the switch to ordering eyeglasses online? If you’re hesitant, you’re not alone.

Many people were concerned that by ordering online they wouldn’t be guaranteed the same fit, style, and quality as if they could go into a store and try them on. Warby Parker makes it easy through their “Home Try-On Campaign” that lets consumers order five pairs of glasses online, see which one they like best, and return the rest. The best part? Both shipping and returns are free to the customer. In addition to making the process super simple and pain free, Warby Parker also heads to social media to reach people on a personal level. They are constantly communicating with consumers, answering any concerns in the comments on their social media platforms, as well as using social media as a way to offer expert advice on eyeglasses. You can find plenty of helpful videos on YouTube that help address the concerns we all have when purchasing eyeglasses. They’re also regularly getting consumers to get involved and participate by sharing pictures of themselves wearing Warby Parker glasses on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The best part is that Warby Parker is committed to giving back and to do so they have teamed up with VisionSpring to donate a pair of eyeglasses for every eyeglass purchased, amounting to a total of 500,000 eyeglasses donated to date. That’s amazing!

Long story short, here are the top three reasons why Warby Parker is better than the eye doctor’s showroom you were taken to as a kid:

  1. They’ve drastically lowered the prices by focusing solely on online distribution.
  2. Order five pairs to try at home then send the rest back! Plus shipping and returns are free.
  3. They’re doing good in the world! For a pair you purchase through Warby Parker, another pair will be donated to someone who needs them. How cool is that?