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Orkut's Rise and Fall: A Lesson in Understanding Your Audience

This week we delve into the intriguing case study of Orkut, once a trailblazing social media platform by Google. Operating from 2004 to 2014, Orkut initially found success in India and Brazil, with its most successful country being the latter.


What was Orkut?


Similar to other social media platforms, Orkut was designed with the central goal of fostering connections and creating a sense of community. It served as a hub for individuals from different schools seeking to reunite and establish reunion groups, as well as for employees looking to form business-related communities. Moreover, Orkut catered to online students, providing them with a platform to stay connected, share information, and discuss various courses.


Users of Orkut explored numerous networking opportunities utilizing features such as searching for personal pages, and keywords to find content that matched their interests. Orkut gained recognition in the tech industry for its virtual networking technology, earning accolades for its innovative community-based technologies. Beyond family connections, users could also engage with teachers and other mentor figures, further expanding the platform's appeal.


The association with Google lent Orkut credibility, contributing to its reputation for revolutionizing the social media industry. The invite-only membership feature allowed users to curate a more personal and exclusive community. 

The platform's user-friendly interface and accessibility were key factors contributing to its widespread popularity, especially in offering products and services within community memberships. Additionally, the rating system provided a means for users to enhance their popularity within their respective communities. The clean and user-friendly interface resonated with people, especially with students and tech enthusiasts. Orkut crafted an image of prestige, a hub where influential individuals connected.


So Why Did Orkut Disappear?


While Orkut championed user privacy, its weakness was shown in its featured public rating system. Meghana Bowen, a UI/UX Designer, highlighted in her blog Orkut's commitment to privacy while revealing its paradox. That being, the platform allowed users to view who visited their profiles, lacking the privacy controls desired by modern internet users. Additionally, Orkut couldn’t keep up with the rapid increase of users on the platform. This caused slower performance speeds which put a damper into the user experience. For a more in depth look into the decline of Orkut, visit the LinkedIn article: Why Orkut Failed: The Rise and Fall of a Social Media Giant


Marketing Prowess and Pitfalls


From a marketing perspective, Orkut was clever. In Brazil's e-commerce landscape, it successfully blended social communities with advertising, addressing the limitations on outdoor ads. However, its downfall was inevitable. Internal privacy concerns, lack of interactive features like a "like" button, and functionality issues impeded user experience.


Lesson Learned: Know Your Audience


From Orkut we’ve learned to continue to emphasize the essential marketing principle: knowing your audience. A well-defined target audience translates to an enhanced user experience as the content is tailored to align with the user's expertise, viewpoint, and objectives. For a more in depth discussion on understanding your audience, check out this article from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Orkut's inability to adapt and understand user expectations led to its demise. In the dynamic world of social media, user needs should be paramount. Orkut's failure highlights the cruciality of adapting to evolving user cultures to ensure sustained success in the ever-changing digital landscape.


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