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A few weeks back I took a cursory glance at the iYomu website that was getting a fair bit of press.
This site, we were told, was going to be a bold attempt to capture the adult sector of the online community marketplace, what's more, it was being set-up and run by Kiwis.
Woohoo! Wouldn't it be nice if we could proudly stick our flag in a suitably elevated cyberspace peak -- alongside the likes of Myspace, Bebo, etc.
I was skeptical however, questioning whether there was actually a market to be captured here and expressing some concern that the site's creators were significantly underestimating what was involved in such a bold move.
Fear not, we were told, iYomu has a secret weapon that will give the site a massive kick-start.
Well now they've announced just what that secret weapon is -- and I'm even more skeptical than ever.
It seems that they're taking the very simple (and ultimately doomed to failure (IMHO)) approach of trying to buy an audience by giving away a million bucks.
This approach is flawed on many levels.
Firstly, those who come with a view to winning a fist-full of money are going to be fickle friends.
There's a very true saying that "money can't buy you love" (yeah, yeah, yeah) but that's exactly what iYomu is trying to buy with its lotto-like prize.
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The top-ten points winners will then go through a selection process that is performed by the iYomu directors (what, no independent selection process?).
If you're lucky enough to make it through this process to become one of the three "finalists" then you get to throw yourself at the mercy of the other iYomu users who will ultimately choose the winner.
Here's why I have my doubts about this marketing strategy...
Firstly, the "Current Top 10" list (as shown on this page will act as a disincentive to others.
If you've seen the same old faces on this list, week after week (which is almost definitely going to be the case), you'll pretty quickly realise that there's no way *you* are going to make it to the next round.
That list will be populated by a small group of highly motivated individuals that will spend most of their waking hours trying to accrue points and earn the $1m.
The "average" person just won't have a chance and once they realise this, the lure of the big prize will no longer be a motivator. Unless iYomu has successfully convinced these people that there are enough other benefits to be had on the site, they'll wander off and never come back.
Of course I can see where the directors of iYomu are coming from. This campaign *will* create a lot of new sign-ups to the site, as those seeking to win the $1m recruit their friends, families and even complete strangers. Every new recruit is another point closer to their goal.
The result will be a huge number of "community members" -- but only on paper.
iYomu will be able to tout those numbers to potential advertisers who will likely take them at face value and pay through the nose for ads that will, in reality, reach far fewer than that.
The average iYomu user is very likely to be "missing in action" after just a few short months -- but they'll still be a "registered community member" to make the numbers look better than they are.
Then there's the negative fall-out that comes from such a system.
With a million bucks on offer, you can bet your life that some of those who are just in it for the money will resort to such things as spam or other unethical behaviour in their attempt to score more points. I note that the rules do not expressly forbid the use of spamming as a method of recruiting new members by those entered in the challenge. I wonder why?
No, I'm sorry but I think this is a waste of $1m and will at best produce a brief flurry of activity -- right up to January 1 2008. From then, unless they've got another ace up their sleeve, it'll be a big decline for iYomu.
Will the winner actually get all their 12 installments? I don't know but I wouldn't bet even money on it.
Don't get me wrong, I'm really keen to see this site do very well and set a new hi-tide mark for Kiwi enterprise on the web. It's just that I think they're blowing a million bucks that could be much better spent on strategies focused on long-term member retention.
First impressions count for a lot on the web. iYomu's front page, while clean and well structured, really lacks the "gotcha" kind of eye-appeal that will cause you to stop in your tracks and look further.
It's a rather "sterile" looking escutcheon. I would have expected a social networking site to be warm, inviting, eye-catching and working hard to draw you in. I experience none of that with iYomu.
That's right -- lots of faces and people, not just computer graphics. Real people (just like you) are the heart of any online community or social networking website. It's the people that make a site warm and attractive, not the offer of a million bucks!
But my opinions are just that -- opinions, and yours may be different.
Spill your guts. Tell the rest of us what you think about the site, the $1m being spent to "buy" members and the overall concept.
iYomu -- boom or bust?
If iYomu is as popular as its directors would hope, wouldn't you actually have more chance of winning a million bucks for a lot less effort by simply picking up a lotto ticket?
And here's Peter Griffin's take on the iYomu story. Worth a read.
Oh, and don't forget today's sci/tech news headlines