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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Giving into community pressure

March 3, 2008

Have you ever asked yourself why you belong to a particular service on the web? Perhaps you are the type of person that belongs to every single one, and so maybe a better question for you would be, why do you use one more than another?

I recently gave Pownce a spin for a few days and I really like it. Being that I do not use the SMS features on Twitter, I actually like Pownce much better than Twitter. I’m not going to dive into all of the reasons I like Pownce better because that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am being forced to use Twitter over Pownce, sorta, because of “community pressure”.

Here is the breakdown of community pressure as I see it. There are a few reasons why we use services that, even though we like a different one, we still use the service.

 

 

  • All of our friends are on the service.

 

 

  • There is more activity on the service.

 

 

  • Everyone uses the service.

 

 

All of our friends are on the service. This is a pretty compelling reason to use any service really. If everyone you “know” is using that particular service, you’re bound to check it out and be part of the action. If the only reason you use Twitter is to keep up with what your friends are doing, and not because you like it more than another service that offers the same features, then you fall into this particular facet of community pressure.

There is more activity on the service. Nearly everyone of my “friends” on Twitter has a Pownce account. Yet, they don’t use it. So, it isn’t a matter of them not knowing about Pownce, it is more about them not actually using the account they created. Why? Probably because everyone that has a Twitter account is using it right now. The activity is contagious and spurs more activity.

I have yet to meet anyone that says that Pownce doesn’t do something that they want it to, or, that it is inferior to Twitter in anyway. (With the exception of SMS, of course.) I believe that if everyone with a Pownce account shifted their daily activities from Twitter to Pownce at the same time, that the reverse could be said for Twitter that is being said now about Pownce, that it is a ghost town. It is all about the activity.

Everyone uses the service. This may not fit with the Twitter / Pownce scenario as well as it does with the YouTube / (everyone else) scenario. Here is a quote from a recent article by Ryan Carson of Carsonified that he wrote about using YouTube to promote your message.

“I’d rather use Vimeo because it’s beautiful, but the truth is there’s a lot more people on YouTube. If you compare 90 views on Vimeo to 10,367 on YouTube there’s just no comparison.” — How to use YouTube to get your message out

Ryan expresses that he actually likes Vimeo more than YouTube, but it doesn’t matter because his goal of reaching as many people as possible is better accomplished using YouTube. I like Pownce more than I do Twitter, but it doesn’t matter, if I want to be part of the conversation I am forced to use Twitter because that is where the conversation is happening.

I’m still not sure what the solution to community pressure is or even if there is one. You can’t fight trends. Being “first to market” is still one of the largest advantages in any industry, period. Even when teams like Pownce and Viddler innovate in ways that previous teams doing similar things have never done, they still end up with the same challenge of gaining market share by “stealing” it away from those that may have it simply because they were first, not because their the best.

Then again, these shifts usually happen over long periods of time. Fads don’t change in one year, but have patterns over decades. The Internet is a different beast, where it seems like these patterns have a much shorter wave-length, but they do change, and it is possible to find niches. I’m looking forward to the point where all services are so wide open, and applications are at the end-points, and which service you use no longer becomes as relevant. But that may yet be a little ways off.

Why do you use the services that you do?