I am working with a startup company in Denver. They have a really cool mobile application called Glassboard. It is basically a private version of Facebook….. in other words, you create groups to share with that allow you to maintain your own personal worlds. I am an academic, entrepreneur, father, husband, fraternity member, republican….. and on and on. Each of these distinctions has boundaries and sometimes those worlds don’t work well together For example, I don’t mix my fraternity brothers with my academic peers….. that would be a big problem! I don’t mix my republican views with my general social groups (Facebook, etc.) because it seems to bring out the worst in people. It’s just the wrong forum.
I digress…. it’s a really good product but it represents a really big problem for entrepreneurs. How do you get a network to the market? Glassboard doesn’t really provide value unless a lot of people start using it. But until it provides value, how are you going to get people to use it. I learned today that this is called the Metcalfe effect. You can look it up on Wikipedia but basically it addresses the issue I just described. Consider the fax machine. It is totally worthless unless you have someone else to fax with. The more fax machines that exist, the more valuable each one becomes.
As a marketing professor, I must say that this is a very interesting scenario to consider, especially when it comes to mobile applications. They typically have the burden to “market themselves.” By that, I mean that they have to be so intuitive that new users instantly see the value and understand what to do with it. Slinging a bird at a house of glass takes very little time to understand and enjoy. However, what about utilities like Glassboard? They can provide great value but are not as intuitive as other mobile applications. How do we market for those that don’t market themselves?
I don’t know the answer to Glassboard’s marketing questions…. But I will let you know once I figure it out!