Voki by the numbers (and a little good natured poke at the competition)

In a little over a week of our Alpha launch, Voki had 1665 non-Oddcast employed users this morning.

How's that for transparency?

Now Mayka, the intern from Meez, will know, and you'll see her little cartoon head appear in my MyBlogLog and she'll go take that stat back to the management of one of our competitors.  Hey, at least they participate in the social web and use their own product.

Anyway, so what if they know?  So what if you all know?

Registered users are an absolutely meaningless number and in the early going of a product, I think most companies play it way too close to the vest with this sort of stuff.

For example, our goal is 350,000 registered users by the end of the year.  Is there anything different that we're doing to try to get to 350,000 that we wouldn't do if we were trying for a million?  No, absolutely not.  We'd love a million.   We'd love ten million.  In fact, we're actually shooting for 350 million, but the bottleneck there is the pain we would experience upon extracting these numbers from our own business ends. 

The reality is, you don't really know how many users you're going to get, but you just want to pay very close attention to who is signing up, how they find out about it, and what they're doing with it, and adjusting your marketing strategy accordingly.

For example, I've noticed a lot of users posting Voki in their MySpace blogs as a way to speak to their users, rather than as one of 100 widgets on their profile page.  (Makes sense... since your Voki can talk, as opposed to just thrash in silence, crowd surf in silence, or ride a bicycle in circles in silence.)   Is this better or worse?  Certainly the blogs get less traffic, but in terms of engagement and placement, very rarely do you see many widgets posted in blogs at all, and when your friends subscribe and see a new post, they get notified right away and will come visit.  So, it's actually not such a bad place to be, but of course, we'd like to see Voki on the profile as well, too.

As for the number itself, one might think that's on the low side.  We're used to seeing big launches that lots of people buzz about because of a TechCrunch feature... and since TechCrunch has 350k subscribers, having a little over 1500 after a week of alpha seems sort of low, no?  Actually, no...   because TechCrunch registrations are often a blip...  noise generated by a highly engaged and curious audience that has 180 other widgets to play with.   We're happy to never get mentioned on TechCrunch because those users aren't by any stretch of our imagination our target audience.   I don't know any 15 year old girls with 600 friends in MySpace who develop in AJAX and read TechCrunch religiously.   (Not to mention the fact that I already know they like Gizmoz better because of their technology.  Me personally, I'd rather my avatar platform not have terrorist characters with guns and ski masks available for use.  I don't exactly find that sort of thing amusing.  Gagz!)

When I look at these e-mail addresses of users, I'm really happy with the 1500 we have, because we've got mostly "imaprettygurl85@domain.com" and "suchandsuch@college.edu"...   On the surface, definitely the audience we want to hit.

Plus, it all depends on how you're marketing.  We're working on little bugs and site improvements here and there...  getting feedback from the early adopters, etc. 

Growth is an interesting thing.  So, we need about 24% weekly growth to hit our target... but obviously, its a lot harder to go from 100 to 124 than it is to go from 100,000 to 124,000, right?

Well, let's think about that actually.  Sure, I could power my way to another 24 users with some e-mails to friends and of course that doesn't scale.   However, that's not a I'm likely to get repeat, sticky usage.  You might thing that it would be hard to add on another 24,000 users, but when you already have a base of 100,000, some good marketing to your users, some contests, viral feature improvements, etc, can be very powerful.... not to mention the fact that new people are that much more likely to have seen Voki elsewhere, maybe multiple times, and have a strong desire to get one because their friends are using it.  There's a tipping point in there somewhere, buried among all the network effects. 

Plus, we never really got into the idea of what being a user means.   I mean, I've created a WeeMee and posted him to my blog, and that's all I've done.  I don't think I've changed him since I first made him.  Do I count?  It's also getting lots of pageviews everyday, so its not like I have a totally stale account.  It would be really interesting to see how I get counted in their user numbers.

So, we have a lot of work to do to identify key metrics.  How to we compare a posted Voki out on the web to one send as a message via e-mail?  What do we want people doing?  Just recording new audios?  Messing with characters?  Is a Voki created with our Text to Speech engine inherently less valuable than a Voki with a real voice?

Lots of questions, lots of Voki out there, lots more still to go...   but one thing's for sure... headline numbers don't mean a damn thing.

I mean, Zwinky has like 4 million plus registered users by now, I think...  but how many of them still use it versus how many can't figure out how to uninstall the Ask.com toolbar that comes with it? 

Seen those commercials yet?  Get Zwinky!  Get Zwinky!  Get Zwinky!  It's enough to make me want to throw the TV out the window.