It seems to have started with Gmail. That’s when Google did a soft launch of their email system. Only those who had an invitation to use the system could test it out. Everyone wanted an invite. People were selling them on eBay. It was a bit of an Internet frenzy. There was a cachet in having an invite to Gmail, and to being able to hand-out invites to a small number of others. Google was brilliant in getting this viral approach to marketing and services going.
Now, many web-based products start out with an invitation only beta testing phase. People hunt down invitations to the products they are most interested in testing out and there’s even a web site, InviteShare, that will help you find invite only sites and help you to get invites from them.
Recently I found myself caught up a bit in this invite culture when Pownce launched and I really wanted to find out what the founder of Digg, Kevin Rose, decided to do for his next project. Fortunately for me, someone I know got her request for an invite in pretty quickly and she was able to snag one and then I got one from her. (BTW, I have about 8 Pownce invites left if anyone is interested.) Then, I heard about mySkitch and again and I realized that I wanted to get an invite to a new product. I was looking all over for an invite for mySkitch and finally tried the InviteShare web site and got in. (Definitely worth the hunt BTW.)
All of the invite machinations I went through got me thinking about how libraries might use this invite culture phenomenon in their own programs and services. What if librarians were to give out a few invites to (fill in the blank with your idea here) and each of the teens who had the original invites had 5 or so to give out and then the next set of teens had 5 or so invites to give out and so on and so on. Would we be able to create excitement in which teens were hunting around for invites for a particular library program or service?
Is marketing via the invite culture something those who serve teens should pay attention to? I think so, what do you think?