How hi5 makes online addicts

Bambi Francisco Roizen · June 26, 2008 · Short URL:

We've come a long way from scripted letters, landline phones, and even email. Today, about five years after the birth of social networks, the way to increasingly stay in touch is through these platforms. One reason social networks are far more popular than email - they constantly remind you of who your friends are and who you should communicate with. Small wonder that social networks draw the biggest addicts online. They're the biggest discovery engine on the Web. Where else, after all, could you discover someone whom you may know, but would never have thought about reaching out to, because of your network of common friends?

If Quantcast is accurate, hi5 is doing a much better job creating addicts than Facebook. According to the measurement firm, 73% of hi5's visitors are addicts while 63% of Facebook's visitors are addicts. What's hi5 doing to keep its international audience coming back and sticking around? It may come down to simply providing a platform to enable connections and communications. In Mexico, hi5's user base grew 85% within the 15-to-24 year old demographic last year, said hi5 CEO and founder Ramu Yalamanchi. This compares to a flat or declining take-up rate in email. "Hi5 is replacing personal communications," said Ramu. And, the key to ensuring that people keep coming back? "Provide a social experience, enhance the way people interact with their friends, and make it fun," he said. Those are the principles that dictate what features hi5 puts in place.

Fortunately, for hi5 and other networks, people - when given the right tools - will be very proactive about communicating.

What's the most surprising characteristic about human nature based on your observations? I asked. 

"People want to share," said Ramu. "Given no restraints, people want to share a lot." 

(Note: This interview is part of a series on "Changing online behavior." The first interview was with Max Levchin, CEO and founder of Slide, titled: Self-expression 2.0 and engagement.) 

Earlier interviews:

Hi5 CEO Ramu shares OpenSocial milestones

Lessons Learned: Hi5 CEO says focus on profits


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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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