I wrote recently that independent entrepreneurs should have a presence on the blogging site LiveJournal. After a recent article from Fast Company, that is either the best business advice I’ve ever given, or the absolute worst.
Over the last couple of years, LiveJournal’s growth has exploded in countries like Russia and Singapore, while the American user base has slowly tapered down to ten million unique and loyal users. Now the blogging community is seeking to reinvigorate the US user base and reclaim its spot as one of the biggest social communities on the web.
LiveJournal is well aware that its popularity in the United States is concentrated in niche, passionate communities. So they plan to take the most popular ones, give them a makeover of new widgets and comment systems, and then give the administrators insightful metrics.
Sounds pretty great, right?
Except that the new comment system is massively despised by those loyal ten million users.
And LiveJournal (or more likely, their parent company SUP) has become notorious for not listening to their users’ criticism or concerns.
Take a look at the post that “addresses” the new comment system. In what is basically a thinly-veiled “It’s here, deal with it” proclamation, over three thousand comments protest the new change. In fact, all of the LiveJournal posts mentioning the comment system overhaul have been loaded with over a thousand comments from annoyed users. LiveJournal has addressed some of the loading issues, but little else. So their insistence that all concerns have been heard doesn’t ring true.
In a social media-saturated internet, LiveJournal is going to have to implement a break out feature to attract customers. But raking in new clients just to have them grow frustrated with the lack of support and quit doesn’t seem like a productive use of time. And I’m willing to bet that they can’t attract more new sign ups than the users they’ve already lost or are in the process of losing.
Last time I checked, it was still cheaper to retain current clients than attract new ones. So if LiveJournal’s owners listen to their passionate fans – fans that have stuck around through numerous controversies and problems – LiveJournal could rebuild their brand and possibly increase the engagement of these core users:
Past users. Millions of users have jumped the LiveJournal ship in favor of other blogging communities. While some are lost forever, the others may consider coming back if they learn that LiveJournal customer service has been restored and concerns are being addressed. Pinpointing and fixing the issues that drove them away in the first place could be enough to bring them (and their wallets) back.
Current users. Ten million American users is nothing to scoff at. But if LiveJournal wants to keep these users engaged and promoting their brand, they need to listen to them. This isn’t Facebook, where angry threats to leave can fall on deaf ears. Facebook isn’t going anywhere any time soon; but LiveJournal hangs on the balance of reemerging as the original powerhouse or becoming obsolete.
New users. The fastest way to find new customers is to get your current ones advocating for you. So if LiveJournal can appease current users, those customers will be more likely to encourage their friends, readers, or clients to sign up for a new account. As the site grows with happy users, that will attract even more new accounts.
LiveJournal already has the stigma of “going the way of MySpace,” so they could really use some positive PR right about now. New widgets and insights are super, but they’ll never be able to convert users like good, old-fashioned word of mouth advertising.
So what’s the one thing that you can learn from LiveJournal right now?
Your brand advocates are advocates for a reason: they appreciate what you’ve done in the past. Turning them against you could be disastrous. If their requests are reasonable and doable, grant them; if they are absolutely impossible to implement, make sure that you address that. While you still might lose a handful of fans, the ones that remain will appreciate a clear explanation.
And for those that I advised to join LiveJournal, I think you should hold off and wait to see how this rebranding initiative works out. There’s nothing worse than taking the time to learn a social network just to see it disappear. And if LiveJournal manages to take off again, you can always jump on the bandwagon then.
Is it worth risking your current brand advocates in an attempt to seek new business? Would new features even attract you to LiveJournal? Any LiveJournal users upset about the recent changes?