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Want to Keep Your Customers? Don’t Pull a LiveJournal

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?

laughing and not listening

You have complaints? That's adorable!

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:

super stoked man

People are listening again? Awesome! I'll give it another try!

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?

Listen.

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?



Mandy Kilinskis

Mandy is proud to be a part of QLP’s content team. A self-professed nerd, her interests include video games, sitcoms, superhero movies, iPods and iPhones but never Macs, and shockingly, writing. Her claims to fame are: owning over forty pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, offering spot-on coffee advice, and knowing an unbelievable amount of Disney Princess facts. You can connect with Mandy on

Comments

  1. Tony Promo

    What they should do is sell-out to Rupert Murdoch. Then he can finally put the last nail in their coffin ala what Newscorp did to MySpace when they bought it, then immediately destroyed it.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      It would be a wise move, but I don’t believe that LiveJournal’s parent company has any plans to sell the blogging community to anyone. Then again, if they’re really hurting for some cash, anything is possible.

  2. Jill Tooley

    Not cool. Not cool at all.

    Truthfully, I’ve never used LJ and I probably never will now that all of this madness is going down. “It’s here, deal with it” is not the mindset I’d take when approaching a situation like this. What kind of a way is that to treat your established users?

    I agree, LJ very much seems like a word-of-mouth motivated business model at this point…I could be wrong, but they don’t seem like the type of site that would have to fight off or limit new members (like Pinterest as of late). And I can’t help but wonder how they’d treat their new clients if this is how they choose to deal with their existing ones.

    There’s still time to turn this around, LiveJournal! Do the right thing!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      It’s definitely a word-of-mouth business at this point. I joined LiveJournal way after its peak of popularity. Why? Because one of my friends kept telling me about it and linking to their content. I honestly doubt that LiveJournal will ever return to the demand that they had in their prime, especially with older users defecting for new sites.

  3. Alex Brodsky

    I came close to checking out LiveJournal when you suggested it last time. I’m glad I got super-lazy and didn’t, because this sounds like something that would irritate me to no end. And once you’ve irritated me, there’s no going back. It’s game over.

    I’m counting on you, Mandy, to let me know if/when they figure this stuff out, and maybe I’ll give them some of my time. But as a new customer, my time is valuable and it must be earned. Doesn’t sound like these guys are doing anything to “earn it” from new customers.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I’m glad that you got super-lazy, Alex. I promise to keep you abreast of the ever-changing LiveJournal situation. If it ever seems to stabilize in a positive direction and appease current users, I’ll let you know. :)

  4. Amy Swanson

    Wow, shocking stuff Mandy! Did they get a hold of a college textbook about business and decide to do everything opposite of what it says? Why would they think it’s a good idea to alienate their current customers to attract new customers who may just up and leave in a few months. Talk about being counterproductive! Sheesh!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Yeah…I’m not sure what’s going on. Their ideas to modernize their website are really great, and probably necessary to keep semi-relevant in today’s web. I don’t think any customer would be upset to see LiveJournal regain popularity. But the fact that the major gripe that current users have is something that could be fixed pretty easily – or geez, at least addressed in a reasonable manner – is upsetting. It’s setting a terrible precedent.

  5. Rachel

    I don’t spend nearly as much time on LiveJournal as I used to, but I do frequent some communities there just to read comments and stuff (don’t really participate any more) … and honestly, I’ve not experienced any problems with comments — reading them, anyway. That being said, I don’t doubt that there are issues, given some of the “controversies” that have happened with the company in the past. But your point about listening is really, really essential, no matter the business. I think LiveJournal has built a reputation among its members of NOT listening, so the company needs to make a lot of big strides to gain that trust back. Thanks for the rundown of the recent issues, Mandy — I miss the LJ drama sometimes, haha. ;)

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      The comments are good for reading. It’s nice to have everything there and expandable. But for leaving comments? Forget it. It’s super obnoxious. They don’t have the “parent this thread” capability, so if you want to have a conversation, you have to scroll down and over through hundreds of them to reply. So, if you’re trying to foster engagement, this just seems counterproductive.

      LiveJournal and SUP are going to have to do some serious planning to keep their members on board.

  6. Jaimie Smith

    This was interesting to read. I used to have a LiveJournal account back in like my freshman year of high school (like 8 years ago!!). The only reason I have one is because my friend made me get one actually. I was never on it enough to really get the hang of everything on the site. Im kind of interested to go to it now and see what it is like and how much it has changed…but I really have no idea what my password would have been!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      And see, there you go! A perfect example about how LiveJournal’s membership was grown by word-of-mouth referrals!

      If you’re really interested in the changes, I would just go poke around the homepage. That’s different enough as it is. :)

  7. Candice J.

    I guess my biggest gripe with this is companies that don’t listen to their customers issues or concerns. They make it appear as if they don’t value their customer’s input and this is a HUGE problem. Plain and simple you can’t have a business without customers, whether it be LiveJournal, Facebook, Myspace, etc. Some companies can maintain without addressing customer issues but ultimately if you keep ignoring your customers your going to end up with no more customers left to ignore sooner or later. This seems like a very bad move on their part.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      You hit the nail on the head, Candice. LiveJournal has already shrunk its American user base with their clients jumping over to Facebook, Tumblr, etc. If they want to keep numbers up (or growing), they need to find out what’s kept people around for so long. Progress is essential, of course, but that doesn’t mean totally abandoning the users that have stuck with you for 8+ years.

  8. Jen

    Honestly I didn’t even know live journal was still around until the first blog you wrote Mandy. I never had an account myself, but I know people who were obsessed with it about 8 years ago because there really wasn’t anything else like it. Hopefully they straighten their act out, because there are tons of other social sites people could choose to use instead. Nice post Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Thanks, Jen!

      LiveJournal was an innovator. I really doubt that they could ever reclaim their former popularity, but it sure sounds like they are going to try. As much as I would like for them to succeed, I do think that they are going about it the wrong way.

  9. Eric

    Very much in agreement when you say the best way of attracting new customers is to utilize the happy existing customers as advocates.

    I have to note the irony of a social media website failing to at least regard the feedback and opinions of their customers. If there’s any sort of business that should be in-tune with customer service, it would be the one that can so easily communicate with its customers.

    Luckily I never got involved in Live Journal, the way this sounds. Yikes.

    Oh, well…back under my rock of nostalgia I go!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I’m glad that you’re noting the irony, Eric, because the company itself sure doesn’t.

      It’s funny that you mention nostalgia. LJ could probably play on the nostalgia factor. “Hey, remember when you were 16 and wrote all your thoughts here? You should do that again because it was fun…except we’re cooler now. Promise.”

      • Eric

        :)

        Crazy as it is to say, Mandy, posting just that would probably do them quite a bit of good.

  10. beatrice_otter

    As a long-time LJ user, nothing LJ does surprises me any more. I’m only still there because I have friends and communities that haven’t left yet; LJ hasn’t been my primary home for a couple of years and will never be again.

    Proving you right about brand advocates: I’m mostly on DreamWidth, nowadays; DreamWidth was started by a couple of former LJ employees who wanted to do it *right*. They took the LJ open source code, modernized it, added some cool features that people had been asking for for a long time, and set up shop. Unlike LJ, they listen–and listen well!–to their client base. (Denise Paolucci, one of the founders of DW, used to work Support for LJ.) They are very good at nurturing and training volunteers (especially programmers), so they get a lot of stuff done even though they only have three paid employees. Basically, it’s what LJ could be. And every time LJ does something else stupid that their customers hate, DW gets another huge boost of new users.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hi, Beatrice. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

      I’m still on LJ for similar reasons. I have an account on DreamWidth, but I haven’t put in the time to really learn the site. However, I have read (via others and the DW news posts) that the staff really does care about your input, and that is definitely one of the best things about DW.

      Since writing this post, I have noticed that LJ has changed some parts of the commenting system to be more user-friendly, but it’s still not the sparkling gem that it used to be. In the same vein, I should sit down and familiarize myself with DW.

  11. Meadowlark8

    I have been a Lj user since 1/2007.
    I have noticed a decline with service,
    availabilty, and courtesy.
    1/2 of my friends list have abandoned
    Lj. They still have their accounts, but,
    have not posted or checked their lj sites
    in years. Lj has killed the goose that
    laid the golden egg. This is from a U.S.
    lj user. The U.S. people of Lj are quite
    fed up with Lj, esp. the new system.
    There is no spellcheck, and it is impossible
    to post with the New and Improved system.
    V-gifts? So what, they are not keeping the
    U.S. Lj accounts, as many have left or are in
    the process of leaving. Lj screwed up.

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