Insight Into the World of Plurk

Written on July 3, 2008 – 3:49 pm | by dave |

An intimate guide for the socially inclined

Unless the rock you’re hiding under has been blocking that Wi-fi signal you were pinching, you’ve likely heard of the latest Social Network in the fray – Plurk. And those of you not in the quarry would know its like Twitter’s friendlier sister who’s got a full featured personality. But is Plurk really a player in the big game with the likes of MySpace, Facebook and Twitter? Who are these Plurkers and should you bother with yet another social profile?

To look into just what is going on over there and find out what might make this cool tool or deadpool; we decided to talk to some People Lurkers (Plurkers).

Plurk the Interviews

 

The initial experience

There is certainly a sense that the Twitter Whale has a large role in Plurk’s initial success as is some of the ‘gee whiz’ factor that Plurk brings to the table. There was certainly no lack of Twitter references or people that had emigrated via Tweets as down-time and fluttery birds left the addiction unsatisfied. But that certainly wouldn’t explain why people stayed.

One thing common in my research was the fact that Plurk seems to enable and encourage a friendlier atmosphere and is perceived not to be as business-like as Twitter… Why? That seems to vary on items including;

  1. The Name
  2. The Timeline
  3. Emoticons (smileys)
  4. Threaded conversations
  5. Chat room environment (which Old Schoolers seemed to like)
  6. Conversation diversity
  7. Relaxed personal environment

This common sentiment was best put by Audrey Seiberling with;

I see Plurk as more of a social gathering and Twitter as a professional tool.

But this wasn’t uniquely universal as noted by Mike Wilton, whom is more an information hound than socialite;

…a lot of the users that I typically get my information from aren’t using it and the ones who are; aren’t using it in the same way they use Twitter. Plurk has been filled with a lot more banter than information sharing.

In the end the most endearing aspect seems to be a personal touch that many get from it. Many people related to it much like forums and chat rooms of days gone by. For the Bloggerati out there is a great place to reach out and communicate with the user base on a more informal atmosphere. Twitter is often perceived to be a publishing atmosphere whereas Plurk offers true, cohesive interactions.

Who’s using Plurk?

While I did have limited access to the full numbers and other 3rd party sources vary, it is safe to say that much of the early adopters are definitely the geeky types and more specifically, the web development, blogging and marketing set. One of the better responses once more came from Audrey;

I truly believe internet marketers are the beta testers for all things “trendy” on the net.” – Audrey Seiberling

We have seen some of the usual suspects like Leo LaPorte and Guy Kawasaki, as well as socialites such as Muhammad Saleem, Maki and Progblogger’s Darren Rowse. I haven’t really seen too many big name evangelists outside of Leo. There has not been corporate adoption such as we’ve witnessed with Twitter… but that could likely change should the buzz continue.

More and more as each week passes the demographics seem to be getting more toward the average web wanderer as its user base swells. Is it enough to make it a legitimate place for leveraging marketing campaigns or research? There seems to be enough inertia at this point to seriously consider it and start building a dialogue – but remember this is a more personal space and tact is likely an important tool in best utilizing the power of Plurk.

Is this business or personal?

Another area that we talked about was how Plurk was being used. While seen almost entirely as a networking tool there was also the same line of thought that it was encouraging less formal conversations. Some Plurkers also noted that they found the informal setting had allowed them to get on the radar with those they considered to be the thought leaders in their industry. Once more the lines of personal and professional seemed to meld.

Some noted aspects being;

  1. Blog visibility
  2. Forming industry relationships
  3. Forming friendships with like minded individuals
  4. Meeting new friends
  5. Personal support mechanism
  6. Access to industry whos-who

Among the respondents, Steven Bradley summed it up well;

The people I network with are like minded individuals, but we network in a personal and conversational manner.

One very interesting aspect is that many people gravitated to the site for networking only to find themselves in a more relaxed personal setting. This most certainly not only creates a unique identity for Plurk but also hints at what may give it wider adoption in the long run.

Another interesting side effect is that many people have also found that their other social profiles have also been growing since they started on Plurk (such as; Twitter, StumbleUpon, FriendFeed etc..). So, while not a direct goal of using the service, it has been a tool for furthering other profiles.

This persona branding was seen as well suited to this medium to some such as Samir Balwani whom added;

If you want straight brand recognition, more people seeing your logo and name, then Twitter is the way to go. If you want people to associate your brand with a personality, Plurk is where you have to be.

Plurk as a Traffic Driver

While most of the people that took part did own a blog, most were hard-pressed to actively promote it nor seen great traffic boons. To qualify this though, it wasn’t far from Twitter activity in that most had limited response from traffic promotion akin to what they experienced on Twitter. Most have been inching towards more active promotion of their content on Plurk in the coming months.

If a post falls in the forest and no one’s there to read it can it go viral?” – Steven Bradley

Once more pulling the train back into personal attachment station, there was an aversion to appearing spammy and thus greater intimacy with respective follower bases seemed to be the call of the day. While those that had tried driving traffic found a greater latency effect than one might with a platform such as Twitter.

One of the better snippets that was borne from this journey was again from Audrey ‘the Quotable’;

With Twitters unorganized layout and difficulty in following conversations, I found that many sites and posts I attempted to share were lost in the fray. With Plurk, everytime someone leaves a new response on one of my Plurks, it puts that particular Plurk in front of all of my friends and fans faces again. This helps for people who may have missed the original Plurk to still see it and visit that link.

One can surmise that such considerations which give rise to greater reach and presence would also work great for lesser known bloggers and obviously encourage viral for more known entities.

Be warned though, there is every reason to believe that this is not a place for the broadcast style of promoter. Merely posting your latest blog post, product or service announcement detracts from the personal interaction and can as easily turn people off. Once one earns respect among followers/friends is likely the best time to start considering overt promotions or data collection.

As with many related sites, networking and forming consumer relations should be the primary goal and driving traffic a mere benefit of those relationships. This is not as much social media is it is a networking platform – understand this well.

Which way did that rabbit go?

One of the more troublesome or unique aspects to Plurk is trying to contain and track the conversations one gets in. Notably, people long for a way to hunt down favourite threads and past interactions. To a certain degree one can do so via cliques; private threads that can easily be accessed. But adoption of this wonky system is slow.

Most people though have not been utilizing them to any degree and most agree some further type of segmentation would be useful. While considered an upgrade to systems such as Twitter some consistent road blocks included;

  1. Building cliques non-intuitive
  2. No notification of Private/Clique Plurks
  3. Resistance to checking Private/Clique Plurks
  4. Instability of Clique system

One simple example that Samir noted in his lamentation of the fumbling system was;

….some way to alert the user that they have private plurks even if it’s just another link, for example 6 updates | 250 responses | 7 private plurks | 100 private responses

Ultimately while there are situations where grouping followers can be advantageous, it does not solve the problem of being able to track conversations with greater ease. This is certainly one area that is worth looking at for the Plurk development team.

The Crystal Ball

One of the more important areas we covered in our conversations with Plurkers was where they felt Plurk was headed. There were mixed feelings as far as where it might fit in as far as reaching maximum velocity or ultimately being a niche locale. A flash in the pan it most certainly is not; to a person, each felt there was a future for this micro-blogging schizophrenic.

In many ways, as noted, Plurk is not really a Twitter clone nor replacement. It does remain to be seen if people really have time for both in their busy lives. Beyond that there was a sense that some new features are required to really make this a true competitor to Twitter;

  1. search for friends by Zip Code, Area Code, Interests, etc
  2. SMS, IM, and API support,
  3. Browser add-on system
  4. Ability to bookmark/track Plurk threads
  5. Groups or rooms that anyone can join (unlike cliques)

Some good news is that the Plurk team has discussed having an API released soon and are cognisant of the potential issues;

We will release an API, the reason why we don’t do it now is because it’s a challenge to make it scale – > and we don’t want to release something that will be a burden for the general service.” – Amix’s comment on PlurkiVerse

One does have to believe that there is the potential for the service to actually plateau short of wider adoption without some more prominent evangelists to legitimize it or features to deal with some existing roadblocks. While the personal nature of the platform and threaded replies are certainly strong points, people will usually hang out where their friends are – so adoption may be the key to its ultimate place in the social networking space.

Obviously along with this will be the ability or Plurk to scale properly without getting into the crash cycle such as we’ve seen on Twitter. Once more, there are as many differences as similarities between Plurk and Twitter and one can’t truly compare the two

The Verdict? If you’re looking for a new social space with a personal flavour you most certainly should give Plurk a try. If you’re a business or blogger looking to further nurture a following or consumer relations, then be warned this is a place where broadcast style micro-blogging without a more personal touch can easily backfire.

If you’re interested in carrying on this discussion and add some thoughts of your own; be sure to check out the newly created Collective Thoughts on Plurk.

Plurk posts to continue your journey

Plurk VS Twitter – they’re not the same, here’s why – Tamar
Plurk brings micro-forums like Twitter brought micro-blogging – Search Engine Roundtable
Teeg’s wonderful Plurk series; the 10 Minute guide to Plurk ( and Part II & Part III)

Looking for live webcasts? Check out the Plurk Calendar

To those that helped; I want to thank some of the fine folks that took time to answer a few rounds of questions from yours truly as this post wouldn’t exist without you –

Kristen MunsonSocial Media Mom
Samir BalwaniLeft the Box
Andy GloverGreen Eggs and Spam
Mike WiltonMusings for a Darkened Room
Audrey SeiberlingShirley Tipsy
Zak NicolaZak’s Blog
Vicky AnglinVicky’s Virtual Office
Steven BradleyVan SEO Design

Also I’d love to thank all the fine folks that took the time to play in the following threads on Plurk;

What to do about this silly Karma score
Have you tried driving traffic via Plurk?
Are you a Plurk convert?
What would you like to see added?
Plurk and qualitative research
What brought you to Plurk and what keeps you there?

Informal age/occupation demographics – here and here

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  1. 11 Responses to “Insight Into the World of Plurk”

  2. By I keyword Spam on Jul 4, 2008 | Reply

    It’s true – internet marketers truly are the beta testers of all new and trendy websites. However, that could be the reason why when I sign up for these sites and invite family and friends – no one sees the point or has the desire to try it out — thus decreasing my own usage of these “trendy” sites.

  3. By David Temple on Jul 5, 2008 | Reply

    Nice review of Plurk Dave. Like you I enjoy the pure social aspect and the ability to participate and follow threads instead of digging arount in twitter to see what that snarky remark referred to. A lot of noise but you can choose to participate or not and see who is plurking who.

  4. By dave on Jul 5, 2008 | Reply

    Hey David… certainly have been seeing more of you since the Plurk showed up… almost like the old forum dayz huh?

    I have my own feelings about Plurk and it’s future, I wanted to try and see what others felt. It will be interesting to look back at some of the suppositions that emerged in a few months to see how it turns out.

    ‘Twas success that brought the Twitter Whale to prominence; what does the future hold for Plurk? A chapter yet to be written…

    Dave

  5. By Oren on Jul 6, 2008 | Reply

    I disagree that Twitter big time player in any sense of the word. Sure it’s a significant player and it’s clearly made a statement in the way it’s users share information and communication.

    Here are some actual numbers from March 2008
    Total Users: 1+ million
    Total Active Users: 200,000 per week
    Total Twitter Messages: 3 million/day

    So just over 1 million users is considered a big time player? Enough so to be named alongside Myspace or Facebook? Not by any standards.

  6. By Dave on Jul 6, 2008 | Reply

    While your handle begs nuking, we’ll let ya off this time IKWS – I do agree that most civies I talk to have toyed with various sites, most seem to lessen enthusiasm once the ‘gee whiz’ factor passes. I have to think that Plurk is about as appealing to the masses as forums once were. Those that were shy and less involved may not find much to change their minds on Plurk.

    So, do we have professionals being personal more than the greater public? So far there is ample evidence to that end.

    People go where their friends are and if you have no friends on Plurk, then the timeline is a barren wasteland…

  7. By Barry Welford on Jul 8, 2008 | Reply

    Very much on the ball, Dave. I think unless Plurk finds the key to finding your own ongoing conversations, it will never manage to be the Twitter-killer it has the potential to be.

  8. By dave on Jul 8, 2008 | Reply

    Well since this research some other short commings have been noticed and there is much to sort IMO – the strange thing is that you would think the developers would be more active in the community, considering the personal nature the site fosters.

    It should be interesting to watch and I might come back and talk to these Plurkers in a few weeks to get a barometer of things over time.

    Thanks for dropping by one of my new hiding places Barry… always nice to see a familiar face ;0)

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