Critical mass questions

September 9, 2008 by George Eberstadt

We get a lot of questions about whether TurnTo will work before we’ve achieved a “critical mass” of users.  We built the TurnTo model so massive scale is not a requirement for the system to deliver value to users or to our partner sites.  I thought I’d explain how that works:

  1. Sites that use TurnTo suggest to their customers that they join TurnTo.  This message is delivered on the order confirmation page, the confirmation e-mail, or in on-going marketing campaigns.  The pitch is basically: be there for your friends and they’ll be there for you.  The sites may offer incentives, as well.  Not all customers join, but enough do.
  2. When these customers join TurnTo, they import their friends’ e-mail addresses and authorize that their purchases be shared with those friends.  Most likely, many of the imported friends are not yet TurnTo members.  That’s OK – those friends won’t see any of the purchase information that has been shared with them until they join TurnTo.
  3. A visitor – someone who is not yet a TurnTo member – comes to the TurnTo partner site.  The TurnTo widget shows a message like “See if friends can advise you about shopping here.”  The visitor clicks, is brought to the TurnTo registration form, and signs up.  TurnTo compares the visitor’s e-mail addresses to those with which TurnTo members are sharing.  Immediately – before she has done any network building of her own – the visitor sees the information that her friends are sharing with her on that site.  Instant gratification.

The power of this model is that each TurnTo partner site can make TurnTo productive without needing a massive TurnTo user network.  Individual partner sites don’t care about the size of the overall TurnTo network, they only care about whether their customers are TurnTo members.  And visitors to those sites don’t care about the size of the overall network either.  They only care if friends who shop on the particular site they are visiting are TurnTo members.

Of course, if you don’t shop at any of the TurnTo partner sites, then TurnTo won’t do anything for you.  But if you do visit a TurnTo partner site and have friends who shop there, there’s a good chance you’ll see these “trusted references” within a month or two of those sites installing the TurnTo system.