I'm fascinated with Web-based products like Hotmail, Gmail, YouTube, and YouSendIt - products that people share with their friends, colleagues and family members.
When you get an email from someone’s Gmail account or watch a YouTube video or someone sends a large file to you via YouSendIt, that's a trigger for you to potentially sign up and use the product too. These products sell themselves: no coercion required and "advertising campaigns" a waste of money. How cool is that?
Lauren Grunstein and Stephanie Gurtman (the Gigi Girls), both juniors at Boston University College of Communications, are co-founders of InternshipRatings.com, a place for students to reveal and critique the internship world so other potential interns can get the real deal at potential employers.
I've spoken with them several times over the past year as they've developed and launched InternshipRatings.com to learn how they developed the triggers so people share their product. (This photo was taken at the recent HubSpot Inbound Marketing Summit).
They met their freshman year in the College of Communications class and then kept in touch during the application process and internship experiences, which were vastly different than what they had expected. When they spoke during that summer, they realized that if there had been information about the companies where they were slated to intern, their experiences might have been different.
"So we decided to create a site," Grunstein says. "We are used to these kinds of user-driven ratings services because we used RateMyProfessors.com a lot." RateMyProfessors.com currently has 6 million opinions on a million professors who teach at over 6,000 schools. "We saw the opportunity and we created something that we would use ourselves, with a young feel to the site as well as the company name and tagline: Is it worth the coffee?"
To launch InternshipRatings.com, the Gigi Girls focused their efforts on social media sites, sending out personal messages to about 1,000 Facebook friends. They made the messages really short and personal and told people about the site and the InternshipRatings.com Facebook group.
"We used our network in a way where we were letting our friends into our lives. Facebook is how people of our generation communicate, so that’s how we launched," Grunstein says.
In a world where companies spend zillions of dollars on inane advertising, sometimes we forget that a product can be launched via word-of-mouse. How can you tap your network to launch your next product?
Here's a video interview of the Gigi Girls from Bob Collins.
Editorial note: How cool is it that Grunstein and Gurtman, as college undergraduates, created a company. Geez, when I was at Kenyon College, I was more interested in the finer points of partying as well as debating the relative merits of punk, ska, reggae, and new wave bands. Starting a company? Yeah, right… Congratulations to the GiGi Girls for creating success.