Nice Marketing Blackbox Republic – But Maybe I Was Right to be Skeptical

Nearly a year ago the blogosphere went wild about Blackbox Republic, a social media site that “focused on reinventing the online relationship market” or whatever that means. It’s a social network for “sex positive” individuals or people who are “open enough about sexuality that it’s not an issue” – yeah whatever…

It’s the sort of site that springs up, oh every day or two on Ning but that gets no attention – what surprised me about Black Box was the fact that the blogosphere was falling over itself in priapritic vehemence about how great this site was. Bizarrely bloggers who would normally concentrate on enterprise software were falling over themselves to talk about this – Dennis Howlett, Jeff Nolan, Marshall Kirkpatrick and Oliver Marks among others were effusive in their praise for the site. As I suggested at the time, this fact could have just a teeny tiny bit to do with the fact that Blackbox Republic was founded by Sam Lawrence, ex-marketing honcho at Jive software.

A friend sent me a message a few days ago asking me where Blackbox Republic was at – after all the hype was it, in fact, taking on the world? I’m always prepared to admit that I’m wrong – if I’d taken a wrong track with my criticism of Blackbox Republic I’d admit it. First stop the BBR blog – and that didn’t tell me much, the last time Sam posted was way back in November. So over to co-founder April Donato’s blog – oops – it seems that’s parked with GoDaddy. So fair enough, the BBR founders are modern people – maybe they’ve shifted to something more real-time than blogging – off to their Twitter streams – Sam’s here, and co-founder April’s here. Nothing of any real note there…

But maybe they’ve been so incredibly busy with the site that they’ve not had a chance to blog or Tweet so over to check the analytics between Blackbox Republic and a couple of their competitors, match and eharmony:

compare

Yup – that bottom line is BBR – but what do the raw numbers look like?

bbr

So that’s not so good – all those superstar bloggers and the initial spike totaled 10k viewers? Just goes to show there’s not much sexy about enterprise IT (or at least those who read enterprise blogs are unlikely to take their sex cues from the bloggers who write them).

I thought I’d get more in-depth so asked my friends at ScoutLabs (more on them soon) social media monitoring company to give me some more analysis. Here’s a three month representation of sentiment relating to Blackbox Republic:

3monthresults

Yes – that indicates that over the past three months there have been 15 mentions of BBR across the blogosphere. I could have extracted a bunch more data from ScoutLabs monitoring functionality and done some comparison with BBR’s competitors but by any measure it would seem BBR is performing dismally. Of course the ScoutLabs application cannot go behind password protected accounts, so we can’t actually see what’s happening inside BBR, just that no one is talking about them publicly – and as we all know, public heat generally converts into the reality within a community.

Now I’m not being critical of Sam or April – they took a punt, tried to execute on their vision but, ultimately, failed. That’s the world of technology, for every success there’s dozens of failures behind it. But it does make me wonder, yet again, about a business that has a mention in a blog as any part of its go-to-market strategy – I’ll say it again folks – there’s no replacement for execution and showing real value to real users…

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