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Social Networking Without Boundaries : hi5 CEO Ramu Yalamanchi (Part 4)

Posted on Tuesday, Jun 10th 2008

SM: How do you rank in the Spanish speaking countries?

RY: We are the number one social networking company.

SM: Do you have any idea why?

RY: Because we targeted those demographics. We focused on Spanish speaking users. There are many different ways to segment. There is behavioral segmentation, graphical segmentation, etc. What we did was looking at all of our users, observed their behaviors and noticed behavior is not always the same from market to market. Spanish markets were more similar to each other. We were also doing things to support markets as a community. Early on in the business we localized the site and provided ways for them to meet people locally.

SM: Did you do that type of focusing for the first million users?

RY: The first million were distributed but we did look for patterns. We accumulated the first million users just as a function of them using the product. MySpace at the time was not letting non-US users register. They filtered users based on IP address. We took the opposite approach as we thought international markets were interesting markets.

SM: Where you the only option for international users at the time?

RY: Friendster was very international. I believe some of the simple factors helped us as well. Simple things about any web service are important. How fast did the site load internationally for all of our users? One of the first things we did very early on from a technical aspect was leverage content delivery networks. Today most social networks do this but we did it fairly early. If consuming photos was a user’s primary activity in Mexico City then we became the best option but not necessarily the only one.

Our design and our name have helped create a great brand. In the category of social networking brands matter and they mean something to the user. The fact that we have a simple name which is easy to brand helped. We also kept our design very simple so the page would load fast. We thought about little things like colors. In certain countries certain colors have certain meanings. Black has a connotation in the US, as does purple in Thailand.

SM: After the first six months and one million users, what kind of ramp did you experience?

RY: It ramped faster. It kept accelerating. We did one million in six months and then hit 5 million by the end of the first year. In 2005 we grew from 5 million to 20 million. In 2006 we went from 20 million to 40 million.

SM: Was this all still happening organically or were you marketing at this point?

RY: It was all still organic growth. There was no marketing expense.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Social Networking Without Boundaries : hi5 CEO Ramu Yalamanchi
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