It’s common practice for new start up websites to run in private beta and only allow new users to sign up by invitation. Popular sites such as Google Wave, Quora, Last FM, Spotify and many more used this technique to acquire a healthy user base before launching a fully fledged usable site. Most of the time they will do it to control numbers during a beta phase of testing the services they offer, though there are a few reasons Invites are used.
To Get Users Interested & Involved
Even I find myself signing up to a site just because it is an Invitation Only sign up. It makes it sound exclusive and you feel privileged to be part of the clique. This makes me feel like I want to contribute more to the community that accepted me. I feel like I’m a trailblazer for the site and could be a radical user.
To Get Users Before Launch
Nobody would join a social network for example, if it had no other users. Using an invite system and the tactic described above a site can have a functioning community by the time it decides to open to the public.
People love talking about new sites, apps et al especially if they think they are the first to discover it, just like I did with Flattr a few weeks ago. The strange thing about the Flattr invite is that is isn’t strictly a friends and family invite, you could request an invite just as easily as… signing up. But that wouldn’t make the site sound appealing, like I am writing about. I thought Google Wave was amazing once I was allowed into it’s community, but then after a while I realised it wasn’t all that useful for my needs.
Users Can Test A Beta Site
Sites in Beta development that need users can offer invite registration to users who can help test the features of the site. Using a closed community can also admit that the site may not function right and that bugs and mistakes may be found. Using Invitations can also help keep the user numbers down and stop the user base exploding virally before the site has a chance to be made into a working state first.
If you know of a good site that is in invite only mode, or you have any invites for any sites you want to share with me, please leave a comment below!