A quick refresher: in December 2012, Facebook created a clone of Snapchat which at the time was growing quickly but still relatively small. Some thought Facebook would crush the little start-up with its version, Poke.
Fast forward to yesterday with Facebook officially pulling Poke from the app store and all but declaring loss in the ephemeral messaging war to Snapchat.
Well, not quite. As we’ve seen, the product is easily copied. Facebook took just 12 days to develop Poke. But to beat Snapchat you need more than just a similar product.
Stats compiled by Knowtifier.com
Farm Town was a hit game by a small developer called SlashKey, who spurned an acquisition offer by Zynga. So Zynga cloned the game and then used its portfolio of existing, successful games to cross-promote Farmville. The rest is history: everyone has heard of Farmville; only a few remember Farm Town.
Can you tell which one is which?
If Facebook really wanted to win, it should have taken a page from Zynga’s play book and used Facebook’s mass distribution to cross-promote Poke. Because the company didn’t do that, they were unable to slow Snapchat’s viral momentum.
There’s another reason, often bandied about among the press. And that is that Poke needed its own, distinctive brand.
The Facebook brand is about official acquaintances; these are often formal, declarative and public. The appeal of Snapchat, conversely, is in the informal, the transitory, the private. For Poke to have succeeded, it needed to have been perceived as almost un-Facebook like. I think this is true too.