Ever since GMails’ invite only beta release, you see a ton more companies trying out an invite-only alpha/beta release.
Obviously, it does two immediate things …
1) Generates buzz surrounding your product/website … “It’s cooler simply because it is invite only”
Anyone remember this model from the various night-clubs, elite new year’s parties and private gambling rooms in casinos and how it helped hype them beyond mere marketing dollars ever could? Exactly!
There was a point in my life (read, pimply high schooler) when I would never get these invites and, in natural teenager fashion, would revolt loudly by calling them “not good enough for me anyways”.
However, I’ve seen a lot and been invited a lot more since then … and I’ve got this to say … Invite-only systems for software and websites are way cooler than invite-only systems for parties and live events.
Imagine, not being invited to a live event … once it’s gone, it’s gone. However, not being invited to an alpha or beta release of a website is just a matter of being given access a little later. For the website owners, it has all the advantages of the invite-only system of the real world without any of the issues of how to keep the most number people happy for the longest possible time.
2) Continues the tradition of giving Beta access to people so everyone working with your product/service understands that the kinks are being fixed in real time and that the final product will have their say/tips incorporated (well, most intelligent tips are incorporated). And expands this tradition by mixing marketing with customer feedback mechanisms.
Though, I wonder how these companies filter out the people whom initial invites should be sent to.
One obvious method is list out
a) people you know
b) your peers
c) people who are popular and have a say in the Industry and related Media
d) people who are active in related forums
e) all your FOAFs (Friend-of-a-Friend)
f) random people who have ever commented on your blog/signed on your guestbook/given you their biz. card (?)