|Laura Fitton is chief executive of the Boston start-up Oneforty. (Doc Searls for The Boston Globe/File 2009)|
Why Boston needs more alpha users
Highlights from Scott Kirsner’s Innovation Economy blog.
Help wanted: Alpha users. Here’s how I define an alpha user: someone who tries out new websites, mobile apps, and digital services — and then helps to spread the word.
Think of the person who first told you about Twitter, Foursquare, Evernote, or Vlingo. Alpha users are the folks who let you know what’s worth checking out. They nudge you toward the new, via their blogs or Twitter streams, or when you bump into them in person.
And alpha users are crucial to Internet and mobile start-ups that are trying to build momentum. They serve as unpaid PR minions, or what Seth Godin calls sneezers, spreading the word through their networks. Some have thousands of followers on Twitter, or tens of thousands of blog readers. That can be incredibly powerful.
Silicon Valley is full of alpha users, people like Dave McClure and Robert Scoble. Some times, they may not explicitly be writing up their impressions of a new site or service; they may simply start using it, or add it to their blogs as a new feature.
Boston would benefit from an alpha user population explosion. That’s painfully obvious to me when I talk to Internet start-ups trying to get their first couple of thousand users.
“We’re focusing on getting influencers and evangelists to start using our service,’’ Sparkcloud’s Nick Tommarello said. He has a team member trying to develop a list of such folks locally, since Sparkcloud is focused on building critical mass in Boston first.
I think just about anyone can evolve into an alpha user; rather than just blogging or tweeting about your own business (or social life), all it requires is checking out a new site or app once in a while, and sharing your reactions or simply integrating it into your blog or website.
Sometimes, alpha users may also be investors in companies they’re highlighting, and that’s not a bad thing — so long as they disclose the connection.
Here’s my list of 10 influential alpha users in the Boston area, along with their Twitter handles:
I left out some people who may have a vast blog audience or Twitter following, but don’t regularly test new stuff, as well as others who may always tell you about some cool new Android app when you see them at a cocktail party, but don’t have a public platform.
To me, neither of those kinds of people qualify as true alpha users. But who else would you add to the list?
For the full Innovation Economy blog, updated daily, visit www.boston.com/innovation.