It’s now been more than nine months since Amazon launched its social media platform Spark … and so far, it’s hardly sizzled.
In fact, it’s made barely a ripple in the market.
There are plenty of people who contend that the last thing the world needs is yet another social network. But others would like to see new alternatives to the recently beleaguered Facebook platform.
As for its trajectory, it looks as if Spark is following the former rather than the latter path. The question is, “Why?”
Very likely, the answer lies in Spark’s questionable underlying raison d’etre. Essentially, Spark is a social feed of photos and other images. That makes it similar to Instagram … sort of.
One difference between the two platforms is that Spark is open to exclusively to Amazon Prime members. That limits the potential number of Spark users pretty severely, right from the get-go. [It’s true that non-members can view Spark feeds — but they can’t post their own content. And what’s a social platform if you cannot interact with it? It isn’t one.]
Another difference with Instagram may be even more of a fundamental problem. The rationale for Spark is to focus on products that Amazon sells. Spark is directly “shoppable,” which differentiates it from Instagram and other social networks. It also makes it less like a true social network and more like a garden-variety e-commerce site.
In other words, rather than being an interesting and engaging social platform, Spark is boring. Informative – but boring.
It isn’t that Amazon/Spark allows brands themselves to post content there; posting privileges are granted only to people it dubs “enthusiasts” or “onsite associates.” Brands must seek out “regular people” [sic] who are members of Amazon Prime to post content on their behalf about their products.
And I’m sure that’s happening – along with varying levels and forms of compensation flowing to these supposed “enthusiasts” in return for the product plugs. But can anyone imagine less compelling content than what results from this kind of commercialized “AstroTurfing”? No wonder people are ignoring this social media platform.
Andrew Sandoval, a group director for media planning agency The Media Kitchen, summarizes Spark’s predicament by noting that lifestyle-focused people tend congregate on Instagram — a place that shows people living their lives through products. By contrast, “Amazon Spark is mostly just talking about your products, which is the hard-sell. Ultimately, the e-commerce social experience is a little too far from the social experience,” Sandoval opines.
Have you interfaced with Spark since its July 2017 launch? If so, do you see redeeming qualities about the platform that the rest of us might be missing? Please share your comments with other readers.