Social Networks With Risky Names

By Burt Alper

June 25, 2007

Two of my favorite social networks both have somewhat risky brand names. Yelp is a great tool to share opinions on almost any consumer experience (restaurants, hair salons, car sharing services, etc.). Flickr is the hottest way to store, share, and print digital photos. The word “yelp” means a sharp high-pitched cry. “Flicker” is the uncomfortable fluttering of a monitor when it’s refresh rate is set too low, or even “someone who flicks things.”

There are positive connotations to the words too. Flickr evokes the idea of moving images, like in a reel-to-reel movie projector. Yelp conveys immediacy and an easy way to make your voice heard.

Despite the negative meanings of these two words, both companies took risks and launched wildly successful Web 2.0 brand names. Perhaps the negative connotations even proved helpful. A product name with a negative or edgy meaning can often make the name more memorable and distinctive, especially in the Web 2.0 world. When introduced in a positive context, these brand names appear fresh, hip, and outside-the-box.

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