Normally, MLM (multiple level marketing) pyramid schemes appeal to desperate folks who are down on their luck and/or are willing to buy into anything that promises them a quick return. It's built off a non-sustainable business model that promises payments or services, primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, rather than supplying any real investment of sales of legitimate products and services.
Social media types are usually savvy to these types of scams and often alert others to the downside of such devious enterprises. "Caveat emptor" is Latin for "let the buyer beware." Goods or services promoted through 'distance selling,' for example online or by phone is a tactic that's normally used to create a frenzy where buyers are swayed by deals sounding too good to pass up.
Such is the alleged case with Rippln. Bordering on harassment, in the course of one day, I personally was approached by over two dozen folks via Facebook, Twitter, emails and text messages. As a member of Empire Avenue, the stock simulation social network, I was even blindsided into taking on a mission that I later found out made it "mandatory" that I register for the Rippln service.
Rippln has taken "frenzy selling" to a another level. According to several reports "hundreds of thousands" have registered with the site described as a "mobile app gamification" platform, based on a claim to generate significant cash rewards to users.
According to Dan Holden at sv411, he suspects that the hyped promise is not backed up by any kind of guarantee. "Rippln employs a sophisticated multilevel marketing scheme based on invites and access codes to tease fans into growing their following on the expectation . . . of kickbacks for bringing additional levels, or ripples of players and teams," notes Holden. "However, there’s no guarantee that fans will become players, or that such an ecosystem will get built," he adds.
Chris Voss, a recognized social media leader recognized by Forbes, CNN and the Huffington Post also has his doubts as to the viability of Rippln. In this 16:15 minute video, he covers all aspects of the MLM scheme . Titled, "Rippln Investigation: Is It A MLM Pyramid Scheme Scam?" it's worth taking the time to listen to his entire presentation, so viewers can make an informed decision before getting involved.
According to a follow-up video that details the MLM scheme further, there are two ways to profit from the site. One is by bringing in new players, and the other is by collecting residuals for commerce that takes place on the site. To commence business transactions, one has to start recruiting new players to allow him or her to ascend to the status of “global player.” Once there, GPs are then capable of reaching out anywhere on the globe to build teams and ripples. Kickbacks for gaining new players range in value from $25 to $320 per additional “global player, according to the video. Each player has a significant but defined potential universe (10 layers) of teams and players he or she can recruit under their umbrella.
For those who are still on the fence, ask yourself these questions: What other legitimate social media network has ever used this type of heavy-handed promotional push to grow their numbers? How does an enterprise claim the ability to "go viral" in advance of actually going viral? Why is an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) necessary - what real secrets will the early members be privy to, and why? Don't you think being "accepted behind the velvet rope" smacks just a little bit like being screened by a sleazy nightclub bouncer?
However, I, like Holden and Voss could be wrong, and I will stand corrected if proven as such. After all, a lot of what's presented here is based on hunch and point of view. So, for those that don't bail (after reading this), I certainly would like to hear from you, as to your successes (or lack thereof) when the ecosystem is deployed and fans become actual players. However with that date yet to be determined, I think it will be a while before any one reaps the benefit of that first ripple! In the meantime, might I suggest "caveat emptor!"
UPDATE: TechCrunch - April 22, 2013: "What Not To Do In Your Startup Promo Video" - Ryan Lawler makes a hilarious case for all the things one should not do in a start-up video; e.g. "Don't pretend you have trade secrets? Trade Secrets?"