The power of community

Cultivation of community is an integral component of successfully developing a social product. It is so integral that I would even say that a social product that doesn’t grow and nurture a community is a product with no legs.

Your community chooses you. You can guide this choice implicitly through product decisions and/or explicitly through your messaging. The combination of both product decisions and messaging is what plants the seed for a community to grow. You are not in full control of what happens next – all you can do is try to steer the ship, but you cannot control the ocean.

In many ways, launching a product is like throwing a party. Word will spread throughout a group of similar people of a similar age range or people with similar interests. On Quora, you enter a room where you can join a community of experts and both consume and demonstrate knowledge. This was very popular in the tech industry and attracted people of similar quality and interest. On Pinterest, you enter a room of creativity where you can both seek and contribute inspiration. This is very popular among middle-aged midwestern women. 80% of the community is female.

If you come to a party and it seems lame or filled with creepy dudes, you probably won’t stay too long. If your product was a party, would people want to be there?

When I was working on Photovine, I would always say that we would win because of our community. We were very intentional with the way we positioned, designed, and marketed our product. We decided that our social photo sharing product would likely be the most popular among people 18-24. This is why we threw events and marketed at colleges, and not anywhere else. This is why we recruited young, attractive brand ambassadors to use the product regularly and engage the community. This is why our marketing videos featured young “hip” people doing hip things. We threw one hell of a party and our community and engagement was unprecedented.

Overall, the lesson here is that the context and the people define the attractiveness of a product. Be aware of this as you create products and position your product to succeed with the community that adopts it. The most successful social products go beyond parties and become movements with cult followings.

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