Andre W. Chen on Scenttrail pic

Riffing Andrew Chen’s How To Design Successful Social Products

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Andrew Chen = Brilliant Social Marketer

Wow, you could learn what there is worth knowing about content and social media marketing by reading Andrew Chen’s (@andrewchen)amazing posts (TY Dave Neal at TSF for sharing this post). This post about designing social products is so amazing I will discuss it paragraph by paragraph and over several nights:


I’ve come to believe there’s 3 main feedback loops that drive the success of these social product designs – here’s the trifecta:

  • A feedback loop that rewards content posters when they push new content into the network (Marty – let’s call this feedback loop group 1% Contributors).
  • A feedback loop that rewards passive content consumers with relevant and valuable content (Marty – let’s call this group 9% Supporters).
  • A feedback loop that rewards (and culls) connections within the network (lets call this group 90% Readers).

YES! Feedback is the magic sauce of social media.

Feedback is why I don’t use Buffer anymore. Feedback is why I’m PRESENT, available and happy to be sharing, consuming and trading ideas on social media daily. Feedback HAPPENS.

Feedback happens in more ways than you realize or design. How your site looks is a feedback loop. Your social presence is a feedback loop. How you use, value and mention User Generated Content (UGC) is a critical feedback loop.

DON’T think of Andrew’s feedback loop list as hierarchical. These feedback loops are balanced with and against each other as he explains:

It’s great when all three feedback loops act in harmony. As users act within each feedback loop, everyone’s happy, and the players in the ecosystem produce and consume valuable content for the network. When this happens on a daily or hourly basis, it creates habitual usage within your product- driving engagement and retention.

HARMONY is the key.

In Chen’s 1:9:90 Rule (I was taught the 1:10:89 rule) its easy to focus on the 1% of visitors willing to share, contribute and advocate. The magic 1% get the “gamified” feedback loop with social shares and shinny, bouncy things.

Next comes the 9%.

This group is willing to share, engage with and contribute to content especially content from the 1%. The 9%ers may vote in your polls, respond to email offers and be invaluable sherpas even if their contributions aren’t as dramatic as the 1%ers. This group may not earn points or badges. Their important reward is better, more relevant and timely content. They reward you with page views, longer time on site, lower bounce rates and social shares.

The next group, the 90% of “passive consumers” are easy to overlook. Chen points out how WRONG such an “overlook” would be. Keeping networks CLEAN is a huge job requiring MAN and MATH. I admit it. Before reading Andrew’s post the 90% of “passive consumers” felt less important than the other two groups – WRONG!.

Like so many web metrics content marketing is a seesaw of connected variables. Content marketing, Chen points out, is a three way seesaw between 1% UGC contributors, 9% active consumers and supporters and your “silent majority” 90% consumers who show up in Google analytics as ever so slowly rising heuristics such as time on site, pages viewed and lower bounce rates.

The 90% create drip, drip, drip trends. You don’t want drips to go the wrong way since they don’t TURN quickly. Each “partner” in your content marketing holds equal sway. Your ability to satisfy any single group is dependent on your ability to engage the other two.

How can you tease out actionable data from Chen’s content consumption and contribution triptych?

Furthermore, by looking at each loop in isolation, it becomes more obvious where one could innovate- by adding a twist in content creation, consumption, or how people are networked. I’d argue that anonymity, constrained media types, algorithmic news, and other innovations all fit into these feedback loops in different ways.

“Looking at each loop in isolation” is why some of my favorite tactics are “public feedback loops” such as the Kickstarter thermometer, FatWallet’s member count (see below), Twitter following and Facebook friends.

FatWallet Community Counter Example
I love FatWallet community! The people are so positively funny and genuine. They also provide good advice in choosing a product.

FatWallet Members:3,439,052

Cash Back Paid:$47,750,415.79

Think about my friend Tim Storm’s brilliant feedback loop. Including his member count identifies the tribe. Do you see the potential problem? Sharing such a big number, and I met Tim when it was much smaller when we Worked With Seth Godin, can ruin Tim’s “exclusive” positioning. If everyone can and has joined how is FatWallet’s “club” special?

By sharing total savings the big “club member” number looks SMART and exclusive. 3.4M people have been smart enough to use FatWallet to save almost $50M bucks. You In? That is the brilliant marketing balance Tim’s share creates. Interesting to note when Tim’s numbers were smaller they were easier to find (top right). As FatWallet passes the chasm between early adopters and the vast breadbasket of Crossing the Chasm’s bell curve the need to URGENTLY have a “join the tribe because others have” conversation lessens.

My word count is at 800 and I’m so tired I’m not sure I can do the rest of Andrew’s post justice, so more tomorrow on creating social products. Andrew’s article is a must read, must think about, must incorporate so promise to finish this post when I’ve got more gas. Thanks to Dave Neal at Triangle Startup Factory for sharing Andrew’s amazing post.

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