This post was written by Julia Lipton, Director of Marketing and Communications.
We’ve found that lots of super popular apps have three things in common:
- Leverage social platforms
- Avoid the first start problem
- Design a great user experience
Let’s use Spotify, which gained a large share of the US streaming-music market shortly after its launch, as a case study.
Full disclosure: I’m a Spotify addict (but I’m not being paid by them, despite what my co-workers might say to the contrary).
Leveraging social platforms
Developers should take full advantage of what social platforms have to offer. Spotify did – they took advantage of the Facebook platform for the US version of their app. Their logic was simple: since all your social connections are on Facebook, they could build the ultimate social music experience there.
Before Spotify, a slew of other apps vied for a piece of the social music streaming space without leveraging a social platform as a means of growth. For example, Last.fm created a social experience within their destination site because Facebook wasn’t around when they launched in 2002.
Last.fm’s social registration process had too much friction. First you had to create an account. Then you had to download a desktop app that tracked what you were listening to. Then you had to convince all your music-sharing buddies to do the same. Finally, you had add your friends’ usernames to your Last.fm friends list.
By leveraging Facebook, Spotify cut out almost all these steps and tapped into Facebook’s massive audience to build a community of their own. I didn’t have to convince my friends to join, because my friends were already there.
Today, trying to create a social music-sharing app without tying into a social platform seems crazy. No wonder Last.fm added Facebook Connect in June and built an app on top of Spotify’s platform in late November.
Avoiding the first start problem
It doesn’t matter how great your social product is if people don’t use it. But if your app depends on having a large network of users to be compelling, how do you get initial traction? The answer is that you can attract users to your product by building value for individual users.
Even if none of your friends use Spotify, it still offers a compelling value proposition: an unlimited source of free streaming music. You can listen to full albums, create your own playlists, subscribe to other people’s playlists and listen to online radio stations. If you build an app with this kind of value proposition for your first users, you can bootstrap to the critical mass of users you need to achieve a network effect.
Even if your app isn’t social, it’s important to think about how it’s going to gain initial traction. Don’t launch your app until you have a solid go-to-market strategy.
Designing a great user experience
We’ve all heard that “the customer is always right.” In the app world, the user is always right. If users aren’t returning to your product, it doesn’t mean they don’t “get it.” It means your product isn’t sticky enough.
Apps need to be simple, intuitive, easy to use and enjoyable. Spotify isn’t the first app to have playlists, radio channels, social sharing, artist biographies and a huge music library. But it’s the first app that made these things into a great user experience by being easy to use and seamlessly social.
Spotify is only one of many app success stories. If you can manage to leverage social platforms, avoid the first start problem, and design a great user experience, you can propel their level of massive growth for your own app.