Seven principles of a successful social product that you need to know

Original author: Gina Bianchini
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Social products are a very interesting bird. Even for the most experienced product manager, social products remain elusive. And although there are many obvious truths about them, there are many ways to think them through incorrectly. Especially if you are deep in the current moment, make decisions at the pixel level, try to remember what exactly is important, and the overall picture is blurred.

There is the only magic that I found in the design of attractive social products that break through noise perfectly and take over people's time and money. This is a total adherence to the following key principles of design, product architecture.

1. Design the product so that it makes sense in a world of endless supply(infinite supply). In 2010, users are simply overwhelmed by the number of people, applications, requests, reminders, relationships and time requirements. You love your product. Its benefits are completely obvious to you. However, if you and each member of your team cannot clearly convey what emotional benefit someone will get from 15 minutes of using your service, you still have to work. Because people can spend the same time on Facebook, LinkedIN, or Twitter.

These are not pink little things on the site. Neither I, nor potential clients of your service are interested in your functions, game mechanics, or how cool it will be when millions of people are at your service. I am very selfish about my own time, and you only have a few seconds to hook me with something new. And I'm not alone in this.

To successfully take advantage of the fleeting attention, you need to build everything so that the whole product yells about its only purpose of existence. Make it emotional. If your team cannot connect every decision you make with the emotion you want to evoke in people, the justification for your existence is not so obvious. It is not so obvious that it serves its task, the task of leading your team and all decisions on the product that you make.

2. Be the best in the world in something.To emphasize the uniqueness of your social undertaking, you need to be one of the best in the world in one thing. Lululemon has built a business with an annual turnover of $ 450 million, focusing on black yoga pants. Twitter is a 140 character message. Facebook is a connection with people you already know. All that these companies do is related to the peculiarity in which they want to be the best in the world.

It is not always obvious what you are best at. Cultivating the wrong contraption can be a problem. But it’s even worse to build a social product without fundamental principles. When you focus on one thing that will be the coolest thing in your product, all you need to do is launch this one thing.

Ask yourself and each member of your team every week. What are you best at. Or it’s even better if you define it, agree with it, print it, and hang it on the wall. This should be a filter for making all product decisions.

3. Look for uniqueness.Today's social platforms and applications work absolutely fantastic, satisfying a person’s need to belong to something more. But equally important - in the world of endless supply - what makes us different, special. People want a deficit. People want exclusivity. This does not mean that your product should be niche. Frontierville (a game for Facebook) was built for mass use, so that I can play with ALL my friends. But he still finds ways to bring uniqueness to social experience by working with tools like neighbors, plot modifications, and collections.

When people talk about exclusivity and scarcity, the theme is “game mechanics”. I love game mechanics just like you. But if you implement the same mechanism as everyone else, you have a problem. We return to the endless sentence clause. If the market has an endless supply of points, medals, levels, rewards (and they are in every social product), introducing them into your system without careful consideration will cause only a loss of confession on uniqueness. A better approach is to find out what makes your users feel unique on your service and not use specific gaming approaches. Then, one at a time, like cherries, you can select functions that will enhance the emotional sense of the meaning of the existence of your product. For uniqueness to work, you need to lead, not follow.

4. Focus on the most important interaction until it works with a bang. The moment critical functions are defined, usually one interaction option is clearly more important and often used. And if you did it perfectly, then the user will return. And if not, you have not yet realized your potential. Take this option and manically improve it. For Twitter, this is a stream of messages. For Polyvore, this is a clothing selection page. For Facebook, it's a news feed. For Youtube, this is the video viewing page itself. Magic happens precisely in the interaction, so carefully groom and cherish the main process of interaction, so that it becomes a star.

5. Carefully choose the words.The more you think your product is social, the more your choice of words should be different and distinctive from everything else. The sooner the better. In fact, all the major brands of the last 30 years started passionately and defiantly. Virgin? Sex, drags and rock and roll. Apple? Advertising of the year 1984. Nike Subculture of baleen runners. Facebook? Only a few remember the original Scarface logo.

There are things that are worth copying from other services, and there are those that will be unique in your product. Page layouts? Do your best, but pay attention to what is already working. Colors? It's hard to be original in this, although it looks like the blue has worn out. Icons? How the card will fall. Terminology? Own this. Your own choice of words is the main place to express your point of view. It shows not only what emotional impact a brand should have on users, but also what kind of relationships people should have after using your service.

6. Have a party, not a museum.Great social products are clean, simple and fast. Successful products do not have a very cool design, so people, photos, videos, texts and comments attract all the attention. The more you add design, from colors to custom controls, non-web fonts and graphics, the less your product resembles an evening party and the more it looks like a museum. Or a magazine. Neither one serves the purpose. You want your product to feel like a living, breathing party, and not expensive furniture that does not imply sitting on it.

7. Develop relationships between people, not functions.Today, each of us has many social roles and types of relationships in the real and virtual worlds. If you want to start creating a new social product, it’s not enough to offer features like photos, videos or events. You should pay attention to how the interactions of people within your product will be important to users, and how they will differ from the types of interactions that are already on Facebook, LinkedIN or Twitter.
Most people will say that Facebook Connect will provide “sociality,” the connection between people in any project. I would argue with that. If you provide a unique type of relationship, then people will come to you, not Facebook.

For instance. I found that in most social apps I join, there are the same 10 of my Facebook friends. Usually these are my most prolific friends. In most cases, these services simply expand the communication channels that I already follow on Facebook, such as photos, events, groups, videos. And I have no particular reason to return to these new separate applications again.

To create a new social product, you must think about how this product will expand, deepen and change the relationships that now exist between people. It is not so easy. The best example of a service that does this is Quora. At first, the service was launched as one of the Facebook Social Graph implementations, but it quickly separated. Since I could introduce you to people who may be of interest to you as a result of meaningful comments, experience and expertise in topics that are important to you.

It takes a lot of effort for people to support newcomers to social services. And it’s very worth it to spend time and energy on what constitutes a community of users of the service, or on building up the type of interaction that you want to offer people.

When I think about what will be created, openly, invented and re-invented in the world of social services - I am incredibly inspired. Even about the next six months, and even more so when I imagine five years. These principles shed light on the next steps ahead, but with each new success of new products, more and more interesting and unexpected ones will appear. As Alan Kay said, “the best way to predict the future is to reinvent it.” I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Gina Bianchini is the creator of the Ning social network, a leading platform for organizers, activists and authority people who create their social experience with 80 million users every month.

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