John S. Kim is CEO of Sendbird, makers of a customizable chat and messaging API service for mobile and web applications.
Social+ companies are upping the stakes for everyone by giving consumers multiple benefits at once: products that serve a purpose but also meet our need for belonging to a community.
But what exactly is a social+ company? One for which social engagement is an inextricable component of the product. That is to say: If you removed the social element, the product would cease to make sense. You can find plenty of examples in gaming (Fortnite), fitness (Strava, Peloton), commerce (Pinduoduo), audio (Clubhouse) and more. As noted in Andreessen Horowitz’s recent series Social Strikes Back, “The best version of every consumer product is the one that’s intrinsically social.”
Social+ products are seeing mass adoption because they marry community with functionality.
The benefits of a social+ company
Social+ products are seeing mass adoption because they marry community with functionality. Users form meaningful connections — and engage in value-adding conversations — within the context of the goal they’re trying to achieve. Whether it’s shopping for a deal or growing their assets, social+ products help users gain new knowledge, find motivation, garner status, form friendships and generally feel like they’re part of something.
Companies that base their business model on social+ products enjoy a variety of benefits:
When the social aspect of a product is integral to its function, users will often drive growth on their own steam, inviting their friends and family to join the community.
Members of highly engaged communities are inspired and fired up by their interactions with other members, and when they’re fired up about something, they talk about it. Participating in these communities makes users feel like they’re part of something, which can have a powerful effect on your growth.
Relationships matter. The relationship your users have with your brand is ultimately what will determine whether they stick with you or leave you for a competitor offering the same service — particularly at a more attractive price. If you provide your customers with access to a community they relate to and resources that make their lives easier, they’re more likely to be loyal.
The beauty of social+ is that embedding social interaction within your product or app allows you to own that conversation and build a community around your brand. In the absence of built-in communities, these users are forced to turn to places like Reddit or WhatsApp to discuss, among other things, the relative advantages of competitors’ apps.
Harnessing the creativity of your users
User-generated content (UGC) is the lifeblood of any social+ product, driving user engagement and fostering connections among users. UGC means the company can harness the creativity and popularity of its users and doesn’t have to expend as many resources creating content users find valuable. Plus there’s the added bonus that authentic UGC — whether it’s a screenshot or a meme — lends the product far greater credibility than any marketing initiatives you could launch.