I'll be presenting a talk at the Facebook Developer Garage SF Wednesday evening. You can learn more about the event here. It's hosted by Kontagent and sponsored by Intel. Most of the content for my presentation is drawn from my original article on engagement loops, with new diagrams courtsey of my friends at Kontagent and a few new examples. Without further ado, here are the slides (feedback welcome!):
Eric Ries Engagement Loops The Levers And Metrics Of Engagement
When I work with startups on improving engagement, I really try to emphasize the importance of their most powerful lever: positioning. In most applications, most of the time, customers return to use the application not in response to a notification or event, but under their own volition. These decisions are critical to the success of any high-engagement product, and they take place entirely inside the minds of customers. Companies have an opportunity to influence these decisions, but only if they act well in advance of the result they are trying to achieve. Unfortunately, it's easy to lose track of positioning effects when optimizing for a single metric.
This is a common problem that results from viral-loop optimization. By copying the exact same registration flow as every other successful viral app, many viral apps completely lose their positioning. Customers can't even remember what apps they've signed up for, and become entirely dependent on notifications to bring them back. This starts a downward spiral: as more and more apps become indistinguishable, they send out more and more notifications, which leads to increasing fatigue on the part of customers. As notification channels get stuffed full of these messages, customers tune them out (or platforms have to put in place dramatic limits on access).
The solution for app developers caught in this vicious cycle is to develop competency in positioning. Luckily, a great example of the power of positioning fell into my lap recently. Some friends of mine at EA tried to break my World of Warcraft addiction by walking a copy of Warhammer Online over to my house. I dutifully installed it and played with them for a little while. But pretty soon the lure of WoW dragged me back, even though some of my friends stayed behind on Warhammer.
A few days ago, I received a great email from Warhammer Online. It's an example of an excellent synthetic notification. Take a look at this screenshot:
This synthetic notification gets everything right: it has a compelling offer and a clear call to action, it addresses me by my character's name, it's from a well-known NPC inside the game, it even includes the names of several friends who are still playing, and calls me to act on behalf of my guild (yes, it's called GUID). It then proceeds to list a whole host of cool new features the Warhammer team has added since I last logged in. Impressive.
Unfortunately, it didn't work, at least not for me. That's because I have much too strong an attachment to World of Warcraft. It's the ultimate high-engagement product. And yet, WoW never sends me emails. It doesn't notify me of anything, not even when my friends are logged in and about to start a raid. If I want to know what's going on, I have to log in and find out. It's up to me to decide when I want to do that. And how do I make that decision? Somewhere buried in my brain is a list, called something like "Things to do when you want to zone out and still have a feeling of accomplishment and power." At the top of that list is WoW. I'd only ever consider going to #2 on the list if #1 failed me completely. That's how most of us are - we only ever consider the #1 provider of any given service if it is available. Getting customers to see your service as #1 for a given category is what positioning is all about. (And manufacturing a new cateogry that you can be number one in is what resegmentation is all about)
In WoW's case, its positioning is established by the gameplay itself. WoW is a fun and addictive experience, and once it's sucked you in it's pretty hard to stop. But that is not the only source of positioning: brand advertisers have been using packaging and TV ads to do this for years. And most web applications do their positioning right in the first few screens of the app. This is why the registration is so important. At IMVU, we would routinely find retention effects that would stem from registration changes and have impact days or weeks later. One example I like to use is this: we added a YouTube video about IMVU to some landing pages. It was not prominently featured, but it did auto-play. We split-test that change, and watched the effects on engagement. Customers who saw the video were materially more likely to be active customers of IMVU ten days later.
The impact on behavior was pronounced, even though the immediate effect of the change was subtle. If I had to guess, I would say that if we had interviewed customers in the experimental group, they would not have been able to consciously recall the video they had seen during registration. But, unconsciously, it had affected the positioning of IMVU in their minds. Mission accomplished.
Anyway, for those of you planning on attending the Garage event, please come say hi. And for everyone else, please consider leaving your feedback - positive or negative - about the form or content of the presentation as a comment to this post. Your help is always greatly appreciated.