by Rameet Chawla
Today, we build products in hopes that we will reach one billion users and that they will remain engaged and inspired to keep coming back for more. Winning your customer’s engagement while staying true to your company’s vision is no easy task. It means making difficult decisions around new product launches and constantly adhering to the values that got you there in the first place.
According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the social network’s vision is not to build a platform for photo tagging and pokes but to “create a set of products that help you share any kind of content you want with any audience you want.” Considering this, it’s easy to see how Facebook’s newest product, Paper, fits into the company’s long-term strategy. While Paper stands alone as a separate mobile app, it offers an experience that aims to delight existing Facebook users while simultaneously attracting new ones.
Facebook is a platform already hosting 1.25 billion monthly active users who share and consume content, so why build another app for content? Facebook saw that users weren’t focused solely on “friending” others and posting pictures; they were posting interesting stories and content at an increasing rate. Recognizing this, Facebook created another experience based on this interest.
What can startups learn from Facebook’s standalone app strategy?
The action Facebook took here is a valuable lesson for all entrepreneurs. As a startup founder, you have to understand and try to anticipate the needs of your users. That doesn’t mean you have to bog down your product with extra features. Instead, by creating standalone “micro-experiences,” you not only keep existing users engaged, but you also open up increased opportunities for press and marketing, attracting new users.
If you’re considering branching out to create smaller standalone experiences as a startup, here’s how you can get started:
1. Identify the macro trends.
Facebook recognized the need to strengthen its content curation options and acted on this — a proactive, rather than reactive, move. In order to think like this, you must make a significant effort to observe your users and your industry to understand how they’ll want to interact with your product next year.
Publications like TechCrunch and The Next Web cover micro trends. For more in-depth information on macro trends, read Fast Company, Quartz, or Slate. The blogs of prominent VCs, entrepreneurs, and tech industry advocates — like Chris Dixon, Fred Wilson, and Hunter Walk — are also great resources.
2. Create a product that speaks directly to your target audience.
If you have an idea for a product that meets a real need, get it out there. The process to perfection has multiple steps. First, you should release a minimum viable product (MVP) to a small audience, à la “The Lean Startup.” Then, collect as much data as humanly and computationally possible to learn how people use (or don’t use) that product. Keep creating new versions until you have the very best product that provides real utility to the millions of users you’re aiming to help.
3. Anticipate your startup’s future needs.
Your first year as a business is considered your “build” year. The second is your “growth” year. The third is when you will succeed or fail, but you won’t know one way or the other until your product is out there.
No one can predict what will happen in the tech industry 10 years from now — not even Facebook. But as an entrepreneur, you should hypothesize what the future will bring and what your users will want in order to forge a path where these two areas intersect. This mindset will help spark your next big idea.
Mr. Rameet Chawla is the founder of Fueled, an app design and development company based in New York and London, and the founder of the Fueled Collective, a co-working space comprised of over 35 startups in downtown Manhattan.
Combining a decade of experience architecting Web and mobile applications, Chawla has created apps for a wide range of industry clients, from high-end fashion brands to successful tech startups. Chawla is passionate about building and being involved in disruptive technology ventures and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Paper | Courtesy of Author