I wrote the post below on January 11, 2011. That’s 4.5 years ago, a lifetime in the consumer app universe. To put this into perspective, you have to remember that Instagram had just been released and Foursquare was the hottest app being written about on TechCrunch.
Gamification! Location! SoMoLo! iPhone! Internets!
Everyone except for me. It was very easy to predict why it was so, so wrong. It created a shit experience for users. And users were only using their mobile phones to interact with the “internet”. So there you go.
As Mike Jones put it, “Back then they didn’t want me, now I’m hot they all on me.” Okay, he wasn’t talking about mobile focused companies, but I still find it laughable that “mobile” is a strategy. That’s like saying being on the internet is a strategy. Or doing marketing is a strategy. Or selling a product is a strategy. It’s so basic. It’s a dial tone of business.
I thought I’d write down a few operating principles I’ve come up with over the years, before my alzheimers kicks in. Hopefully, I can continue to add to and refine this list over the years. You’ll likely not agree with all of these, but it represents a summary of my experiences, my formal education, anecdotal evidence, and a bit of hocus pocus I’ve seen work. Let’s dig right in, shall we?1. Lazy, Stupid & Egocentric
It’s sad, but true. Facebook hit the ball out of the park with all three, and they now have 500 million users. The population of the USA is only 300 million. That’s almost twice the size of every man, woman, and child on the planet. Seems like they’re doing something right.
- Profile pages, comments, and likes make you feel like a celebrity (i.e., egocentric)
- The interface and concept is extremely easy to use and explain, upload pics and connect with friends (i.e., Keep It Simple, Stupid)
- We love reality television, hate reading books, and would rather scroll through the Facebook feed 50 times per day than work, sleep, or learn (i.e., lazy)
The difference with Twitter is they didn’t get the “stupid” part right. The uninitiated user just doesn’t “get it”.2. Unexpected Gift at an Unexpected Time
Foursquare started this trend with unlocking badges. You don’t know when, how, or if you’re going to unlock another badge, but you just keep checking in with them so you don’t miss another one. It’s less than two years old and already has 5 million users, even with the huge privacy concerns your parents are likely warning you about (i.e., sharing your location).3. I Want to be Creative
Instagram executed this principle wonderfully. You upload some crappy picture you took to the iPhone app, click a visual filter, and blammo, you look like a ridiculously awesome Photoshop expert or premiere photographer. The other thing they did right was put a “download” button on any picture shared through the internet (twitter, facebook, etc). These are the ONLY two reasons the company is blowing up so quickly. They got the lazy, stupid, and egocentric part right too (i.e., I’m perceived as creative).4. I Need A Real Answer To a Real Question
Quora is your friendly, neighborhood superhero in this case. Google helps you find content on the internet, but it doesn’t nor will it ever be able to answer granular questions better than a human. I’ve been on Quora since they were in beta, and they’ll never explode like they could unless they figure out the “Lazy” principle. I never use it because finding content is hard, there’s no iPhone app, and I have to read pages and pages of answers to get one I really need. Short and sweet wins the race, folks.5. I Love a Big Discount
You didn’t think I’d leave out Groupon did you? They’re hiring 400 people a month and are approaching $1 billion in annual revenue after only 2 years. They’re the fastest growing company of all time. Let me say that again so it sinks in. In the entire history of trade and commerce, there has never been another business that’s grown more rapidly than Groupon. Why? Two reasons. As a consumer, I love a sale. As a business, I need ROI for my marketing dollars. Groupon was the middle man, and used technology to do it. Incidentally, this is the exact same business model Eric Lefkofski
and Brad Keywell
(co-founders and initial investors in Groupon) have used successfully in multiple other billion-dollar businesses.6. I Want Privacy Unless I Get A Benefit
I’m actually taking a class at the University of Chicago Booth business school with Eric and Brad. They asked a question during class to about 80 intelligent, technologically advanced, internet entrepreneurs. The question was about Blippy, the startup that lets you connect your credit card account and share all your transactions with friends. Why would anyone do this, you ask? Well, that’s exactly what Eric and Brad asked us. Only a few people would actually use it, but when asked if using Blippy would provide you with discounts on the things you buy all the time (e.g., target, wal-mart, restaurants), then every hand in the class went up saying we’d use the service.
So, while most people would never say they’d give out their financial information, well they’ve never seen the millions of people using Mint.com
or never received a BIG discount on something they buy all the time by using the service. So, I want privacy unless I get a benefit from it.7. I Want to Take Online, Offline
This is a trend I’ve been seeing more and more of, and maybe it’s just my own social network, filled with Gen Yers who’ve been using technology most of their lives and been on most of the social networks for years. The issue is most people are fed up with facebook, bored with foursquare, unfollowing over tweeters, and wanting to build stronger relationships with the closest people in their lives, offline but with some online assistance. Startups like Path are starting to tap into this counter-social trend.8. I Want a Second Opinion
Regardless of whether I’m buying clothes or electronics, deciding what new restaurant to go to, or where I should stay on my vacation, I almost always want a second opinion from someone I trust. These people are typically friends, but can also be experts in the area, which is why Consumer Reports, and entertainment and food critics have been so popular over the years.
There isn’t one startup that leads the pack in all these areas. There are siloed websites and review sites all over mobile and the internet, but not one has figured it out yet. A bunch of people smarter and more experience than me are working on this concept.Namely, how do I tap into my social network, reach only those people who are the “experts” in that specific area, and get their opinion on the best way to proceed (buy or not, stay here or there, eat this or that, etc).9. What Else???
This list is incomplete and all that I could think of off the top of my head while writing this. More to come as I ponder…Note: I’ve left off “I want to connect with others” because Facebook and Twitter pretty much have that market locked down, for the time being anyways…UPDATE #110. Steven Reiss’s 16 Basic Desires
Starting from studies involving more than 6,000 people, Professor Steven Reiss has proposed a theory that find 16 basic desires that guide nearly all human behavior. The desires are:
- Acceptance, the need for approval
- Curiosity, the need to learn
- Eating, the need for food
- Family, the need to raise children
- Honor, the need to be loyal to the traditional values of one’s clan/ethnic group
- Idealism, the need for social justice
- Independence, the need for individuality
- Order, the need for organized, stable, predictable environments
In this model, people differ in these basic desires. These basic desires represent intrinsic desires that directly motivate a person’s behavior, and not aimed at indirectly satisfying other desires. People may also be motivated by non-basic desires, but in this case this does not relate to deep motivation, or only as a means to achieve other basic desires.
- Physical activity, the need for exercise
- Power, the need for influence of will
- Romance, the need for sex
- Saving, the need to collect
- Social contact, the need for friends (peer relationships)
- Status, the need for social standing/importance
- Tranquility, the need to be safe
- Vengeance, the need to strike back/to win