Do you have an awesome idea for a new mobile concept and are planning to turn it into reality? If your answer is yes, then congratulations, you’re about to embark on a very exciting, albeit challenging, new journey! But before you get started and figure out the nuts and bolts of your concept, take a minute and consider adding an extra dimension to the product: a social dimension. But why?
We know what you’re thinking: ‘there’s already an app for that.’ Why even bother investing time, money and effort into social features, since they’re never going to be able to compete with social giants like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok? Is there even room on the market for yet another social product? The answer is yes, there is room, because whether we like it or not, most of the socialising done online is a big part of our lives, and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon.
But even if you’re not thinking of building a social-focused mobile app, you should still consider a social component for your new mobile product, for several reasons.
Socialising happens (mostly) online
When we were kids, there was no such thing as social media. In fact, some of us even recall those faraway times when we didn’t have smartphones or even computers. So, naturally, we had to go outside to socialise, hang out with friends, and connect with others. And we couldn’t get enough; our moms had to come drag us inside at sunset after hours and hours of playing.
Now think about how children interact and connect nowadays. They’re growing up surrounded by technology and they have access to computers, tablets, and smartphones at a very young age. The app stores are filled with educational apps, social media apps, and games dedicated to children and teens, so it’s much easier for them to socialise and interact with friends without even leaving the house.
It’s the same for adults nowadays. From food deliveries, grocery shopping and bill payments, to dating and socialising, we can do it all online. There are countless dating apps and social apps out there to help us save time and effort and, for the most part, improve our lives in one way or another.
And, whether we like it or not, the pandemic has added another layer of change to the way we interact with each other. When physical social distancing had been a matter of safety – and it still is, for some of us – socialising online is what kept us connected to friends and family, and allowed us to build communities around our hobbies, causes we cared about, and helped us get our work done at our jobs despite working from home.
People crave connection
Another important aspect to consider when building a new mobile app is the fact that people crave connection, whether they want to admit it or not. While it’s true that spending too much time on devices and social media can have some negative consequences, there’s no denying the benefits. The advantages of technology and social media platforms have become painfully obvious during the pandemic, as people were going through lockdowns, unable to see their loved ones for weeks or months on end. During these times of crisis, technology and devices help us stay connected, even in isolation, and usage of social apps tends to surge to make up for the lack of in-person interaction.
Community is a big incentive
Another important factor to consider is that people crave validation from their peers. While this might not be universally true, it’s true for most of us. We get a boost of self-confidence when people like or love our Facebook or Instagram posts, or when we get supportive comments from our peers on LinkedIn. If, for instance, you’re building a habit-tracking app or a fitness app, the social component for this new product will be critical. It’s hard enough as it is to adopt new habits and stick to a new fitness routine, so validation from other users plays a big part.
Take Garmin’s Connect app, for instance; there are all kinds of badges that users can earn for taking a certain amount of steps in a week or a month, and seeing your name at the top of the weekly or monthly list can be a big motivator to keep exercising. You can even create custom challenges for you and your friends to participate in, which can turn fitness from a chore or a task into a fun and competitive activity to engage in with your friends.
Things to consider when building a social-focused product
If you’re considering building a new social app, or integrating a social component into your new mobile product, It’s important to plan very carefully and thoroughly ahead. You don’t want the social aspect of an app to be an afterthought – it needs to be at the core of the product itself. Here are a things to take into account when building a strategy for a new mobile product:
What does your social graph look like?
A social graph basically shows you how users join your platform and how they interact with each other. Take Facebook’s case, for instance; the platform allows you to connect with your friends, friends of your friends, and so on, basically creating a network that can keep growing and growing on many layers. You need to think about how you want users to join your platform, and integrate this process organically, without being too pushy. Nobody likes to have random pop-ups asking you to ‘invite a friend’ in the middle of another task or process. Instead, think of something like Revolut: you earn credit or money by inviting a friend to the app; this benefits everyone – the app, the user, and the friend.
How will you encourage engagement?
A social product is all about interaction and engagement, but not engagement with the app itself, but true peer-to-peer engagement. Take Peloton, for instance: users can interact and engage directly with instructors, which can make them feel like they’re in a real gym class interacting live with their fitness trainer. You want users of your app to be able to interact with each other just as they would in real life, and you don’t want it to be forced, which can be a challenge.
Successful engagement can look differently for different apps. In Peloton’s example, successful engagement is a small social graph, but a high frequency of interaction; it’s more meaningful to have long-term, constant interactions with a couple of instructors and a group of gym buddies, because this translates into the user sticking to their fitness routine. Instagram or TikTok on the other hand, are more successful if users have a larger social graph (they follow more people or are followed by more people) and an average frequency of interaction (a user won’t be able to like, comment or message everyone they follow, but as long as some engagement is happening, that’s alright).
The apps that got it right
There are various products in app stores nowadays that try to integrate a social component into their product, whether that product is focused around finance, fitness, mindfulness, retail, or gaming. Everyone seems to acknowledge the importance of social, but not everyone manages to integrate it into their product the right way.
So many apps try so hard to layer a social component on top of existing features, which makes it feel like an afterthought – and mobile users tend to catch on to that immediately. Anything that feels forced or has no real substance behind it will serve to push users away, instead of attracting them. However, some products have managed to place social at the forefront, and they’ve managed to do so seamlessly. Let’s have a look at a few examples of how it can be done.
If you haven’t given Wakie a try yet, then stop reading and install it immediately. Install it right away if, like us, you’ve gotten tired of the same annoying alarm ringtone on iPhone or Android.
It’s a really original idea: a total stranger from across the globe can call you in the morning to wake you up. Seriously. When you first create your profile on Wakie, you’ll be able to set an alarm at a designated time, and a real live person who has signed up to be a ‘waker’ will give you a call. But that’s not all that Wakie does. The app initially focused on the alarm clock feature, but overtime, it shifted focus towards socialising and user interaction.
The app allows you to connect with random people from across the globe, and connect in a genuine way. You can choose from a list of predefined topics, and then get instantly matched with people from around the world. When you are matched, you get to hop on a phone call with the other person on your chosen topic, and share stories with each other. After that, you get an open chat with the person, but unfortunately, you won’t be able to call each other again, just chat.
There is also a Community feature, which is like a forum where users post random thoughts and stories, and where you can get involved in the topics you like, interact with others, and share opinions on different matters.
Wakie encourages interaction with complete strangers, without prejudice or preconceived notions. It’s not a platform based on likes and views and images, so the focus is on genuine conversations and meaningful discussions on topics that users are passionate about. There is no limit to how many users you can chat with or topics you can engage in; you can join different discussions and chat with people on various topics that you’re interested in. Then, if you get matched with someone, you get to explore deeper conversations and maybe create long-lasting friendships. The Wakie social graph is basically focused around few and frequent interactions, but also allows users to narrow down the number of connections they have and focus more on one-on-one chats.
So, what makes people keep coming back to Wakie? Think about it this way: have you ever read an article or saw a random picture and had a thought or idea about it that you wanted to share with someone else? We get that a lot, random thoughts or ideas or anxieties that you can’t maybe share with your friends or family because you fear judgement. That’s where Wakie comes in; you can get on the app, wherever you are, and find someone interested in a particular topic to share your thoughts with.
Sometimes, we feel like sharing things and thoughts with someone who will understand, but don’t have anyone like that in our lives, or we don’t feel comfortable talking about it with our friends. In such cases, talking to a stranger takes the pressure off, and allows us to open up without any fear. That’s why Wakies keep coming back to the app.
Wakie is a free app, allowing users from across the world to interact and talk about any topics that they might share an interest in. But, there’s also Wakie Plus, a premium package that allows users to bring back the latest skipped topic, have unlimited swipes in the topic carousel, and unlimited call requests. Wakie Plus subscriptions start at $9.99 per month, but prices can vary depending on the country, and are subject to change without notice.
If you’re not all that keen on sharing your random thoughts or innermost feelings with strangers on Wakie, but are instead a huge sports fan with a competitive spirit, then Overtime is the right app for you. It’s basically a social platform dedicated to young sports fans, that allows you to add friends, compete in different challenges with friends and other users, test your sports knowledge, and keep track of your favourite teams and athletes. It’s focused mainly on young athletes with a lot of potential, and has built a community of more than 65 million followers in just 5 years.
Overtime is basically the best app for you if you ‘want to prove to your friends you know sports better than they do.’ The app encourages peer-to-peer engagement by running daily pools and fantasy games where users can make their picks, test their knowledge, and compete against others. Users can also track their game stats and results in real time, during the game. There are also weekly pools and fantasy games where you can compete against other sports fans, and there are cool prizes to win, as well.
Overtime also has a massive following on social media, where sports fans get to actually interact and engage with their favourite athletes and with other fans. Overtime CEO Dan Porter told Axios that what makes the platform stand out is ‘two-way engagement.’ Overtime has a team of social media people who ‘do nothing but go into the comment sections and engage with our followers,’ according to Porter. The brand is very active and responsive across all social media channels, which keeps fans coming back and leaving comments, likes, stories, and messages. Basically, Overtime aims to be the ‘ESPN of the Gen Z generation.’
It’s safe to say that nowadays, everybody loves trivia, quizzes, and basically any opportunity to test their knowledge and compete against others. Nothing motivates sports fans more than the opportunity to compete against each other, and put their sport knowledge to the test. Overtime provides that opportunity, and much more; for instance, the app isn’t really focused on breaking news or things that everybody already knows. Instead, they ‘look for the unique angles and the crazy stats that others didn’t mention.’ Perfect for trivia sports fans.
One factor that has led to Overtime’s success is the fact that it understands how younger generations consume sports nowadays. They’re not interested in watching entire games and prefer highlights; they don’t necessarily follow teams, and instead follow athletes, particularly young, rising athletes that inspire them; they’re not mere observers, but like to engage with their favourite athletes and brands on social media, buy merchandise, and share their thoughts and opinions with each other.
In its first years of activity, Overtime got support from big players like Andreessen Horowitz, Greycroft Ventures, Bezos Expeditions, and more than 30 NBA figures, including David Stern and Kevin Durant. They also work with young athletes and Fortune 500 brands, advertising and selling merchandise in the Overtime Store. The platform focuses mostly on basketball, football, soccer, and e-sports, but has gradually expanded its focus to include sponsorships, e-commerce, licensing, and owned leagues. Recently, it partnered with Shopify to let six Overtime Elite athletes build their own direct-to-consumer brands. For now, the Overtime app is free to use.
Discord is probably one of the most popular VoIP (voice over IP) and instant messaging social platforms out there. It was originally focused on gaming, created in 2015 as a means to facilitate communication while creating or playing online games without affecting performance. In recent years, however, Discord shifted its focus from gamers to the general population, becoming more of a social and communications tool. As of 2021, the platform had 350 million registered users and over 150 million monthly active users.
Discord allows its users to interact and chat via text, voice, or video, and it’s organised around collections of channels called ‘servers.’ Users can only join a channel, or server, via invite links, and connect their Discord profile to their Steam, Reddit, Twitter, Spotify, Xbox, PlayStation, and more. The platform initially attracted gamers and game developers, but soon enough it gained enough popularity that the brand started to broaden its focus.
Nowadays, beside the well established gamer communities, you can find a server for pretty much any topic under the sun on Discord. School and university classes use it to keep in touch, startup programs and professionals create industry communities, creatives gather around their hobbies, fandoms get together to discuss a specific series.
The basic Discord platform is free to use, however, users can unlock extra features with a Discord Nitro subscription. The Discord Nitro Classic version allows users to upload gif avatars, use custom emotes, watch higher-quality videos, increase their file uploading cap, and showcase a Nitro badge on their profile. The Nitro Classic subscription costs $4.99 per month, or $49.99 per year.
The Discord Nitro subscription, at $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year, offers additional perks, like upgraded emojis, bigger file uploads, and two Server Boosts. A Discord Server Boost unlocks higher-quality voice channels, more emojis, and other perks for a given server, and can be purchased separately for $4.99 a month. Discord Nitro and Nitro Classic subscribers get a 30% discount on Server Boosts.
In 2020, Discord also began testing digital stickers for its Canada users, and offered a free sticker pack to its Nitro subscribers. With prices ranging from $1.50 to $2.25, the stickers are part of Discord’s monetization strategy.
Venmo is an American platform focused around ‘fast, safe, social payments,’ only available to U.S.-based users. Founded in 2009 and currently owned by PayPal, it’s a platform that was created for people who wanted to split bills or send each other money for events, movies, dinner, rent, and so on. It basically follows the same concept as Revolut in Europe, allowing users to add credit from their own bank accounts, and even create a Venmo card to use for transactions. Until 2015, direct-to-consumer transactions were not possible on Venmo.
The main focus of Venmo was always financial, aiming to be a useful and handy tool for those looking to split bills and pay for expenses. However, what makes Venmo stand out, sometimes for the wrong reasons, is its ‘news feed.’ Basically, all transactions completed on Venmo are public by default, and appear in the platform’s news feed, available to anyone, even those without a Venmo account. While this is part of Venmo’s strategy to encourage transparency, it’s been heavily criticised for failing to protect user privacy and exposing details of their daily lives by default.
Venmo does provide options for users to restrict access to their transactions feed. They can select for all transactions, excluding the actual dollar amounts, to be publicly visible to everyone on the internet. They can also choose to restrict access to their feed to friends, senders and recipients, and their friends, or make their feed fully private, visible only to senders and recipients. However, the default option for any new Venmo users is the public option, which is why Venmo has come under fire from the Federal Trade Commission.
Despite the controversies surrounding the Venmo public feed, usage of the platform continues to increase. In 2021, the company handled $230 billion in transactions and generated $850 million in revenue, according to Business of Apps. What keeps users coming back is the ease with which they are able to split bills, send money, and make purchases, at basically no extra fees. Signing up is free, and Venmo does not charge users for sending money from a linked bank account, Venmo card, or debit card. It only charges a 3% fee for users who choose to send money via a linked credit card.
The social component is also a big draw. As human beings, we’re naturally curious about how other people spend their time and what they do with their money. Venmo basically allows users to ‘spy’ on their friends and get a glimpse into their daily financial activity. It all depends how you look at it – genuine transparency, or a breach of privacy – or both?
Talkshop is ‘the first online platform for live streaming and home shopping shows with a built-in buying experience that anyone can use.’ It’s basically the social and streaming platform for shoppaholics and those of us interested in all things fashion and fashion trends. But it’s not all about shopping.
In the beginning, the platform focused mainly on books and music. They worked with big names like Alicia Keys, Dolly Parton, and Matthew McConaughey, who’ve showcased their new albums or books in videos featured on the website. Since then, the company has expanded to also focus on food, beauty, fashion, and sports. Chef Giada De Laurentiis, for instance, took Talkshoppers on a live tour of her pantry, in one of the most watched videos on the platform.
The Hollywood Reporter described Talkshop as ‘QVC meets Instagram Live,’ because of the way that the platform blends traditional retail features with the spontaneity of live streaming. Why does it work so well? Think about it this way. How many times have you considered buying a product, then headed to YouTube to find reviews or tutorials from people who’ve actually used it? Or searched online for more information about the product? On Talkshop, you can watch live videos and see authors and sellers talk about their products themselves, then add products to cart and have them delivered to your doorstep. Even if you’re unable to watch the video live, you’ll have the option to watch it later and purchase the products. That’s pretty convenient, if you ask us.
Clearly, adding the video/streaming component to the platform works very well for Talkshop. This is because video content is currently much more appealing to desktop and mobile users – just think about the rise of TikTok, reels, stories, and YouTube videos. It’s also a great way for sellers and authors to engage and interact with their fans in real time, because every livestream has a chat feature where watchers can ask questions and send messages to the presenters. It’s all about engagement, and engagement is the ‘secret sauce’ for any platform or app that has a social component or a social focus.
After looking at all of these platforms, it’s clear that founders looking to build a new mobile product cannot afford to minimise the importance of social. Whether you’re looking to build a social or communications app, or want to integrate social into your product somehow, this part of the process cannot be an afterthought. Social is what drives engagement with brands and products nowadays, and people look for a personal touch and connection when it comes to picking their favourite apps and products. Consequently, the social component of any mobile product should be a top priority during the development and validation process.
These are some of the main factors to consider when trying to integrate a social component into a new mobile product:
- Find a way to encourage peer-to-peer engagement
- Make user interaction as natural and intuitive as possible – it shouldn’t feel forced
- Be active and responsive to users on social media channels to establish a connection
- Provide incentives for users to invite their friends and family – discounts, badges, extra features and add-ons
- Focus on transparency, but ensure data privacy and security for your users
- Diversify your content and make it engaging – make good use of video, AR, VR, and other emerging technologies
- Test and (in)validate the product with real people before you start building – we can help with this one!
If you’re looking to build a new social app or add a social dimension to your new mobile product, and need a helping hand to get started, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We can work together to make the most out of what social has to offer, and build real engagement and community around your product.