When we first launched ShareBloc in open beta a little over three months ago, we knew the biggest challenge to our success was building a community. Luckily, we weren’t the first ones to tackle this obstacle. We looked to our professional elders and found some guiding words from five people we’d consider part of our Growth Hacker All-Stars. Here are the lessons we learned from each and the applicable posts they’ve made on that topic.
Hiten is the founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg but may be better known as a startup whisperer in Silicon Valley. His inbox and office hours have miraculously been open to hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years, including this entrepreneur.
Lesson: Hiten once told me over tea that my old startup wouldn’t work. He ended up being right but it took me over a year to figure that out. The departing lesson he gave us was simple: “Find your customer’s pain.” With our last company, the pain was too infrequent. With ShareBloc, we ended up testing early beta versions of it with our old company’s users. The engagement we saw was much more frequent and we knew this was something people wanted.
“You need to find out if people really do have the problem you think they have or if they don’t care at all. When trying to validate your idea the main goal is to find pain. The pattern of pain across your target customers. You need to discover the common pain. People tend to suggest solving your own problem because you get to focus on pain that you feel. Many times that pain you feel can be misleading.”
Noah was employee #30 at Facebook and employee #4 at Mint. It was at Mint where he famously helped grow the user base to over a million users in the first six months.
Lesson: Noah put together the famous Mint marketing plan on how to grow users with a quant-based method. In his marketing plan, Noah broke down his marketing outreach by strategy, by channel and by property. He assigned weighted probabilities on outcome based on the channel’s reach and his ability to convert. We took Noah’s lesson in stride and put together on our quant-based marketing plan.
“Most people have the tendency to wait for their thing to launch, email a few friend, tweet about it and get on their knees to pray it works. There are two columns, total users and confirmed users. When you setup your metrics on the pre-launch like above and then confirm the marketing channels you cannot fail. Only confirmed matters!! You must confirm the marketing ahead of time: blogs, twitterers, ad buys, etc… Don’t leave it up to chance.”
Relevant Post: Marketing for Startups: Quant Based Marketing
Sean was the first to coin the term “growth hacker.” He’s currently CEO of Qualaroo and previously ran marketing at LogMeIn and Uproar from launch to IPO filings. He’s also helped bring Dropbox, Lookout, Xobni and Grockit to market and helped accelerate growth at Eventbrite, Webs, World Golf Tour and Songkick.
Lesson: One of the biggest challenges we face at ShareBloc is developing a “must-have” experience for our users. For example, while we enjoy growing visits to our site www.sharebloc.com, we find it’s hard to change people’s behavior in coming to the site every day. Whereas, when we launched our weekly newsletter, we saw open rates in the 30-40% range. It turns out that our users consume content every day through email and it was a must-have experience that didn’t need to be learned. We double-downed on this with our daily email and the open rates are comparable.
“Sustainable growth programs are built on a core understanding of the value of your solution in the minds of your most passionate customers. Your drive to develop growth hacks should be based on a burning desire to get this “must have” experience into the hands of more and more of the right customers. Growth hacks built from this frame of mind are the ones that build large sustainable businesses.”
Relevant Post: Stacking the Odds for Authentic Growth [Slideshare]
If Sean is known for coining “growth hacker,” Andrew is known for popularizing it. In addition to acting as an advisor to multiple startups, Andrew’s writing is well-known in Silicon Valley for providing clarity to topics like product life cycle and community building.
Lesson: We’ve learned a lot of lessons from Andrew but his most recent post on feedback loops in social products is the most relevant. As part of building a community like ShareBloc, we recognized we needed a few things to work out well: 1) we wanted to reward our most active users; 2) we want to provide value to our passive users; 3) we wanted to make sure our users felt a sense of community.At ShareBloc, we do a few things to reward our most active users (call-outs in tweets, special tools, upcoming leaderboard) and as a result, our passive users benefit from the activity. We’re finding the community building the hardest challenge so far so we’re working on that!
“I’ve come to believe there’s 3 main feedback loops that drive the success of these social product designs – here’s the trifecta:
A feedback loop that rewards content posters when they push new content into the network
A feedback loop that rewards passive content consumers with relevant and valuable content
A feedback loop that rewards (and culls) connections within the network”
Ligaya formerly launched new markets for Yelp and led community for Airbnb. She now advises startups including Skillshare and Threadflip, and serves as a mentor for 500 Startups.
Lesson: We had coffee with Ligaya a few months ago as part of our 500Statups office hours. She gave us two key pieces of advice. One, she told us to run a contest. We ran two (thanks, Ligaya!). The second centered on a dialogue around our users. She asked how we acquired them but then she asked how we nurtured them. One of the challenges we face at ShareBloc is after we on-board our new users, how do we get them to keep engaging and share? With Ligaya’s advice, we embarked on a few really successful community-building tactics, like our “community phone-call” where we have all our power users on a call at the same time. This helps our users get to know each other and put a voice to the person who’s posting and upvoting their content.
“While many Community tactics overlap with marketing, the core difference is the audience. Are you speaking to prospective customers or people that already know and use your service? Email and social media are mediums for information and ideas, tools used to connect and engage with people. With social, some of those people may be existing users, others are ripe for the recruiting. Same mediums, different goals.”
Relevant Post: The Difference between Community and Marketing
While there are more all-stars on our list, we think this is a great start. Thanks guys for the direct (and indirect) support.