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What is it and what can we learn from industry pioneers?

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COO & Co-founder at Friendshipleading technology platforms that enable digital communities and experiences.

At a time when a quarter of users leave an app after only one useand alone 5.7% of users if you stay after a month, it’s easy to understand the growing buzz around the social+ business model. However, Social+ is not a new concept; originating in ChinaThe social+ phenomenon began to be discussed in earnest in early 2018 with apps like Pinduoduo and Douyin (better known internationally as TikTok) leading this disruption.

What is a Social+ company?

According to an article in Future“a social+ company combines the community of a social product with a specific category, form factor or experience† I want to highlight how these companies have made the social aspect the core of their business models, enabling compelling community experiences.

To succeed, the social aspect must be purposefully built for the product, whether that product is for attending a fitness class, making investments, or buying clothes. It might be tempting to start with a centralized social chart and build the product on that; however, in order to take full ownership of the community and its data, social+ companies must develop a unique and proprietary social graph that is not owned by any third-party service.

Emerging Examples of Social+ Products

Many industries have yet to have their social moment. But as the world becomes more digital, companies are now looking for innovative social solutions as a way to connect with their customers and stay ahead of the competition. While there are investments to be made in establishing and maintaining a digital community, I believe the potential benefits far outweigh the costs. From my time working on creating and expanding digital communities, I’d like to highlight some notable industry examples of emerging and established social+ businesses that I think we can all learn from.

Fitness and health

Exercising is an inherently social experience for most people, but many fitness-related digital products are still solo experiences that don’t capture the community experience of exercising in its traditional form.

Leading the social charge are products such as Strava, Nike Run Club and Freeletics, which encourage and enable friendly competition, connections with professionals and a strong sense of community.

These types of apps allow users to participate in workout challenges, track their friends’ progress, and share their achievements on social media-like feeds.

However, I see how many health and fitness products are still locked to centralized social networks like Facebook, so there’s a lot of potential here to capture communities of fitness enthusiasts and get them into a dedicated network. As mentioned before, the stronger your social aspect, the more you can fully own your community.

fintech

People who trade in the stock market now expect to be able to use the power of online communities to exchange ideas and make decisions about their investments.

The financial and investment communities on centralized online platforms like Reddit, Twitter, and TikTok are huge. The WallStreetBets subreddit has over 12 million members. So it’s no surprise that we’ve seen countless experiments with social functions of a range of fintech products in recent years.

Venmo, the P2P payment app, was an early pioneer when it introduced public feeds for transactions between users. Paying with notes and emojis quickly became a social sharing experience. This led to users opening the app even when they weren’t paying. In 2015, CEO Dan Schulman called this their “secret sauce,” stating that: “Venmo users open the app four or five times a week. But they only do trades a few times a week† The trick is to find ways for users to stay engaged with your app, even if they’re not actively using it for core purposes like transactions or training.

More recently, companies such as eToro and Public are creating compelling social+ financial products that mimic the experiences of traditional social networks and integrate seamlessly into the user experience. Allowing your users to create posts, follow each other, participate in community forums, and interact one-on-one are all things you should consider in your social+ practices.

E-commerce

The rise of social+ shopping products from China in recent years has been well documented. Specifically, Shein has taken the digital fashion world by storm.

Shein has been proactive in cultivating a vibrant fashion community of like-minded shoppers through her channels. Their apps include live streams of events and extensive peer reviews. They are distinguished by a style gallery where shoppers can share their outfits and tag products with their source of inspiration. The app is consistently ranked as the market best performing fast fashion app in recent years, and it is unlikely that his rule will be disrupted any time soon.

In the West, Sephora was one of the first e-commerce companies to introduce social features into its app. They have successfully launched and nurtured a beauty community where shoppers can connect with other users, ask for product recommendations, and share photos and tips. With users all over the world sharing posts and replies about self-image and personal experiences, Sephora created a very effective way to engage their own community.

The success of these businesses has shown that there is a real need for community and connection when shopping online. And we can expect more companies to follow in the near future.

Making a leap in social+

Products with fully integrated social components naturally benefit from greater user engagement and retention, resulting in faster growth and stronger resilience. Connecting your users with others who share similar interests and backgrounds naturally creates a more loyal customer base. When incorporating social+ into your business model, you should focus on innovative ways to connect with users and create meaningful experiences.

I hope the above examples have given you ideas on how to make the leap and gain significant advantages over others in your industry. And because social+ businesses are network and community-driven, expect the benefits of this approach to accumulate over time.


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