I recently came across an interesting BBC blog post about Wayne Ting, the founder of an early social network that was a competitor to Facebook. The post describes how Wayne’s company, the Campus Network, had gained similar traction as Facebook at Columbia, but ultimately lost. Wayne cites two reasons why he thinks the Campus Network lost:
- Speed – They were too late getting into other colleges, and as a result lost out since users were reluctant to invest time creating a new profile on another social network.
- Simplicity – Campus Network had the ability to create blogs, listen to music, share photos, create profiles and more. Facebook had a profile photo and the ability to “poke” someone, yet Facebook won.
While the speed at which they were able to get adoption was obviously crucial, it’s this second element (simplicity of the feature set) that I think is important for MROC practioners to keep in mind when they are selecting a technology platform. We’ve seen it with the example above, with the way Facebook beat MySpace, and even with the popularity of Twitter – a simple feature set and interface wins almost every time.
“Engagement” is a word I see quite a bit today with respect to MROCs. Tamara Barber of Forrester recently recommended that companies focus on engagement within their MROCs, rather than size, and I couldn’t agree more… In my experience, high levels of engagement are accomplished in a few key ways, with one of them being a simple feature set and user experience. Generally speaking, the easier it is to use (and the more streamlined the feature set), the higher the level of engagement you will see in your MROC.
I’m writing this post because the topic of engagement is a very high priority for PluggedIN right now. We’ve just finished up testing V3 of the PluggedIN Platform and have done what some of our competitors would think is crazy in this latest version – we actually removed features from the platform. We took an honest look at the features and functionality that people actually used. We then decided to enhance the features that contribute to engagement, and de-emphasize (or eliminate) the features that didn’t. Our offering won’t look as good on a matrix of features, but when you take a hard look at engagement statistics we think we’ll come out on top.
I hope this post gets you thinking about the role that simplicity of the feature set and user experience plays in community member engagement, and hope other researchers will join us as we look for ways to increase participant satisfaction with the overall research process (even beyond MROCs).