Facebook, Twitter, and the Aha Moment! – UX Planet
I recently finished reading Hacking Growth, a book by, Sean Allis, a Growth Hacking expert who has played a pivotal role in the growth of many tech startups. The book covers structured and scientific frameworks needed to take your startup on a growth path. The author augments these frameworks with the real-life examples of how some of the today’s iconic companies (Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, SurveyMonkey, etc.) hacked their way to the growth in their early years of existence.
There is one concept that is tentpole to growth frameworks covered in the book — A company needs to find the product-market fit before committing any significant resources towards growth initiatives, i.e., acquisition, activation, retention, monetization, or referrals.
The author’s criteria for a strong product-market fit is that “at least 40% of the existing users will be very disappointed if they could no longer use the product.” And it can be easily measured by conducting a simple survey. For those intrigued by the concept, here is an excellent write-up by Rahul Vohra, founder of SuperHuman, a company that is rethinking email experience from the grounds up, about how they found the product-market fit using Sean’s frameworks.
Once you know that your product has a strong product-market fit, your next task is to find out “who” the loyal users of your product are and understand “how” and “why” did they become loyal in the first place?
Finding answers to these questions is necessary to identify the “Aha” moment of your product.
Aha is the moment that the utility of the product really clicks for the users; when the users really get the core value — what the product is for, why they need it, and what benefit they derive from using it. — Sean Ellis
To get to the “Aha”, you need to find the most engaged/loyal users of your product and mine their usage data to understand how they arrived at the core value of the product. What were the common action(s) these users took to realize the value of the product and get to the Aha? And the action(s) you pick is the one that maximizes the area of intersection of retained users and the users who took that specific action(s).
Let me try to decipher the meaning of the last line by picking up a company familiar to everyone — Facebook. In the early years of Facebook, after rigorous experimentation, its Growth Team found out that if a user adds at least 10 friends within the first 7 days of signups, then that user is going to be more engaged and thus going to stick with Facebook longer. Now you may wonder, why 10 friends and not 1 or 50 friends.
Choosing only users who added at least one friend will mean that most of the users who performed the action didn’t retain, whereas choosing 50 friends as a barrier will mean that you’ll miss most of the users who retained but didn’t add a lot of friends. Therefore, the goal is to find an action that maximizes the area of intersection of action taken and the retained users — which was adding at least 10 friends in Facebook’s case. This detailed blog post does an excellent job in explaining the concept in more depth for the more curious ones who want to know the mathematics behind it.
Once Facebook growth team defined this “Aha” moment for the user, it rallied the whole company around this metric to ensure features that helped users find and add friends were given the highest priority. Even Facebook’s registration flow was changed to help users find friends while onboarding.
Similar to Facebook, Twitter also identified its “Aha” moment for the users: make users follow at least 30 users with ⅓ of those following you back.
But the growth story of Facebook and Twitter is as contrasting as it could be. While one (Facebook) kept on defying the law of large numbers and covered almost everybody on earth while the other (Twitter) is not even a tenth of the size (in terms of DAUs).
Facebook has 1.5 billion daily active users and 2.32 million monthly active users. Barring China (800mn internet users), where Facebook is restricted, Facebook has reached most of the people in the world with Internet access (3.2 billion by the end of 2018).
Twitter on the other hand recently started revealing its DAUs (126 million) and has 326 million monthly active users (MAUs). And, as you can see from the graph the growth of MAUs users plateaued around 4 years back in Q1’15.
One simplistic explanation for this difference is that while Facebook is just the digitization of your offline friends & family graph whereas with Twitter you have to build your interest graph from scratch, which is a long journey that thus most people abandon the product after signup. Inherently, therefore, Twitter isn’t expected to scale at the level of Facebook.
While that’s true, it’s not the single reason for the growth or the lack of it. Other plausible explanations are in public domain: constant infighting among founders for the control of Twitter, not a strong leadership at the top, or not a maniacal focus on user growth by not building tools required to understand its users the way Facebook’s Growth Team did.
All of these and many more reasons led to the stagnation in the product. This long rant on Twitter by one of its significant investors, Chris Sacca, highlights the frustrations with the product stagnation. It’s a long one, but worth the read.
I don’t want to go into the details of the missed opportunities in the evolution of the product in this post, but I think the one below is worth bringing up.
Twitter was, and still is, a text-heavy product. It started supporting images only in 2011 — full five years after the launch of the service. By that time people had uploaded 10 billion images on Facebook.
Not only Facebook, but Instagram also took advantage of the opportunity and provided tools to edit and share images and built a network around that. Most of the celebrities/influencers now use Instagram more than Twitter to broadcast and connect with their fans. Even worse, the best content from Twitter is getting posted as screenshots on Instagram.
Before I digress further, I want to come back to the topic of choosing the “Aha” moment, and ask a few questions: Was choosing “following 30 people with ⅓ following you back” was the right Aha moment for Twitter? What else Twitter measured to compliment the Aha moment? Would a different Aha work better?
As a product person, I want to understand what else to look for while choosing the Aha moment. What types of users of user segments will the Aha moment reflect? Is it going to be niche or for everybody? If it’s niche, what can be done to broaden the appeal?
So many questions…I don’t know the answer to these yet, but want to dig deeper and hope to find answers to some of those and share.
Thanks for reading!