The Power of Metrics: Building Successful Products and Communities


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 23, 2023

4 min read


The Power of Metrics: Building Successful Products and Communities

In the world of tech startups and online platforms, success is often measured by the number of users and their level of engagement. Two companies that have achieved remarkable growth and success by focusing on metrics are Twitter and Goodreads. These platforms have managed to build thriving communities and attract millions of users by understanding what drives user behavior and leveraging that knowledge to improve their products.

Twitter, often referred to as "the only metric that matters," understood the importance of user engagement from the early days. The company found that if users visited Twitter at least seven times in a month, they were likely to continue visiting in the future. This metric became the key indicator of growth and success for the platform. By focusing on what users were doing and why they were doing it, Twitter was able to track their growth on a day-to-day, week-over-week, and month-over-month basis.

Goodreads, the book community with over 2.6 million members, also understood the power of user engagement. The founder, Otis Chandler, built the platform from the ground up, starting with just 650,000 members before receiving any outside funding. Goodreads became successful by tapping into the clear use case of book lovers wanting to share their reading experiences with others. The platform provided a space for users to connect with their friends and discover new books. It gained traction through recommendations from bloggers and featured articles on platforms like Mashable. English literature students, who are passionate about reading, became power users and helped drive the growth of the community.

One interesting insight from Goodreads is that even though users had the option to register books they had read in the past, only 10% of users actually did so. This suggests that when it comes to articles or other types of content, the registration ratio might be even lower. Goodreads also realized the importance of social connections in driving user engagement. By allowing users to see what their friends were reading and browse their bookshelves online, the platform created a social network for book lovers. This emphasis on social connections and friend activity became a strong driver for users to return to the platform.

To increase retention and give users more things to do, Goodreads introduced groups. These groups provided a space for users to discuss books and engage with like-minded individuals. Groups also played a role in bringing in new users as members were encouraged to invite their friends to join. By focusing on creating a sense of community and providing value to users, Goodreads was able to build a loyal and engaged user base.

Another important aspect of Goodreads' success was its focus on authors. Recognizing that authors often struggle to market their books, Goodreads provided a platform for authors to connect with their fans and gain readership. The platform built a self-serve advertising product that allowed authors to reach the entire Goodreads audience. By targeting book genres instead of keywords, Goodreads ensured that authors could effectively reach their target audience.

Listening to user feedback and prioritizing features based on user needs was also a crucial part of Goodreads' growth. The founder, Otis Chandler, dedicated a significant amount of time to listening to what users were saying about the platform and using that feedback to drive improvements. This user-centric approach ensured that Goodreads was constantly evolving and meeting the needs of its community.

In conclusion, the success of Twitter and Goodreads can be attributed to their deep understanding of user behavior and their focus on metrics. By tracking user engagement and leveraging social connections, these platforms were able to build thriving communities. Three actionable advice that can be derived from their success are:

  • 1. Define a metric that truly reflects user engagement and growth. By identifying a key metric, you can track your progress and make data-driven decisions.
  • 2. Prioritize user needs and listen to feedback. By actively listening to your users and prioritizing features based on their needs, you can create a product that resonates with your target audience.
  • 3. Foster a sense of community and leverage social connections. By creating a space for users to connect with each other and share their experiences, you can drive user engagement and retention.

Ultimately, building a successful product or community requires a deep understanding of user behavior, a focus on metrics, and a commitment to delivering value to your users. By incorporating these principles into your strategy, you can increase your chances of achieving growth and success.

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