How to Build Engaging Products With Flourishing Communities: Social+by@superlinked
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How to Build Engaging Products With Flourishing Communities: Social+

by SuperlinkedDecember 27th, 2022
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social+ is any software product where people interact with each other, as means to achieve their goals. The goals vary and could range from entertainment to fitness, education, and even investment in the stock market (i.e., social+investment).
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If you’ve ever used an app or software which lets you collaborate or connect with others, you’ve experienced the power of social+. The term ‘social+’ was coined by former a16z partner, D’Arcy Coolican. In his words:

“The best version of every consumer product is the one that is intrinsically social”.

Simply put, social+ is any software product where people interact with each other, as means to achieve their goals. The goals vary and could range from entertainment to fitness, education, and even investment in the stock market (i.e., social+investment). Successful examples include Duolingo, Figma, and Notion. Below, we outline the major benefits of the Social+ approach:


Social+ nurtures and supports healthy growth loops for both community and product revenue. Inviting collaborators actually makes the product better. A non-social approach is transactional and motivated by referral fees. It has no context, unlike social+ which creates and builds experience in a customer-orientated world.


The standalone non-social model offers very little engagement beyond the individual transaction, in contrast with social+ which is centred around giving individual experience a place within a meaningful community.  In many cases, the result is achieved by interacting with others.


Social+ nurtures user retention through ongoing interactions that keep bringing people back because of the value provided by other users, not just the product, instead of the greater effort required to achieve this with a non-social model.


The non-social model is vulnerable because it is based on just one level: transaction. The community that forms around a social+ product makes the product better, and harder to copy for competition.

Social+ offers a strong competitive moat

There’s little doubt that social+ has the ability to transform each user’s experience from a transactional one-off to becoming part of a meaningful community that keeps them coming back to your product. But there are some serious obstacles in the way of making this happen. So let’s start with what you’re up against.

The TikTok effect

The attention economy and the fight for eyeballs is an undeniable force today. In this landscape, personalisation - delivering a highly relevant experience across all touch points - is vital for driving everything from user acquisition to retention to monetisation.

One app is successfully delivering that all-important relevant engagement and setting up and meeting user expectations. As a result, it’s eating everyone’s lunch. You’ve probably heard of it…

The stratospheric success of TikTok is bad news for other social+ platforms. Why? Because users only have a finite amount of time, so the more they spend on TikTok, the less they have to spend on your product. Winning the attention economy battle is certainly paying off for TikTok. Valued at $50 billion in 2020 and having generated an estimated $4.6 billion in revenue in 2021, it is now the most valuable startup of all time.

Wiping the floor

Even the tech giant Google isn’t immune to the TikTok effect. The company’s senior vice president Prabhakar Raghavan recently shared that Google’s research revealed that almost 40% of young people looking for a place to go for lunch don’t turn to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram instead.

It’s not just Google Search. As Superlinked’s co-founder Daniel Svonava recently commented in his podcast, “TikTok is wiping the floor with YouTube.” So, how does TikTok outperform Google and so many others in the attention economy? As Daniel goes on to discuss in the podcast, it achieves this by anticipating the exact content a user wants to see. Before they know they want to see it. He highlights the big difference with TikTok - content discoverability makes the user experience highly relevant and specific to that individual.

The 40 minutes test

Here’s a question:

How well would you understand a user after they spend 40 minutes on your app?

The answer? Not as well as TikTok. After just one 40-minute session and on the basis of just a few interactions, TikTok knows a user more intimately than any social app, and probably even better than the closest friends of that user. Even though it only collects name and email, it’s able to analyse user interactions within the platform in real-time to provide a truly personalised experience.

From the first user session, the platform figures out what the user wants to see and delivers exactly that. It is because of this power TikTok is estimated to generate revenues of $12 billion by the end of 2022.

The personalisation challenge

So, how can you learn from TikTok’s highly successful approach and serve your users with content that fits perfectly with their interests and goals? After all, users who experienced AI-powered recommendations expect you to provide them with highly personalised content and relevant users to engage with, right from the very first interaction. To achieve this, you need scalable user models which not only ingest user data and their interactions with your product, but also update in real-time. It is possible to build them. That’s what TikTok and Facebook did. But it’s not easy, for four key reasons:

  1. You need a lot of data

  2. You need a cutting-edge technology stack

  3. You need to hire the right talent to develop, test and iterate the models

  4. And last but definitely not least, there’s the risk factor: You could fail to deliver a model that actually works.

What does it take to build user models?

How Social+ can improve metrics across your product

However, the significant challenge is well worth the effort. Successful integration of Social+ strategies into a product can supercharge its success across critical measures.

  • If you can get users to engage with your content, you’ll see 40-60% higher clickthrough rates on relevant articles.

  • If you encourage user-to-user interactions, you can enjoy 2x more users actually creating connections.

  • If you have a feed, you can expect to an increase in the time users spend in the app, thanks to much more relevant content.

  • If you let users post their content, you’ll benefit from higher creator retention by delivering their content to relevant users who drive the engagement and the feedback the creators crave.

What results can you expect from personalization?

You don't need to build it yourself to win with Social+

Instead of building your own user models and taking on the many associated risks and costs, you could use Superlinked’s API and user models to personalise every single touch point in your product with minimal effort. Disclosure:

Jan is a strategic advisor at Superlinked.

Benefits of integrating with Superlinked include:

  • Relevance right from the first session: Superlinked enables users to bring in their data from other social platforms to deliver relevance to your users from the first interaction.
  • Learn about your users with less effort: Superlinked’s client-specific models learn about your users and how they interact with your product - e.g., click, share, like content, or follow other users.
  • Easily integrated: Superlinked’s APIs are easy to integrate into your product within days.

The takeaway - don’t sleep on Social+

Social+ is big and only getting bigger, but the attention economy is highly competitive. That’s before you even consider the TikTok effect, which is impacting even the biggest players like Google. You can build your own user models to create a truly engaging social+ product if you have the resources for it. It is also possible to make your platform highly relevant at every touch point by using their party APIs, such as Superlinked’s social infrastructure. Social+ leads to measurable results such as double the scroll depth, much higher clickthrough rates and user connections, and triple creator retention. Learn more about how Superlinked works here.