Monday, February 18, 2019

Why is User Productivity a Better Metric than User Commitment ?

I was recently reading the book- Stories at Work: Unlock the Secret to business Storytelling and came across the term 'Anti Story'. What are anti-stories? Anti-stories are stories that listeners in the audience have in their heads about why a proposed lesson will not work.

I had my anti-story moment just now. In my last blog, i made an argument that user acquisition ensures that users get on to the platform, but user commitment (how much time users spend on platform) is actually a bigger determinant of a platform success as it ensures that a user finds something of value that leads her to repeatedly leverage the platform.

When i wrote this, it made a perfect logical sense till i came up with this piece on the driving philosophies of WeChat, China's number 1 communication app having close to 1 billion active users.

As per Wikipedia, WeChat was launched in 2011, primarily as a messaging app and eventually evolved and grew its use cases to social media, mobile app payment and many more features. In 2017, WeChat announced Mini Programs. Simply put, WeChat Mini Programs are the apps within the apps or as they say 'Sub-applications' within WeChat ecosystem. 'Business owners can create mini apps in the WeChat system, implemented using Javascript plus a proprietary API. Users may install these inside the WeChat app. In January 2018, WeChat announced a record of 580,000 mini-programs.

Allen Zhang (Zhang Xiaolong), the CEO of WeChat, in a rare public appearance in a conference (in 2017) is supposed to have remarked:
"the WeChat team do not see the amount of time the average user spends on the app as a measure for success."
On the contrary, he defined the success of WeChat as having users spend as less time as possible. He further says:

“A good tool is something that you visit and leaves instantly. It should allow you to achieve your goal efficiently, without any time wasted on finding features or being distracted by irrelevant information. The measure of success is how much users get done, not how much time they spend."Zhang brings forward a very different way of measuring success of WeChat, which he incidentally calls as a tool and not a platform. This distinction between tool and a platform is quite profound, as Zhang says:

“I think WeChat is a tool, and I don’t think tools should be undervalued. Making a good tool is a very difficult and ambitious project. It was the ability to make tools that allowed humans to evolve from its primitive state to the modern state. If WeChat was a platform, I would have no idea what to do with it,”
The distinction between tool and platform really forms the basis of success metric that he chose. A tool is designed to make a user efficient, by virtue of this, a user should be spending as less time as possible on it. Most platforms, on the contrary, aim for stickiness as a core measure. They want users to 'live' within their platform as much as possible.

Thinking over it, the platforms whose primary source of revenue is via ads would value stickiness far more than the ones that follow alternate business models. Based on this, i would go ahead and argue that most of the enterprise focused platforms (or wannabe platforms) should think of themselves as tools and not proverbial platforms. The users in enterprise space would be more motivated to get their stuff done without worrying too much about how long they need to stay at it.

Does this make sense to you ?

Article below for quotes used in this article and for introduction of concept of tools vs platform

#platform #userproductivity #productivity #wechat #stickiness #toolvsplatform

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