User expectations on the web have changed. The advent of social networks has taken us from a static web to one that is incredibly interactive and personal; a web where users expect immersive social experiences wherever they go. Businesses that do not recognize this fundamental shift in user expectations run the high risk of losing customer interest, and market share along with it.
While some businesses sit on the sidelines of innovation, a new wave of visionaries are racing to the top of their respective industries. The defining difference for many of these hungry newcomers is the ability to leverage social networks to provide users with unparalleled site experiences. Three brands – The Huffington Post, Spotify, and Airbnb – are disrupting the status quo of their industries, and are doing so by building social infrastructure into the core of their product.
There’s no question that The Huffington Post has completely disrupted online publishing. From 2008 to present, the publisher has grown from practically nothing to the 11th most popular web destination in the U.S. It’s now the most trafficked pure publisher on the web, overtaking the likes of CNN, The New York Times, and AOL. So why has HuffPo seen so much success while other publishers flounder?
For starters, The Huffington Post could very well be the poster child for social infrastructure success. Nearly every feature on the site is deeply tied to social networks. On huffingtonpost.com users can easily share content, react to content, view recommended content, login with a social identity, leave a comment using that identity, broadcast activity to social networks, see what friends are reading, get article recommendations from friends, and build reputation through gamification. The result? A completely immersive site experience that has taken news from a traditionally static activity to one that is personal, social, and rewarding.
With less than a year in the U.S. under its belt, Spotify’s growth is nothing short of extraordinary. The social listening application has seen a fast and widespread adoption with over 3 million paying subscribers and 24 million active monthly users. In an already crowded and established market, it’s rare to see a company breakthrough with such brute force. But Spotify’s success is not by chance. Its hyper-social integration changes the way users listen to music, making for a compelling listening experience that is completely personalized and social.
The key to Spotify’s success is that it makes discovering music and sharing with friends extremely easy. New users can quickly sign-up using their Facebook identity, which gives them the ability to access their account and saved listening preferences from any location. From there, Spotify uses the social graph to show which friends are already on Spotify and allows users to share a playlist, follow friend activity, and subscribe to playlists. Additionally, Spotify makes it easy for users to seamlessly share any track or playlist to Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, and also uses Facebook’s Open Graph to broadcast activity to Facebook and summarize listening habits on Timeline.
Since its founding in 2008, Airbnb has quickly scaled to one of the leading players in booking and listing accommodations for vacation and short-term living. Its community marketplace boasts over 100,000 listings in 19,000 cities across 192 countries. To date, Airbnb has also facilitated over 168 million social connections – a critical part of its success.
Social infrastructure throughout Airbnb.com truly enhances site features, creating a user experience that is completly unique compared to others in its industry. Among those features include the ability to sign-up through Facebook and receive personalized search results according to connected vacationers and hosts. Users can also easily share their favorite vacation spots and custom wishlists with their social graph, encouraging friends to join and provide feedback. Finally, Airbnb instills user trust by validating listings through both vacationer reviews and the renter’s social graph connections. The end result is an interactive and engaging site experience that is social from the ground up.
If you spend just a little bit of time on any of these sites or apps, you’ll find it easy to see why they’ve been so successful. The user experience is rich, intuitive, addictive, and deeply tied to a user’s social connections and preferences. It’s clear that businesses need to recognize the changing landscape of the social web and either take the initiative to integrate social infrastructure into their product, or make way for a new class of innovators.
– Kevin White, Marketing Manager @gigya
By Kevin White