Google recently announced some changes to their popular email platform, Gmail. Without getting into all the technical aspects of what “AMP” means (it is an acronym for Accelerated Mobile Pages – which means webpages load lightning fast on mobile devices like your phone), it means users of Gmail will be able to do more without leaving their email message.
For example, you can Pin content to your Pinterest Boards without opening a new window or the Pinterest app. You can confirm airline reservations or change seats without opening your preferred airline app.
I am a fan of removing steps and reducing friction between tasks and I am happy to see Gmail doing this. But this is not rolling out because Google cares so deeply about the user experience (they do, but I don’t think that is the driving factor behind this move). They are doing this because it keeps people in Gmail longer.
Think about a wildly popular social media network called Facebook.
How much can you do on Facebook?
They work very hard to keep all of their users within their “walled garden” and discourage users from leaving. You can plan events; maintain lists; share memories, photos, and videos; message friends and coworkers; read the news; build a business presence; shop and send money; and stream your life for the world to see. The more time a user spends on Facebook, the more ads they see, the more Facebook learns about them, and the more those psychological tendons extend into their lives.
The “Big 4” (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google) spend an incredible amount of time and effort developing their platforms to keep users engaged and active. They do this because of the value each of those users represent, not just financially, but in the data – how and why people behave the way the do – and how to exploit that knowledge.
This is critical for any brand to understand. Whether you are a neighborhood yoga studio, cupcake shop, real estate agent, or wedding photographer: you must think about your own brand platform and how you keep customers engaged and active. You must understand the behavior of your customer. You must understand where they spend their time. You must understand their pain points and frustrations. You must develop a way to communicate with them (the language they use, how they choose to contact you, the levels of automation that is acceptable). You must cultivate a relationship that keeps them coming back to you.
You don’t need to build your own social network to rival Facebook, but you should be building you own community.
Think of Gmail adding faster features that keep users using their product longer.
How can you build your community around your shared passion?