The book Platform Scale has been something of a bible to me recently as I struggle to create something for my own business. In this book, Sageet Paul Choudary breaks down, rather elegantly, the ingredients required to fully bake a platform business model into a mature business. It’s comforting to have a leader in the feild on my bookshelf. I’m pretty much sharing this with the world for the selfish reason that I want to understand it fully and allow my brain to digest it by chewing around on the ideas in the book. I firmly believe that you don’t truly know something unless you can teach it, so I’m teaching it to cyber space mostly to pose questions, make myself think and take notes that I can look back on…along the way I hope someone else gets a nugget out of it and let’s me know.
My most concise explanation of this section of his book is that it’s easy to get lost in features, frills, marketing or monetizing too early and this is all about not losing focus on what really matters…. keeping users engaged, rather, addicted.
Every platform has a core interaction. Something that keeps the user clicking buttons more or less for a shot of dopamine. Keeps them coming back. It’s not buttons their clicking it’s dreams they’re chasing, and if the platform is complete, it’s dreams they’re providing as well, for others. Essentially we’re all chasing each others greener grass lol. Interaction or exchange of experience.
Until the core interaction is nailed down you shouldn’t be trying to do anything else.
Think of the obivious core units of value for the apps that you use in your daily life. If it’s facebook, you post your status and scroll through others posts and you react to them by sharing, commenting and liking.
Author Sangeet Choudary breaks that activity down into a nice and simple rule of thumb.
3 main core interactions:
Are you ready for your flash card exercise!
To continue with my Facebook example, users “Create” content in the form of a status update. That started out as just text and images and later got pretty robust. I note this because it’s also a common trap to try to over build before anyone cares yet. None the less they never lost that content creation side, but don’t get excited if you got this far because it’s only 33% of the game and they would’ve failed if they just provided content and the users would’ve migrated. At any cost, you keep that producer creating by rewarding them. More on that in a minute…
Users also consume others content creation by viewing it. I use the word viewing as though you’re looking at a tree stump.
viewing, nay, peering into other private lives is what we’re doing there. Wishing, comparing, hoping, mingling, flirting, admiring, self agrandizing, showing off, judging, ranting, feeling important, having a platform soap box to make a statement from, being heard, being seen, being someone…else… so much is happening in that little display screen…
Lastly, both parties curate likes, shares and comments which makes a shot of dopamine, it’s validation of their amazing existence and it keeps them coming back to the tune of a $400 Billion Facebook valuation. Mostly due to ad revenue which didn’t even exist for years while they nailed that core interaction. I downplay this, you can start a movement on social media, just ask Donald Trump.
You need all three core interactions to happen repeatedly for the platform to survive.
Your job is to encourage these 3 activities as much as possible.
He goes on to give examples of platforms we all know and use.
The core unit of value or “seed” of your platform is the foundational element that without it, the platform would hold no value.
Users interacting with the core unit of value repeatedly is the magic trick, without getting tired of it too quickly. It must appear like endless value. The book “Hooked” by Nir Eyal pounds this point home by comparing it to slot machine handle pulling. As long as you never know when you’ll get that big payoff, you’ll keep pulling on the handle. So they keep coming back, there are other users there that have what they want and it’s always new and fresh. This is harder than almost anyone ever thinks to make happen. Even the big players had it wrong when they started. For instance, Youtube was a video dating site. That didn’t work out. Just think what the world would be like if they just threw in the towel. Airbnb was an air mattress rental website and Facebook was a college only version of Friendster…the point is to focus on your core unit of value and iterate on that until you either die or get traction lol. Hopefully the latter happens first, although sometimes it feels like the former is approaching at a faster pace or that you’re actually moving backwards and the damn drawing board is getting too familiar.
Examples of well known core value units:
Youtube = Video Content
Airbnb = Property Listings
Etsy = Fashion Listings
Facebook = Status updates
Wikipedia = Content Stubs
App Store = App Listings
Paypal = Payment
Without these core value units, the platform would cease to hold any value.
All actions on your platform will be around the core value unit.
Here is how it looks for different types of platforms according to Sangeet but I actually find it unsettlingly incomplete. I’ll tell you why after you glance throug it.
|Content Platforms||Upload Content||Search, View Content||Upvote, Downvote, Report||Youtube|
|Services Marketplace||Create Listing||Search, View Listing||Rate Listing, Rate Lister, Report||Airbnb|
|Goods Marketplace||Create Listing||Search, View Listing||Rate Listing, Rate Lister, Report||Etsy|
|Social Network||Create Status Update||Consume Feed||Like, Hide, Report, Unfriend|
|Collaboration||Create Stub, Add/Edit Content||Search, View Article||Reverse Edit||Wikipedia|
|Developer Platforms||Create & List Apps||Saerch, Download Apps||Rate Apps||Google Play Store|
|Payments||Facilitate Transaction||Transact||Report Fraud||Paypal|