Vertical approach in social software works!
Firstly, let me explain what social software is; in short, social software is packaging of social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.) technologies for general-purpose use-cases.
With horizontal approach similarly to that of Ning, Grou.ps, SocialGo, it’s been a way for online communities to stay in touch, communicate, collaborate, share online for a diverse set of purposes that range from political fundraising, FRP (fantasy-role-playing), non-profit sites to NSFW (not-safe-for-work) sharing and more. These sites have collectively reached more than 2 million online communities and hundreds of monthly actives circa 2010 (most of the credits go to Ning of course.)
So what is “vertical approach in social software?” you may be asking. To illustrate this, let me give you some examples:
- Yammer, where the social networks are built around internal business operations,
- or Edmodo, where the social networks are built around classes (with teachers, students and their parents) & education.
- Nextdoor; where neighborhoods are connected via social networks based on their zip codes.
and more… Back in 2015, we created GymGroups to serve health & fitness clubs, in a similar way. The goal was to connect the club staff, trainers and members. We did see some traction; although it was not big enough to justify it to remain as a standalone product, so we rolled it under Grou.ps, scratching our plans to consolidate everything under GymGroups. But had we invested more, it could have grown into its own entity, and be on the list above.
Nowadays I see another big opportunity with vertical social software, and that is IR-Groups; in other words, “Investor Relations” Groups. Let me explain;
Imagine a private social network that connects public companies with their shareholders. Membership would be exclusive to those registered shareholders only.
LVMH (Louis Vuitton) is already doing it under the name LVMH Club.
It is really too low of a bar for public companies to inform their stakeholders only once a quarter only, but that’s what the regulators dictate. However, it is possible to connect the stakeholders in a virtual environment where they can:
- Reach quarterly calls and the transcriptions on a more permanent basis, from a source they can trust
- Get official blog updates from the company
- Discuss the performance of the company, speculate under regulation.
- Stay informed with upcoming events
Moreover, this shareholders-only club would give people a sense of exclusivity and would make them want to own more shares. Here’s what LVMH offers as exclusivity:
THE LATEST NEWS ABOUT OUR MAISONS
AN ANNUAL MAGAZINE DEDICATED TO CLUB MEMBERS
AN EXCLUSIVE GROUP’S PRODUCTS OFFERsource: https://www.lvmh.com/investors/individual-shareholders/shareholders-club/
All public companies have Investor Relations page of some sort. Some have tens of dedicated people to respond any question that may come up from investors at any time. So, you know what team your sales force would be targeting…
On the flip side, there are some difficulties;
- To begin with, social networks are always a nice-to-have, rather than a must-have. And those of you who’ve been in the field in sales, would know the difference of selling a nice-to-have vs a must-have…
- Secondly, I’ve observed that Facebook’s free offerings are cannibalizing the social software; with health & fitness, we did see significant resistance from some club owners who thought they could just do the same thing on Facebook, ignoring the fact that packaging all their club members for other clubs in the area to target via Facebook Ads was a bad idea. In IR-Groups, the same risk could apply too; not from Facebook but LinkedIn.
How much you can charge for a service like this? Well, I spoke about with some of the most expert names in the domain. I was thinking $1000/month at first, but they told me one can charge 6 digits numbers for this kind of a service in the US.
Investing is already in transformation. Millennials are on Robinhood, investing their money on new fancy apps with nice UX. Meanwhile, the IR pages of public companies are still antiquated. So in my opinion, there’s a clear need to rejuvenate their UX too.
The technical part is not much of a concern. Anyone who wants to offer this can steal our Groupsville open-source stack and offer it on their own. Of course, Groupsville is not the only option, but IMO it is the best.
Again, if it’s something you’d like to build, here’s our funding announcement for young hackers; we can help.
BONUS IDEA: Nextdoor is popular in a very limited number of countries. A local version of Nextdoor maybe, for your country of residence, if it doesn’t exist yet?
Please scroll down and leave your email address to subscribe for new updates from this blog.