The hierarchy of engagement | Sarah Tavel (Benchmark, Greylock, Pinterest)

The hierarchy of engagement | Sarah Tavel (Benchmark, Greylock, Pinterest)

Sarah’s background

  • Sarah Tavel is a partner at Benchmark, focusing on investing in consumer and marketplace startups
  • She was the first product manager at Pinterest and has a background in product and growth

Framework 1: The Hierarchy of Engagement

  • Tavel introduces two frameworks for building a startup: the Hierarchy of Engagement for customer businesses and the Hierarchy of Marketplaces for marketplace businesses
  • The Hierarchy of Engagement focuses on the criticality of engagement over vanity metrics
  • The framework emerged from Tavel's experience at Pinterest, where she led the discovery team and focused on increasing engagement

Level 1: Core action

  • Social products have a core action that forms the foundation of the product, such as friending on Facebook, pinning on Pinterest, or sending a snap on Snapchat
  • The completion of this core action signifies an engaged user, and other actions are secondary to this core action
  • It is crucial to pick the right action that scales to enough users, and the new user experience (NUX) should lead to this core action
  • Founders should focus on the levers to improve and think holistically when designing and optimizing the product

Level 2: Retention (00:10:33)

  • It's crucial to ensure that users stick around after completing the core action
  • Products should improve with increased usage, creating more value for users
  • Examples of products that become more retentive with use include Pinterest and Evernote

Level 3: Self-perpetuation (00:14:00)

  • The goal is to make the product self-perpetuating, converting user activity into a better product experience
  • Utilizing network effects and growth and re-engagement loops can help in achieving self-perpetuation
  • Examples are provided of products like Pinterest and Evernote in relation to self-perpetuation challenges

The importance of focus

  • Focus is crucial for building successful companies
  • To achieve mass-market success, consumer products need to spread organically with low acquisition costs
  • TikTok spent over $1 billion on paid ads to reach its current user base
  • New social products struggle to compete with dominant forces like TikTok and Instagram

The challenge of anonymity

  • Anonymity hinders the accruing benefits and mounting losses that drive engagement
  • Anonymity often leads to bad behavior, causing products to not persist without persistent identity

Advice for founders who want to increase retention

  • Measuring and tracking cohorts is essential for understanding user behavior and retention
  • Focusing on a specific geography can help create a high retention product

What founders often get wrong

  • Founders often overload their product at the beginning, diffusing user attention from the core actions
  • Failing to focus on the activation moment and the core action can be a significant mistake for founders

Examples of Core Actions

  • Pinterest's core action was pinning something, leading to high return rates
  • YouTube's core action evolved from watching videos to subscribing
  • The core action should serve both sides of the network, creators, and viewers

Finding your North Star Metric

  • The North Star metric of a company tends to be the core user action, like Pinterest's weekly active pinners and YouTube's subscribers

Who should use the Hierarchy of Engagement framework

  • Consumer founders, product leaders in companies can prioritize the roadmap using the framework

The Hierarchy of Marketplaces Framework

  • Aimed at marketplace founders prioritizing important aspects for scaling the marketplace
  • It challenges the focus on just growing GMV and emphasizes building enduring value through market focus and customer proposition.

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