1. Grow like Path (part 2)

    Path Logo

    This is the second installment of my review of Path 2.5 from a growth perspective. Part 1 on Path 2.5’s user acquisition strategy can be found here

    The press covering Path’s new released highlighted 2.5’s new enhancements, from videos to personal invitations. Path 2.5 emphasized fostering deeper connections between Path users than previous updates. I will be outlining Path 2.5’s new engagement mechanics and offering some improvements of my own. My final post will cover my growth hacks for Path 2.5.

    (Subscribe for my concluding post Part 3: growth hacks)

    Nudge

    By far, the top new feature of Path 2.5 is nudge. The purpose of nudge is to reactive friends back to Path. Nudge is displayed in two different locations, in-stream and the friend panel, with the use of a question mark.

    Tapping the question mark pops up several options to ask your friends to create additional content within Path. 

    Path nudge center

    A notification is then sent to the receiving friend in their notification panel (shown below for my friend Nick Frost). If a user opt-ed in for push notifications, the friend will also recieve a push notification. In the words of my friend Nick, “You just blew up my Path”. Apparently, nudge is a quite powerful reengagement tool. 

    Path nudge feature

    The algorithm behind nudge is not as straight forward as it first appears. For example, my good friend Zak Holdsworth is a fairly active Path user; however, he has not been active in Path for the past month. Logically, a question marks appear in my stream for two recent posts from Zak. 

    Path update - question in stream

    Intriguingly, viewing Zak’s active status within the friend panel shows that Zak hasn’t used Path in a month; however, in the previous image, Zak has accepted a new friend on Path which requires engaging with the Path app.  

    In another use case, my friend Brandon Avance is a very active Path user, yet question mark appears in his auto location updates despite posting a photo earlier in the day. 

    Checking my friend panel, Brandon is an active Path user. 

    Since nudge is essentially a user-to-user notification system, my estimation from the previous use cases is that nudge is assigning a question mark to users who have not created content in recent days that are not authored by Path’s technology (auto-posting). Since some posts are auto-generated, Path is encouraging users to bug each other about their daily life, sort of like sending a “what’s up” text to your friend. 

    Since nudge motivates users to create content, nudge could be deployed to enhance user profiles. Nudges could also be used to suggest books, movies, and music to friends.

    Path suggest photo update 

    Nudge as a method of user generated reactivation is a fascinating and bold engagement strategy. Traditional social products position users more as consumers rather than producers. For example, 40% of Twitter’s daily active users, on average, tweet only once a month. Nudging is attempting to de-program Path users away from other social networking sites and break the network effect. Rather than using auto-mated emails or spamming social streams to pull users back, Path uses 100% user generated notifications. Bold.

    Notifications menu

    Path 2.5 introduces a new robust notification system. An alert message with a corresponding number now appears in a user’s home screen. 

    Path 2.5 takes a similar methodology as Facebook with “double” or “mirrored” notifications (lists with notifications). Notifications appear in an alert box with a corresponding number and in the left panel.  

    Path 2.5 also introduces friend notifications. These are also located in the left panel.

    This implementation is one UI criticism I have with Path 2.5. The friend notification panel is quite cluttered and some use cases produce an indiscernible notification. For example, the above image displays interactions between Kevin and Michael and my friend Eddie Badrina discussing something exciting, but I have no clue from the notification panel. 

    Another challenge with Path 2.5’s friend notification panel is the metaphysical battle to the extent at which Path desires to show non-relevant, second degree interactions (recall that the purpose of Path is to connect those closest around you). In the current pane design, the focus appears to be on any interaction my Path friends have with their network. More often than not, second degree Path connections (friends of friends) content will overwhelm the content generated by my first degree Path connections, due to the certainty that second degree networks are larger than first degree networks. While I desire to know what my first degree Path connections are up too, the friend notification panel will probably produce mostly loosely relevant content. 

    This is the first iteration of the friend notifications panel. I suspect solid improvements will come in future updates.

    Viewing a friend’s content

    By selecting a post, Path utilizes profile photos to display users who have viewed or interacted with the post. These profile photos are also a channel to make new Path connections. Taking a cue from Facebook web, Path should test the concept of displaying the name of the Path user on first tap over sending me to the user profile page. This feature will help a Path user discover new connections quicker. 

    Friend Suggestions

    Path 2.5 beefs up friend suggestions with a targeted methodology. Path 2.5 ranks suggestions according to active status within Path. 

    Path’s decision to rank friend suggestions by activity is very smart. For Path to grow in the right way, it is crucial to create connections between active users. A “connection to no where” reinforces the virulent ghost town perception that can kill a social network. Google + had to learn this lesson the hard way. 

    However, I am not too bullish on this channel because I believe Path’s market is disparate and heterogenous. The likihood of X friend is also a close friend with Y seems quite low; however, expanding the breadth of data used to suggest friends might improve the possibility of common close friend. Utilizing second degree friend networks, aka “friends of friends”, as a measuring stick for friend relevancy might improve UX and deliver the sense that Path “knows me”.

    The model works like this: Path 1 makes a connection with Path 2. Path 1 now has two first degree connections with a second degree connection. Since Path 1 has two non-connected friends who are also friends with this second degree connection, the probability might be high that Path 1 should add this second degree contact as a friend.

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    Path 2.5 has made solid improvements in fostering intimacy between users. If the data from nudge reveals an uptick in engagement, expect that feature to be copied by several startups almost instantly. Path is leading the way in building a mobile social network based on quality, not quantity. Path 2.5 definitely reflects a continued commitment to high quality connections. 

    In my final post, I will summarize my improvements and growth hacks for Path 2.5. Subscribe to receive my final post and other growth hacking tips in your inbox.

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