Why we’re building social layer for apps

This post was originally published on the Tapglue Blog when we launched our private beta a few weeks ago.

We are very excited to present Tapglue to the world. In our first blog post, we’d like to tell you a bit more about why we think it is a valuable service for the tech world, what our underlying assumptions and hypotheses are and how we think it can help app publishers and developers all over the world.

First, I would like to give you some context on what we actually do. Tapglue is a platform that enables developers to build social apps much easier and simpler. With our API we cover the three pillars that we consider the most relevant when building a social network / community:

  • Users
  • Friends
  • News Feed

Users are the basis for every community and every social network. Providing them with the opportunity to sign up for your app and create an account gives them a home in your product. This is essential to build a network.

Establishing connections amongst these users is the next step to make an app social. This can happen through a friends or a follower model (Tapglue covers both). By giving users a way to connect with each other you create a social graph around your product.

From our point of view, the most important feature to bring a social graph to life in an application is a news feed. You could also call it friends feed, activity stream or notifications. Also, it can look very differently from app to app. It always covers the same function though: It shows what my connections in this product are up to. A news feed is much more than a feature. Together with its underlying mechanics it is an essential piece in most social networks’ success and we will cover this topic in more detail with a dedicated blog post.

Besides considering our three major product pillars very essential pieces to build a successful social community, there are a number of reasons why we believe it’s the right time to build Tapglue.

Social networks move into verticals

Facebook and Twitter are the most important and relevant social networks today. If you look at the content that users engage with in those networks, it can be very broad and cover pretty much everything. Content ranges from Memes and Lolcats to deep essays about tech or politics. Looking at what powerful platforms Facebook and Twitter became it is very hard to imagine they will be substituted some time in the near future. At first, one could think it would not make a lot of sense to enter this space and compete with those giants.

Covering any type of content and including every kind of user (Facebook more than Twitter) makes it also extremely hard to be relevant for these hundreds of millions of users. Both networks are horizontal. Humans do not want horizontal offerings all the time though. People strive for individuality. Users have different tastes and use cases. That’s why vertical offerings (often going into niches) will always be relevant and successful. This is true in all areas of life (fashion, music, food, art, …) and therefore also for tech products.

There are already numerous examples for awesome networks that exist in verticals. Github (Coding), Spotify (Music) or EyEm (Smartphone Photography) are just some of them. We strongly believe that many more of these vertical networks will evolve. Some might take over whole verticals, some will happily exist in niches, but they have one thing in common: They will leverage networks effects to provide a better user experience, grow faster and make their product more sticky. We are the shortcut for those arising products. Building on top of the Tapglue platform lets creative and ambitious people build awesome networks much faster.

Product and marketing people shift their focus towards retention

When you launch a new product your top priority is naturally to spread the word and grow the user base. There’s no doubt that doing this is crucial for the success. At a certain point you will have to shift your focus more towards retaining these users though. Otherwise you will have a hard time to grow your user base: The more users you lose, the more users you will have to acquire in order to grow.

We are in the middle of this “shift in focus“ right now, especially in the mobile app industry. A few years ago the most important metric for mobile marketing people was the cost per install. How much do I need to pay to generate a user? It did not take long until people realized that a user isn’t a user and that there can be a huge difference in the quality of those. People started to look at the retention when doing user acquisition.Cohort analysis was the magic word and it seemed every tracking/analytics vendor was implementing it as a feature.

Obviously looking at the retention does not only make sense for new users. It is absolutely crucial to do this all the time for existing users, too. And the most successful products out there have been doing this for years and often have dedicated teams to do just that. Looking at the mobile app market it seems that these practices are now adopted by the masses. Remarketing providers pop up everywhere, mobile CRM solutions gain traction and analytics providers concentrate on features that help with retention.

As the focus of mobile app publishers shifts, they are looking for tools and activities that can help them with retaining users in more scalable and sustainable ways. By enabling those people to integrate social features with a fraction of the implementation work that used to be necessary, we will give them a highly powerful option that might have been out of reach before.

There are very few options to solve an app’s retention problem

Looking at the retention problem, there are very few things an app publisher or developer can do once he notices retention is an issue. We see three major options today:

  1. Data-informed product iteration
  2. Push Notifications
  3. Retargeting Ads

Number 1 is a must for anybody. There are awesome analytics tools out there that are helping with that. However, it is extremely challenging to a) identify the right insights and b) translate them into actions (features, improvements, design changes, …).

Number 2 and 3 are both highly relevant ways to improve an app’s success. Especially push notifications can be powerful, but it is crucial to have them integrated well into the product experience. Promotional pushes might re-activate some users, but they won’t improve the retention sustainably. Retargeting ads can be powerful, but mostly only make sense for eCommerce products. It’s very hard to use them cost efficiently if you don’t have a transaction-based business model with solid margins.

With Tapglue and especially our plug & play news feed we want to create an alternative that just has not been there yet. Although news and activity feeds are nothing new, leveraging their potential was limited to companies that heavily invest in the necessary infrastructure. Our API enables publishers and developers to make use of social news feeds on a much broader level and with a lot of innovative use cases.

(Mobile) Developers drive the API economy

Just a decade ago it was common to manage your own server infrastructure and build your whole software stack from scratch. For developers nowadays it is hard to imagine a world without cloud-computing services. Most importantly Amazon Web Services (AWS) has revolutionized the way we built software by offering powerful APIs. Today a wide range of great API services for various use cases increase development speed and reduce pain points. Think of Salesforce for CRM, Stripe for payment or Twilio for communication. APIs have become an important growth driver for hundreds of companies across all industries.

Through APIs developers integrate with specialized vendors which tackle specific challenges. Tapglue is the vendor that enables developers to easily build news feeds and a social graph (users and friends) into products. We dedicate all our know-how and passion to these challenges and we build a reliable, robust and secure platform that reduces pain points. So developers can concentrate on building great products that users love.

Check out www.tapglue.com for more information.