We talked in our last post about the importance of user retention and engagement – it doesn’t matter how quickly or cheaply you can acquire users if none of them stay on your app. But how do you engage your users and keep them coming back?

I think it’s instructive to look at the top apps. From top app charts, you’ll see that the majority of top apps are apps that connect people – social media, messaging, or utility apps with a strong social component like Yelp or Tinder (“utility app” = app that is a tool for accomplishing some specific task). We heard a talk the other day where a product lead at Spotify said showing new users the playlist of a current user during onboarding is one of the single most effective ways to retain that new user. If you look closer at a specific social category, i.e. messaging apps, you’ll find that they have double the 1 month retention rates of the average app, growing to a 5.6x advantage in 12 month retention rates.

This is the power of connection and community, where app users can engage each other rather than relying on the app admin to bomb them with push notifications

Now, you might think that with these results, every app would be a social app. Yet from our experience building 30+ apps ourselves and using several hundreds more, I would say that most apps are content and utility apps with either no social component, or a throwaway comment section at the end.

But there is no reason that should be the case. While not every app should be social (although a social flashlight app would be hilarious – “shine a light on your creepiest places and post up a picture!”), many apps have a latent community of users. Content apps, for example, often have users who are very passionate about what they’re consuming (i.e. sports, news, fashion, etc). There’s no reason why that community cannot be activated with the right featureset and UX. And if that featureset can take advantage of what makes messaging apps so darn sticky, that’d be even better.

Over the next few weeks we’ll tackle some specific examples of building a social community, and also take a deeper look into what makes messaging apps so engaging. Stay tuned!