How to design social media interactions

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Social media platforms becoming more content-centred, engagement-driven and use sophisticated algorithms. Providing three major actions for us to play this game: post, reply and react.

As a product designer with numerous awesome projects under my belt I faced a challenge. I had to upgrade our community-based app with social media interactions. Basically to turn our existing group chat into a fully functional social media network. At first sight it seems like adding “Likes” and “Replies” to messages and letting it be.

Not quite…

During my research I found some fundamental things that need to be considered.

And Yes! I’m going to share them with you.

According to Understanding Social Media Platforms handbook we identify five distinct types of social platforms:

  • Messaging (e.g.WeChat)
  • Private social networks (e.g.Facebook)
  • Public social networks (e.g.Twitter)
  • Enterprise social platforms (e.g.Slack)
  • Communities (e.g.Reddit)

You have to keep in mind the type of social media as well as the market it belongs to. There is a reason why WeChat has realtime chatting and Facebook has posting and comment model. For example in Slack reactions and replying options hidden in the ui. That is because of the corporate specific of the product, it is enterprise social network made for collaboration.

Competitive analysis of social media platform (reactions and threading)

Another example Wisdo — community social platform for people with special experiences. We are placing it in the healthcare market despite it non-profit model. So Wisdo has all three reactions displayed in the message bubble: Like, Helpful, Been There. Making reaction action obvious, relative to the product and fast to add. All that serves the needs of the target audience.

In public social networks, as well as in online communities, participants generally follow the 1% rule:

  • 1% of users create the content
  • 9% engage with that content (e.g.share or retweet)
  • 90% just consume the content (aka lurkers)

Our goal is create comfortable environment and make experience as easy and rewardimg as possible when a user does try to get involved. Let’s keep ecosystem alive and it will pay you back with greater engament without spending tons of $ on marketing.

But how to transform 90 into 9 and 9 in to 1? Let’s find out.

So the primary job of 9% of your users is to react and to respond. These two actions has to be seamless and appropriate for your type of social media. But there are core differences between reaction and response:

  • A reaction is instant. It’s driven by the beliefs, biases, and prejudices of the unconscious
  • A response on the other hand usually comes more slowly. It weighs the long term effects and stays in line with your core values.

That’s why in some cases it is better to have primary reactions exposed on the message card or bubble, not hidden.

Replying could be done by many means, such as comment, mention or quote.

For example Skype uses quoting as form of reply. And I understand why — Skype is messaging platform based on real time chatting. There are no threading, chatting is inline because the time for respond is precious. With the same outcome they could potentially use mentions as form of reapplying.

On other hand Facebook and LinkedIn uses more convetional model of commenting the post. There is no real time aspect of conversation. You have more time to compose the reply taking into consideration the context of the message you replying to as well as environment of the discussion.

Message board could be done in two types: post feed (Facebook, LinkedIn) and group chat (Slack, WhatsApp, Telegram). The post feed consist of posts and posts with comments. The group chat consist of messages and replies. The difference is that post feed updates from top to bottom, group chat updates from bottom to top.

You have to cater your user experience properly. So here is the list of functions to make your product actually usable:

  • Mention users with the list of relevant users
  • Edit/Delete your message
  • Block/Report a user
  • List of people who reacted
  • Share a message internaly and externally
  • Send notifications after all primary events

After all these are the options to consider and to play with. Each social media platform has it’s own uniqueness. You have to decide what works best for your product.

10 is good, 20 is great, but 50 would be the best. Just press and hold the button. :P

Product Designer @ Facebook

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