Today we are both proud and excited to share what we believe is truly a plan to onboard the masses to Steem and to realize our vision of
an open web where anyone can be a part and own a part.
Since the beginning, one of our goals has been to onboard many of the WordPress blogs and websites out there, which currently makes up 30% of the internet. To achieve this, it has been vital to not only provide a unique and compelling product, but also an onboarding process that is easy and effortless for the new users and their audiences, while also efficient and scalable for us. Next for growth to truly take off, is ensuring that more active users create a network effect that brings in more users at an exponential rate.
In short, user growth on 4 key factors namely exposure, conversion, retention and network effect. In other words the number of new people introduced to Steem through various channels (exposure), times the rate that create a Steem account (conversion), times the rate that stays active (retention), and finally the number of new people they help introduce to Steem through content and other outreach (network effect). Unfortunately, these are all four areas where Steem and several Steem-apps (including SteemPress) have much to improve. We believe, especially with regards to:
- user onboarding
- user experience and retention
- network effect and external reach
To which our new solutions, which are also the steps in our new roadmap, are:
- A quality-focused referral program targeting specific growth segments.
- Instant sign up to engage with content for new visitors.
- A curation policy and voting guidelines built to encourage and support user and community growth.
- Gamification and positive reinforcement through design.
- Connect users to community projects, support their growth, and offer chances to contribute to shared goals.
To better see how these issues and solutions are related to growing Steem and SteemPress as well as onboarding the masses, we've summarized it in the following infographic:
We hope you'll be as excited as we are these days after reading our plan. Below we will elaborate on why we believe they are key to solving the problems, how we will implement them and what we will be delivering and allowing the community to contribute to.
A quality-focused referral program targeting specific growth segments
Next week we will launch our new referral program together with the early version of our new website. Here, Steemians can access their referral link which will direct a visitor to our new sign up page for blogs looking to connect their WordPress website to Steem. We will then provide free accounts to blogs that can verify their website through their own WordPress dashboard and which meets a set of criteria including site traffic, engagement and social media following. The referrer will then be set as part-benefactor to future rewards earned by the accounts they onboard, as well as passively receiving a share of future payments the user makes to SteemPress once our subscription-based version is launched. We will also launch a competition alongside the new referral program where the best referrers will receive a liquid amount of STEEM.
An effective referral program can play a big role in user onboarding. Especially on a platform where existing users have direct incentives to help the Steem ecosystem grow to increase the value of their token and the sustainability of their STEEM-based revenue. Additionally, with referrers earning benefactor rewards on the new Steem accounts they onboard, they'll have additional incentives to help them succeed once here to increase their earnings.
Making the referral program only for blogs who can verify that they own a blog with decent traffic and social media reach also adds 2 more benefits. First, it eliminates the opportunity to be abused. This is key as it could otherwise result in Steem accounts being wasted on low-value referrals made only in the hope of gaining rewards. Second, it allows us to prioritize growth segments we believe have the most potential coming to Steem. We want our early referrers to help us target potential new users that are large enough to bring value to Steem, yet small enough that the value propositions and still existing hurdles of Steem are worth their time. Furthermore, prioritizing the growth of specific topics one at a time can help increase the likelihood of it being a success.
To start, we will require that the referred account has a proper blog, has produced content for at least a few months already, have a decent following on social media (5k+ on at least one platform), and ideally also reached an Alexa rating in the top 1 million.
Instant access to engaging with content followed by Steem account creation
SteemPress now allow visitors of any of our user's blogs to engage with the content and leave a comment on the blockchain without a Steem account. This is done through creating a new "guest account", which we introduced in our most recent update. In short, visitors now only have to enter a display name, a password and an email to engage with content like they're used to on any other site. At the same time, we inform them both through email and our UI of the opportunity to "upgrade" to a Steem account to get full ownership over their account, support their favorite authors, and earn rewards.
The biggest challenge to "onboard the masses" for Steem-based apps has been the signup process. This both due to Steem accounts being scarce and costly, as well as the process being tedious and confusing for new users. This leads directly to a low conversion rate to Steem, as any barrier to entry lowers the number who successfully creates an account. Additionally, it also hurts content creators who want high engagement on their content in order to keep visitors coming back to their blogs. Finally, providing Steem accounts for free without any requirements quickly become costly for those who provide the accounts if it gets abused or wasted on users who just want to leave a comment.
By allowing people to engage and interact with content at minimal requirements, and then put them on a pathway to connect a Steem account later, we create a win for the site visitors, the blogs and ourselves. The visitors experience a far more convenient signup process and can engage immediately. They will also experience a smoother learning curve without receiving the information overload that a full Steem account often comes with. The returning site visitors can then instead learn by doing and then claim a Steem account later. This also makes it harder to get by abusers, making it far less costly for the account provider. Finally, it is crucial for all our top bloggers to get as much engagement as possible which results directly into more traffic to their website, and thus also to Steem via their comment section.
A public curation policy built for growth
We are preparing an official document that will contain our curation policy and voting guidelines. The policy will explain the goals of our curation to support our growth strategy. The guidelines will detail how our accounts will curate to achieve those goals. In summary, the pillars of our goals are: To grow our userbase, to support complementary community growth, to maximize the external value of produced content and engagement, and to ensure responsible use and positive outcome for the rest of Steem, whose value we ultimately depend on. With the ultimate objective being to best align how we curate with what creates the most value to us and to Steem.
The planned voting guidelines will include factors that determine which of our users we vote on and by how much. These currently include:
- Incoming number of comments on the posts.
- Outgoing comments and replies to site visitors and other SteemPress blogs.
- Number of guest accounts created and guest comments through your website.
- Guest account earnings on your content.
- Outgoing vote diversity (curating different Steem accounts).
- Unique page views on the blog.
- Improved Alexa-rating of the website over time.
- Votes received from curation projects.
- Incoming vote diversity (attracting different users and curators).
Other growth incentives
- Powering up / not powering down (we note who buys STEEM with SBDs and powers up).
- Making overall progress in terms of earnings.
- The number of successful referrals made through SteemPress.
All of these factors will help determine the "rating" that a SteemPress user has, which in turn affects if they'll be receiving upvotes from our account, and if so, how much. This rating will be visible to the user in their new dashboard once it is fully launched.
The other half of SteemPress's curation is still intended to be done through community project trails, of which we currently support 25 different curation initiatives. A different set of guidelines will apply for what makes a curation project able to receive a trail, and the factors above will still have an effect on the size of outgoing votes through trails.
We believe that the resulting transparency of making our policy and guidelines public both to our users and the Steem community, in general, can several benefits. First, it allows community input on the content of our curation policy in general and what other goals it may have or impacts it ought to consider. Second, it anybody to help evaluate the effectiveness of our guidelines in accomplishing the stated goals in the policy. Further, it provides clarity to our users (which will also happen through gamification as we'll see next) on what contributions and behaviors are desired which will result in fair curation.
Rewards are still one of the most important reasons why people are on Steem. So providing a clear understanding of how rewards can be earned, and then follow up with curation that is experienced as fair to the user is key to ensure a better retention rate as well as user growth. On top of this, Steem stakeholders and apps with delegations also have the ability to incentivise positive behaviors that helps grow Steem. By factoring in engagement, traffic, user-onboarding on top of quality, we believe we can use curation more strategically to grow both Steem and SteemPress.
Unfortunately for Steem, users so far have mostly been incentivized to share their content only with other stakeholders who hold Steem Power in order to gain upvotes and thus rewards. This works directly opposite to how any other social network and blogging platform, where users who want to earn needs to attract more site visitors, engagement and clicks on their page.
The goal should be a positive cycle where users are incentivized to help Steem grow for their own benefit, resulting in new users who again wants to help Steem grow, etc. If we can better align incentives with behaviors that help improve exposure, onboarding, retention and external value, we'll be setting ourselves up for success.
Gamification and positive reinforcement
To amplify the effect of good curation guidelines, and help improve user onboarding, retention, and participation, we will be making strategic use of gamification and positively reinforcing design.
Users who create a "guest account" through email to engage with blogs will be put on a pathway to earn a free Steem account through engaging with content. A level-up bar will show much their comments have earned them from upvotes, and that reaching 5 Steem Power will allow them to claim a free Steem account. They'll also find a recommended set of activities to help them receive votes in order to progress. They are also encouraged to connect an existing or buy a new Steem account to immediately access anything their guest comments have earned them.
Blog owners will be introduced to the curation guidelines as a set of suggestions for how they can improve their chance of being curated by SteemPress and the many curation projects that we work with. Additionally, it will be educating the user about Steem in the process by introducing Steem communities, how voting and reward mechanisms work, how to access their funds and thus what the different keys are for, etc. All of this will take place directly in our new UI found across SteemPress comment sections in our new user profiles on steempress.io (work in progress), and the upcoming content and community discovery dashboard.
We believe that providing better clarity on how Steem works, the existence of communities, alternative interfaces, and other supportive applications, can all result in improved user retention. A more fun and educating path to understand Steem and receive rewards can also improve user experience. Finally, by providing gamified objectives that correlate with the activities that promote growth, we can direct efforts also into creating a platform that is more engaging and attracts more external value.
Positive reinforcement through design
The rapid growth and user retention of traditional social media has been largely due to addictive design techniques. Here, the most important KPI for all of them has been the average "time-on-site" spent by the userbase on the platform. Thus, all design decisions are made to make it more addictive to spend time on the app.
Steem, although it has done very little yet to capitalize on this, ought to have a competitive advantage here, namely rewards and a sense of co-ownership. Unlike most other social media platforms, time spent by regular users on Steem is worth something. This both through earning new tokens, as well as contributing to those tokens gaining value by growing Steem, a platform that you own. We will make more strategic use of this by providing users with reminders of the value of time spent on Steem through our UI. We'll do this by displaying the rewards earned over the past 7 days directly in the profile UI when logged in across SteemPress interfaces and settings pages. Periodic notifications will also congratulate users on reaching certain milestones to reinforce the idea of time-well-spent. Notifications can also be made of discussions taking place on other SteemPress blogs where commenters are receiving upvotes or where users they have liked in the past are currently engaging. Being on Steem should feel rewarding, and strengthening that feeling for normal users can directly improve user-retention on top of motivating positive engagement that leads to growth.
Community as a platform
Finally, we will provide a dedicated content and community "Discover" platform, as well as a new series of activities for community members to actively contribute. The discover page will serve two functions: 1. to let users find blogs and creators worth following, communities worth joining, as well as curation projects in order to improve user retention and engagement. 2. to give Steem Power holders a place to find curation projects worth supporting through delegations or trails with the option to do so directly on the page. The activities will be a set of competitions and "call for ideas" on topics that directly relate to improving Steem marketing, onboarding, retention and network effect.
We believe strongly in the positive impact of user-run curation projects and other community initiatives. That's why half of our curation has been bone through trailing more than 25 different curation projects when they vote on SteemPress content. We find this approach to curation better for a couple of reasons. First, it decentralizes the curation process and produces an outcome that better reflects proof of brain. Second, it allows us to cover a much wider range of topics and languages than we could have achieved with an in-house curation team. Finally, it directly supports curation projects by improving the curation rewards they receive when our vote follows theirs. This we hope can both have tremendous value for community and curation growth in the current Hardfork, but also help make delegating to such projects more attractive for other stakeholders.
We thus want to make it as easy and attractive as possible for stakeholders to find and support the curation projects that contribute to growth. We believe that by combining manual curation judgment on the quality of content with our own guidelines, we can get the best of two worlds. First, a community validation of user-value, followed by a business validation of growth-contribution. So let's create a scenario where:
Steem apps + Communities = True
That's why we've decided that rather than asking for Steemians to delegate to us, we want to encourage delegation to the many community and curation projects that help us work and grow. After all, our own voting power is here not for us to profit from curation rewards, but for us to create the maximum amount of growth that our business can benefit from.
We believe that an ideal decentralized app for social applications should be more than decentralized code. It should also be a network for people with different skills and interests with a shared incentive to bring value to the network they own a part in and to help other community members gain traction. We will therefore also start a series of competitions where community members can get involved and earn rewards by contributing not only to our goals but to grow our users and related communities. The clue is to find tasks where we know the community members can do a great job, and where it also benefits both our users and Steem directly. We will then give a share of our reward as a price pool to good entries. We expect to run these on a monthly basis and currently plan on the first ones being:
- Referral program launch competition.
- Best content marketing material.
- Best Steem educational content.
- Best new user and minnow supporters.
We hope that by allowing the community to get more involved, and contribute to the growth that they can benefit from themselves directly, we can multiply our numbers further. After all, we hope that this can provide both a vision and platform that people want to be a part of, taking ownership of, and bring to life for their own sake. To accomplish this we know we must also dare to give the community the chance to participate and reward contributions accordingly, while also putting more SP behind the projects that work hard to realize our shared goals.
We believe we have found the right solutions to our most significant obstacles to growth and prepared a strategy and roadmap that can address them effectively while also setting us and you up for success. This includes a scalable marketing and onboarding resource and strategy that grows with the number of users to improve exposure. Then followed by frictionless access for both new quality creators as well as their audience to Steem to improve conversion. Once here, clear guidelines and gamification to give a pathway from a beginner to a user who adds value to Steem, is part of the community and experiences their time on Steem as time-well-spent in order to improve retention. Lastly, by providing a platform and incentives designed for user and community success, with opportunities to be and own a part, we can allow users to grow Steem while growing themselves, thus naturally creating a network effect.
Our new roadmap thus consists of adding these pieces.
Much of the work to achieve this already been carried out during a crypto-winter that has required us to rethink how we can deliver value to our users and how we can scale fast without requiring any changes to the blockchain.
So dear Steem community, we invite you to join our effort to accelerate user growth, retention and network effect, and to be a part of our vision to create a more open web where anyone can be a part and own a part. We would love to have your suggestions for how we can collectively bring more of the masses to Steem, and co-create the platform we all want to share.
All the best,
You can vote for our witness directly using Steemconnect here.