A friend of mine, who has achieved repeated success in high-tech startup land, said something profound that has stuck with me ever since.
He said that if you want to be successful, focus on segments where <10% of the crowd currently adopts the solution, and by virtue of dramatically simplifying the approach, you can toggle adoption rates to closer to 90%.
The most basic example of this precept in action is Twitter, which has taken the otherwise (relatively) complex process of blogging, and made it as easy as typing 140 characters.
But, as Twitter proves, knowing HOW to post is not the same as knowing WHAT to post, which brings me to a second axes in the 'Changing Adoption Rates' axiom; namely, that if you can convert and Infrequently Performed Tasks into High Frequency ones, the utility you are delivering to your target user will go through the roof.
Posterous: Copy-and-Post in Context
Enter Posterous, a micro-blogging tool (it's free) that does a few things really well:
Creating Posts is as Easy as Copy-and-Post: What this means is that let's say that your are reading a great article at ESPN.com on Ron Artest's early play as a Laker. You can simply scroll your mouse over a favorite picture or blurb from the article, and click the Posterous bookmarket which creates a Short Post that looks like this (click on graphic to see full size view). From this window, you can change the title, add personal comments, refine what's included in the post, etc. The elegance of this model is that I now find myself effortlessly creating 4-7 posts a dayon my Posterous blog, netgarden's posterous, versus the 2-3 posts a week that I create on my "serious blog,"The Network Garden, which is more focused on long-form articles.
Creating Posts in Context is Intuitive and Simple: What this means is that creating a post from excerpted content, such as a comment, picture, video or blurb is done in a manner that retains a clean anchor to the contextual boundaries of the original article (click on graphic below to see full size view). By that, I mean a link is automatically incorporate inline within the Posterous post to the original content, and any excerpted text is clearly offset from your personal text in the post (example HERE ). Plus, the post is date stamped, and tags and new comments are easily added to refine the context moving forward. Moreover, subsequent edits to the post are brain dead simple via a WYSIWYG web based post editing tool. One use case that I have found particularly compelling is turning comments that I have written in response to other people's posts into Posterous posts. Here, I simply scroll my mouse over my comment, click the Posterous bookmarklet, make my refinements, and I now have a Comment Post (example HERE).
Autoposting Connects the Dots to Twitter and Facebook: For those of us that have multiple social media accounts (think: Flickr, Twitter, personal blog, Facebook), there is always a dilemma of where to post what, and whether to replicate posts across multiple sites. This dilemma is even more vexing since, whereas Twitter tweets are limited to 140 character text and links, Facebook posts can include pictures, text and video of variable lengths, and personal blogs are as custom as you want to get. Here, Posterous really shines, giving you the ability to autopost your posterous posts to one or more services, defaulting the title of the post as the Twitter tweet, and giving you a measure of granularity on a post by post basis to autopost or not (you can also autopost after posting if it was a post that you opted NOT to originally autopost, a method I use when I have queued up multiple posts that I don't want to blast my friends and followers with in rapid succession). Two nits here, though, are that: 1) I would like to see Posterous add a character count in the Short Post title so I know how many characters I still have available so my tweet is not clipped; and 2) I would like to see better granularity of WHAT is autoposted to different services, since the handling methods between Facebook and Twitter, as an example, are so different.
Post by Email Intelligently: Ironically, one of the core differentiators of Posterous is one that I don't use, but the idea is that Posterous makes it easy for you to send an email with an attachment, such as a bunch of photos, and it will not only convert the email into a nicely formatted post, but it will take the attachment(s) (in this case pictures), and render them as a slide show, or other intelligent container, as appropriate (see below).
Simple Analytics/Management Dashboard: The analog that you can not improve what you don't measure was clearly not lost on the folks at Posterous, who not only give you a decent, simple dashboard for tracking which posts are popular, but also the product is exceedingly 'forgiving' in letting you tweak and refine your posts after the fact. My only wish list item here is that Posterous make it easier to view the traffic history of all of my posts on one page (versus limiting to tracking five posts on the main Manage screen).
Futures and Wish List: If you can't tell from my comments above, I REALLY like this product, but even excellent offerings can get better, so in no particular order:
- Scheduling Posts : When you read as much as I do, and you read in blocks of time, you will often find that 5-6 articles may inspire you to post in a short time period. Doing so, however, mucks with the signal-to-noise ratio of your audience, which a post scheduling option can remedy.
- Better Handling Logic for Twitter and Facebook (plus LinkedIn support): As noted above, I would really like to see a character count(down) in the Short Post UI so that I know how many characters I have left to play with to refine what will be auto-posted into a tweet. Better granularity of output handling for Facebook and support for LinkedIn (which I understand is coming) is on the nice-to-have list.
- Related Posts : When you accumulate a library of many posts, you often find that a given post was inspired by one or more other prior posts. In my main blog at The Network Garden I reconcile this by manually creating a Related Posts footer with title and links to 2-5 posts. This has done wonders in terms of cross-pollinating my content, and certainly could be even more powerful if it was algorithmically generated (the latter is a nice to have, though).
- Hot Pages/New/Popular/Recently Viewed/Related : Today, very little about Posterous feels like a community, other than it providing an automated conduit to your OTHER social services. While the service features an Explore Posterous option for newbies, it would take very little work to create a top level auto-generated page with tabbed views that spotlights What's Hot (featured), New (recently posted), Popular (in terms of viewcounts and/or comments); or Recently Viewed (recently viewed posts). Similarly, as Posterous supports tagging, it would be relatively straightforward to cloud up tagged data across Posterous sites to show visitors Related Content, as a way of deepening engagement for visitors and creating cross-pollination across Posterous sites. This could even be a reciprocity option for site builders, ala a linkshare program.
- Bit.ly support : Posterous supports its own URL shortening domain, post.ly, but to the extent that bit.ly is more of the standard, has wider integration with Twitter/Facebook client apps, and deeper all-around analytics functions, this is pretty important.
- Deep Profile : Social media is all about finding like minds based upon shared interests, and the user profile is the jump point where a lot of the traversal happens. Posterous is pretty one-dimensional in this area, and should get better over time.
- The Library of the Commons : I have put a lot of clock cycles into ruminating on the question of what happens when you catalog (in short post form) the universally shared index of photos, videos, business listings, wikipedia entries, product listings, etc. proliferating across the web. My thesis is that you end up needing some kind of rolodex, what I call an Infodex, to organize, manage and share these listings. Needless to say, this is a bucket that Posterous could add a lot of value around, or as a platform play, could facilitate third-parties creating like apps around. A simple start might be a list building tool that allows users to flag favorite posterous posts and organize them into Top N Lists.
- Mobile Applications : There is a lot more value than simply facilitating Picture Posts that Posterous could capture around Places and Products, to name two low-bar examples.
Posterous is free, so do check it out.