I guess this should be a Feature Friday post but I write my posts based on what I am thinking about first thing in the morning and this is what I am thinking about right now.

I just went to Twitter like I always do first thing in the morning and this is what I saw in my timeline:

Welcome back to twitter

Right at the top of my timeline, Twitter is telling me that my friend Mark is active again on his Mediaeater handle. And they follow that with the suggestion that I tweet at him. This is the first time I've seen this kind of messaging from Twitter. And I like it.

If you go back to my 30/10/10 post, you will see that most web services and mobile apps only get 30% of their registered users to use the app at least once a month. The other 70% have largely gone away. But it doesn't mean they are gone for good. Getting them back should be a primary goal of any consumer web or mobile company.

Twitter has been working on this problem for years. I recall getting a presentation from their growth team at least three years ago that detailed how they were working on this problem. And they are still working on this problem. Most likely they will always be working on this problem.

You can email or spam in some other way your inactive users and that might work. But what you do once they come back is way more important. You have to figure out how to make the experience better than it was when they used it previously. Some of that will likely be that the product is much better because your and your team have improved it a lot. But some of that should be an engaging experience that somehow they did not get before.

When we get our various portfolio companies together, I like to ask them if they can identify one or two metrics that separates their successful and engaged users from their unsuccessful and inactive users. Most of the time the metric has something to do with engagement (they left a comment, they got a reply to a comment, they got a like on their photo, they had people follow them, etc, etc). Engaging with real humans, not just the machine, is the key in social systems. And most systems are social in some way.

Your inactive users are important cohort to focus on. There must have been something that got them to sign up for your service in the first place. So focus on getting them back, retaining them, and most importantly, engaging them.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Julien

    Well, this behavior is also a double edge sword. For example, not long ago, Twitter asked me to follow @zhitomirskiyi… who is now gone.There is always a huge risk at “interpreting” the user behaviors to trigger other social actions.

  2. Fernando Gutierrez

    What you say about separation between engaged and inactive being an interaction reminds me to when you signed up in MySpace and your were friended by the ceo/founder.

    1. fredwilson


    2. Dave Pinsen

      I (and 8,000+ other users) have been friended by the CEO/co-founder of Fitocracy, who has done an impressive job of building an engaged community.

      1. Fernando Gutierrez

        The bad thing about this automatic friending is that it’s automatic. It’s like an email, you don’t interact. If going this way I think it’s better if new users are friended by one different employee, not necessarily the ceo. Someone who has the time to make contact. This doesn’t scale into the millions, but with a few employees sharing the task it can be done for the first few thousands without a problem.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          I don’t think it’s automatic. He doesn’t follow everyone who follows him.

          1. Fernando Gutierrez

            That’s cool. I wasn’t thinking in that case in particular because I don’t know the service, but that makes that friending much more valuable.

  3. Barry Nolan

    Users rarely make a purposeful decision to quit an app – rather the app slowly fades from view. In mobile we call it the app ghetto – screens 3 to n; never to be seen again.Facebook are the master of email + your poke/tag/friends invoking twitching curtain curiosity, user retention and killer MAU. For non social its a lot harder but equally important to automate retention – sometimes simply saying – see what’s new, or asking their views.

    1. fredwilson


  4. Dave Pinsen

    Saw this too. It’s an interesting idea, but can’t say I’ve taken one of the suggestions yet. My “friend” Twitter mentioned was someone who I wouldn’t even consider a Twitter friend — probably someone who followed me once and I reflexively followed him back.Since this post is about Twitter, I’ll mentioned another thought I had about their advertising / promoted tweets, something I was planning to email you about, but hadn’t gotten around to doing yet.In a previous post, I lamented that Twitter didn’t let advertisers enter key words when buying promoted tweets. After reflecting on that (and trying their promoted tweets again), I think that may be a feature, rather than a bug for Twitter. By using data from an advertiser’s Twitter account (mainly, the types of users who follow the advertiser already), Twitter can find similar users to show the promoted tweets to. From an advertiser’s perspective, that eliminates the time-consuming choices of the sort you have to make when setting up a Google Adwords campaign.From Twitter’s perspective, it gives an advertiser/user an incentive to tweet non-spammy, informative content — the kind of content that will attract the sort of users the advertiser wants to advertise to. The only choice feature I would add if I were Twitter is one that lets advertisers select what sort of devices their ads appear on. So, for example, if you are advertising an iPhone app, you should be able to limit it so that your ad only appears on iPhones.

    1. fredwilson

      that is exactly why they do it

    2. awaldstein

      Thanks for this info Dave.With Portfolio Armor and existing customers, trial users, you have opted in email as a channel for communicating.I can see Twitter where there is a strong investor base already for acquisition potentially and for general marketing but for churn and engagement on current customers, my bet is that email is the golden channel for you.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Thanks for the suggestion about email. Interesting you mention that.I’m not offering free trials at this point; someone DMed me on Twitter last week, asking for a trial, and I told him that requires manual support that’s inefficient, given current demand. He joined a few hours later.But it turns out that, due to some Apple technical issues, we will have to collect email addresses of iOS app users who sign up for in-app subscriptions. So that may prove to be a promising retention channel.

    3. ShanaC

      to me, it sounds like there are still bugs to work out. I’m generally the type that while you should have minimal setup, more targeting options generally tends to be better. For those who want to think about targeting/arbitrage targeting, having more options is always a good idea.

  5. William Mougayar

    “Most likely they will always be working on this problem.”This worries me a bit about Twitter if they are thinking that way.Do you have to be reminded to go on the Web daily? No.I thought Twitter users could find more natural & compelling ways to get engaged, instead of being gamed by their friends with this kind of a bait.There are more meaningful & valuable things about Twitter, but I’m not sure that this mild intervention is one of them. It lowers Twitter a bit, in my opinion.

    1. fredwilson

      the have hundreds of millions of people who have tried it but aren’t active they also have hundreds of millions of people who use it every dayi would be working on the hundreds of millions who aren’t active every single day

      1. Barry Nolan

        The amount of web real estate the devote to welcome back tweet illustrates the value they place on re-engagement.

        1. pointsnfigures

          I like Twitter’s suggested follower feature. Twitter is only as good as who you follow. It’s garbage in/garbage out. Or, it’s value in/create more value out

      2. William Mougayar

        I think they need a combination of push and pull. The bottoms-up push can be complemented by a top-down market pull about why users go on Twitter.Twitter’s marketing doesn’t exist except from inside their system? Maybe it’s time for those compelling TV commercials with real stories about how Twitter is changing lives and businesses.



    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I love it when Twitter helps me be a better Tweeter πŸ™‚ To me, this is sort of like someone handing me a stamped addressed envelope with a birthday card inside and saying, “It’s William’s birthday. Just sign here.”I’m not sure if their way of trying to bring back dormant users is effective. I haven’t experienced it directly. But I don’t feel “gamed” by my friends when Twitter helps me keep up with them.

  6. markmay

    I’d love to hear other examples of what innovative companies are doing to reactivate users. I think LinkedIn has made some real strides here in the last yr – e.g., endorsements, people you may know, etc.

    1. JimHirshfield

      LinkedIn, definitely has hooks into me thru email. Sending compelling and useful email messages, alerts, etc is key to bringing users back.

      1. fredwilson

        I agree

  7. Tom Labus

    Twitter needs to push this stuff out to TweetDeck. I rarely “log in” to Twitter.

    1. Aaron Klein

      I can’t remember the last time I logged into Twitter. Largely use Tweetbot. Pretty sure that counts because I don’t get reactivation emails.

  8. JimHirshfield

    It’s a nice touch…like when a new commenter shows up here, or one that hasn’t been seen in a while, @fredwilson:disqus is good about saying “welcome…come on in and join us…”

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. Welcome is about acquisition and “welcome back” is about retention

  9. John Revay

    “Your inactive users are important cohort to focus on…….. So focus on getting them back, retaining them, and most importantly, engaging them.”I work for this guy ( actually he is a mentor in my life), when we talk about sales..he always talks about selling more to your existing customers….they already know you and you know them…Great post, I especially liked the 30/10/10 link – it was before my time here on AVC.

    1. fredwilson

      In Sept we will have our 10th anniversary. The archive has thousands of posts!

      1. falicon

        …and all that great content is searchable πŸ˜‰

        1. fredwilson

          yes, thanks to youi did find some weirdness in the search this morningi searched for 30/10/10 and didn’t get my posti found it with this query 30% MUA (or maybe DAU)

          1. falicon

            doh – sorry about that…I will debug and fix (prob. an issue with the slash)

      2. ShanaC

        are you planning anything fun (or can we do a fundraiser, we didn’t do one this year πŸ™ )

        1. John Revay

          I will bring something – 10 yrs is either Diamonds or Tin – Would probably lean towards some thing from Etsy made from Tin πŸ™‚

          1. ShanaC

            ha. What does digital tin look like πŸ™‚

        2. fredwilson

          Good question

          1. ShanaC


      3. John Revay

        I have often thought about how long it would take to go back to the beginning and read through each post…and each comment ( w/ comments sorted oldest).It would be very interesting to see what trends existed – I recall once reading a post back mid 2000’s where Fred was talking about MS….- I think that boat has already sailed.

        1. falicon

          Longer than it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Toostie Pop…that’s for sure.

  10. Peter Frank

    Facebook does a very similar thing. One of my friends made the conscious decision to discontinue actively using Facebook, so he would constantly show up on his friend’s news feeds to “Ask Connor what’s new!” or “Give Connor a poke.” Really just anything to re-engage.I’ve got to think that Facebook is both an expert at this, and also a company that (relatively) doesn’t need to focus on re-engaging an inactive population of their users.

  11. LIAD

    An edge case. But nonetheless…Reactivation needs to be intelligent & considerate.I’ve been active on Twitter for 5 years. Multiple daily tweets etc.When by father got sick suddenly a few months ago I completely stopped all Twitter activity. I didn’t have the headspace for it and also felt the frivolity there wasn’t appropriate for the situation I unfortunately found myself in.Within a short period of time I started getting spammy reactivation emails. Some of them callously, and hopefully inadvertently, labelled ‘RESURRECTION’ emails!Twitter should have been intelligent enough to realise a long-term engaged user doesn’t cease all activity overnight without reason and that relatively infantile reactivation attempts only serve as a turn-off.Products with strong value propositions have an indelible pull to them. We can’t forget about them absentmindedly. We may however make a conscious decision to withdraw.When I felt ready to re-engage, after my loss, I reactivated *myself* on Twitter. I didn’t need any nagging reminders.Coincidentally that day was yesterday. I sent my first tweet in over 100 days and feel all the better for it.

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Well said. Welcome back. RIP x.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      It’s using a bit of “intuition” or rather common sense.

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Turing Test stuff.

    3. fredwilson

      That’s a great point and a nuance I am sure Twitter doesn’t totally appreciate yet

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Understanding of nuance comes with time and experience.

    4. JLM

      .Sorry for your loss. Good to see you back.JLM.

    5. RichardF

      my condolences to you and your family Liad

    6. falicon

      Thank you for sharing that story as it’s great advice and something to think about…and very sorry to hear about your loss.

    7. ShanaC

      A) baruch dayan emet.b) I got to say, the christology of those emails are sort of sadly funny.c) what counts these days as long term “engaged?” what us the lifetime of a user in social media (compared to say general media or ecommerce)

      1. Cam MacRae

        re b) perhaps the tweeps are actually culturally sensitive greek mythology nerds? πŸ˜‰

        1. ShanaC

          I don’t know, but when I saw it, I had to snicker a bit…

    8. andyidsinga

      sorry for your loss. take care.

    9. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I think “please come back” messages usually fall flat, no matter what the circumstances of the recipient.I’m surprised they don’t play to their strength, which is to send you updates on people you’ve put on a list or reTweeted or mentioned a lot. I think that would be a much more engaging way to bring you back, and even if it didn’t bring you back, you might actually like seeing the “news” while away. In any case, it’s much more compelling than “we miss you!”

      1. anne weiler

        If you don’t know why someone left, it’s inevitable please come back won’t work. (Same in real life. πŸ˜‰ )

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen


    10. William Mougayar

      yeah, what happened to a plain and simple. “we miss you”sorry to hear about your loss.

  12. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    of all the social media tools, twitter has been the one that I stuck with the longest and continue to use it heavily. My main problem with twitter is the high noise to signal ration. One twitter client app that caught my interest recently is Neatly ( which claims to change “timeline from time-based into interest-based (I have yet to try it). I will stay engaged on twitter but tools to make my stay more productive are always welcomed!

    1. fredwilson

      The thing I love about Twitter is that isn’t relationship based or interest based. It is both. I need both in my timeline

      1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        Yes but organizing these relationships or interests could be very powerful. In fact, it might lead me to increase my usage with the increase organization.

  13. Matt A. Myers

    I first started to understand retention when I was around 12 years old, while I was developing / creating my MUD. I had learned there were certain minimum features people had come to expect, that all modern competing MUDs were offering – and that the most popular always had one or many systems the others didn’t.When I was 14 I started a hosted message board service – it was free. I was against having ads on it. In retrospect I wish I had good role models, as what had happened was it started reaching 1,000,000 visitors monthly very quickly – and so at the time I simply couldn’t afford it (perhaps if I had put ads up, though unsure), so I shut it down.I still have a deep understanding of the value of these things, and it’s certainly has helped me evolve a framework further for everything I’m doing.

    1. fredwilson

      Chris Poole faced that same problem with 4chan and he put ads on it to pay the hosting costs

      1. Matt A. Myers

        I didn’t care about business / wasn’t motivated in that way or really have any understand of it back then – I just wanted to create, to code / design, be creative. Clearly a mistake not to seek out business help / guidance, though I was very shy and introverted as a teenager.

  14. JLM

    .The re-connecting with “lost business” customers is a basic business concept and skill. The first challenge is how are you going to define “lost business”.If one looks at the cost — time, money, effort — to obtain a “new” customer v the same resources to reconnect a lost customer, the higher ROI is on the former customer.As in Liad’s case, they may simply have other priorities. They were not really lost, they were temporarily re-focused.I have done this exact thing in another context and our success rate was approximately 30%, so the payback is potentially huge.JLM.

    1. fredwilson

      Offline/online – much of business is the same in any medium

      1. JLM

        .An observation I make is this — almost everything gets back to basic Peter Drucker type [your generation did not invent sex] business principles.It is the current lens that is just a bit different and likely the speed of the feedback. The lens is not always clearer, sometimes it is clouded.We are entering a funny time in which the new has already become the old and we are seeking a new new-old standard. [Pretty damn confusing, sorry.]The Internet has been around long enough to have a bit of gray chin whiskers in some instances.Handwritten notes, email, text, handwritten notes.The issue is that this generation does not know Drucker. Not a shot, mind you, but a very simple correctable error. As long as you can find the error.I remember reading Rommel’s fabulous book on small unit tactics, Attack — WWI tactics in Italy where the war was quite mobile — and applying it 30+ years after it had been written.A senior officer saw me reading it and said — WWI stuff “not applicable” but he did know the book or the fact that Italy was a very mobile campaign and not trench warfare.I used it in actual practice and it worked like a champ. No updating or nuance necessary. It worked as advertised.I think the same thing about Drucker.JLM.

        1. fredwilson

          Probably the first time Rommel and Drucker have been put in the same box. Well played.

          1. JLM

            .Haha, too funny. Truth.I learned everything I ever needed to know to run a business as a platoon leader and a company commander.I was suckled by Rommel.I was rocked by Drucker.JLM.

    2. Aaron Klein

      In the most successful cases, this will be highly personal. We track engagement carefully and paying customers who aren’t engaged get a personal note and call from me.This probably won’t scale forever, but it’s an ethic I want to pass on to my team. Let’s automate solving technical problems so we can redeploy our time to personalize engagement.

      1. falicon

        that is a great focus.

      2. andyidsinga

        that is totally awesome. ive read a few stories of customers who were delightfully stunned when they received out of the blue calls or notes from the people behind the products they use. way back when i was on the phones doing tech support i often encountered customers who were surprised i called them back regarding an issue …even after i told them i would call back! real people connections win.

        1. Aaron Klein

          Thanks. Yes, totally agree. Personal ftw.

        2. Cam MacRae

          I used to love responding to people who sent snark/rants to our support email with a personal (and helpful) message — the reactions were nearly always disbelieving and grateful.

      3. ShanaC

        oh, with the more data you have, the better it will scale. In fact, right now, you probably don’t have the toolset to make it scale the way it should. Probably why sailthru raised so much money….

        1. Aaron Klein

          I meant that I won’t be able to call every inactive paying customer some day but we’ll see how long it can scale with my team. Lets just say we have aggressive revenue per employee goals. πŸ˜‰

          1. ShanaC

            well, when you are too big for phonecalls, let me know. I like scaling these sorts of happiness systems and I do consult to help others get happy on the internet πŸ™‚

      4. JLM

        .Brilliant.Well played.JLM.

    3. ShanaC

      i almost want to say that branding for a startup is the difference between getting new and getting repeated user.But I am not sure if I am right…

    4. anne weiler

      The key is finding out why they left. Temporary, went to competitor, product didn’t really solve their problem…



    1. fredwilson


    2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      HI @FakeGrimlock:disqus – FEEL NOT THINK – IT BAKED IN DNA

    3. ShanaC

      startups have nutrition?

    4. Brandon Burns


    5. Kirsten Lambertsen

      This needs a t-shirt.

    6. JamesHRH

      Nice.Right on the money too.

  16. Luke Chamberlin

    “So-and-so tagged you in a photo! Click to see what you were doing!”^^ This is the greatest retention hook of all time and responsible for probably 100M+ additional active Facebook users.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes indeed. Brilliant move

    2. andyidsinga

      or ‘what are you doing in at video’ dm …oh wait thats a social engineering attack / hack πŸ™‚

      1. Aaron Klein

        Whoops, I just duped your comment. I see the same thing all the time!

      2. ShanaC

        social engineering is in part what retention and growth is about

        1. andyidsinga


    3. Aaron Klein

      So much so that it’s the most popular Twitter DM hack now. “I just saw you in this crazy photo! Take a look!”

    4. JamesHRH

      Vanity, curiosity & fear – all in one nice little web package. Powerful stuff.

  17. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Early days for us to talk of engagement – because we are only just making first sales. BUT I think this relates regarding a network effect of penetration…We put in a simple workflow tracking feature (how many new issues emerging, resolved etc daily) into our product “because we could”. People love it (no real idea why – it only saves a couple of mouse clicks to get information otherwise available) !But it seems that work-flow management is a proxy for gamification (do you feel good when your inbox is empty) – but also it has minor network effects ( “I referred a decision to X – now I want to hear what they think” or “x sent me a task – I better act on it”).For these reasons if a B2B SaaS tool can serve as even a secondary point of information for more than one user – it may be worth offering other seat licenses (low cost / free) to enhance the engagement level of your “buying power” user !Does this make sense ?

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Absolutely. Interaction/collaboration is priceless and we have a great deal to improve in this area – not Pavlovian positive-reinforcement cheap-tricks such as ‘Likes’, but true dialogue.

  18. FlavioGomes

    This reminds me of an idea/notion that Vacation resorts would embed really happy gregarious people posing as “vacationers” to engage and interact with the paying guest. On a trip in the Caribbean, my wife and I met this lovely, engaging, highly energetic couple that just seemed to be so likable by all the guests. They joined us and others for pool games, dinners and just mingled amongst us and brought some great energy and laughter.As we were leaving to catch our flight home, I noticed them in the administrative offices talking to managers and the like….and the thought that occurred to me was that they were planted to make our stay more enjoyable…If that was the case…IT WORKED.Not all engagement can be automated…and in the above light…if twitter had an army of human “Engagers” to reach out and start interacting with low activity accounts…they might learn a bunch of things…and get the light user excited about the experience. Not sure how that would scale, or if its financially feasible…maybe certain gold star incentives to encourage interaction from experienced established users?

  19. andyidsinga

    funny of the first things i thought of his morning was your 30/30/10 post ..and what would be the easiest way to go dig it up.well for gosh darn darn ..there it is! πŸ˜‰

    1. fredwilson

      your wish is my command

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Hmmm… if only we could harness this power you seem to have.

  20. ShanaC

    I think this solution is better than emailing, but not by much. For all the twitter is a broadcast conversation network, the one thing they are not doing enough of is hooking you in when you are inactive into important conversations in your peer group. Trending topics should be more personalized, linked to users you know, and pushing you to get involved.Email only works if the notification is high priority or must be acted on (gilt mastered the email in that regard). You risk pissing people off otherwise. I also still wonder why autotweeting some of those similar notifications isn’t working (granted, part of me wonders if it is a combo of how twitter is architected and if this would be ridiculously annoying)

  21. Emmanuel Makris

    I feel that this can cut both ways. If someone sees Fred Wilson mention them it may keep them coming back. If they see me mention them, they may think that people like that are the reason I left the network in the first place

    1. fredwilson


    2. Aaron Klein

      Disagree. Seeing people you know or have chosen to follow interact with you on a social network gives it value…regardless of who that person is.

  22. RudyC

    I always feel as if internet companies lack the imagination that brick and mortars have. I don’t think anything disappoints me more than the bs emails or please come back spam that companies do. BE CREATIVE! Don’t copy. Don’t tell me about FRIENDS doing this or that.Get me in the old fashion way, make it appealing to ME.

    1. Drew Meyers

      I actually think telling me friends doing this or that is a great way — if they are real friends who have a few things in common. EventBright has been killing it in this category, at least in my specific case.

  23. Carl Rahn Griffith

    It’s the contemporary version of managing ShelfWare issues.

  24. jonathanjaeger

    There’s a big difference between a transactional email that says something like “[Username] replied to your comment” or “[Username] followed you” than “We miss you, come back.” And yes, multiple services have sent those desperate We Miss You emails to me. Provide value, don’t beg.

  25. whitneymcn

    A question for you, Fred:Back in 2009, you wrote “Over time, I’ve learned that many non-active users become active for one reason or another. But they don’t become active by focusing on them. They become active because you focus on the successful users and make them even more successful.”At the time I wrote a response post, suggesting that you didn’t mean that inactive users should be ignored completely, but rather that focusing more on active users gets you advocates to help you reactivate the lapsed users.But today’s post feels to me like a stronger statement in favor of focusing on the inactive; has your thinking on this changed, or is today’s post just a different angle on the same basic view?The Difference Between Total Users and Active Users, on AVC:…User Inactivity, One Reason and Another, on SMR:

    1. fredwilson

      What I was trying to say was getting the successful users to bring back the less successful ones is smart

  26. joshuakarp

    We find that the only thing that will re-engage people who have haven’t returned to is something from someone / on some topic they cannot get somewhere else. That’s it. If we don’t notify about something exclusive, they just go even further away.

  27. Guesty McGuesterson

    Wow, I just returned to twitter after a long period of not signing in. I had no idea my followers might see something like that as a result. I’m kind of creeped out by it. I might have thought twice about signing back in if I knew that could happen.

  28. ericfranchi

    Big priority for B2B companies and as you go down a level, the sector that a lot of us care about and work in, digital media. Ensuring retention in a RFP driven world can be a challenge, although there are a few ways to improve it.

  29. INQUE

    I guess a better way of doing this if Twitter asks you if a person is back on Twitter if you like that they are back and Twitter then tells the person in a mail that these people are looking forward to seeing tweets again from him. Much smarter I think than asking one to write a tweet by themselves to someone saying, well whatever, “great to have you back on Twitter.” I don’t know, I probably would more likely click a button saying I like that he is back, than writing a tweet on my own for it. (That would be different if I really know the person being back on Twitter I guess.)

  30. Brandon Burns

    So how is AVC retention managed?

    1. Aaron Klein

      When you leave, everyone starts making fun of you, which motivates you to come back so you’re not the target. πŸ˜‰

      1. Brandon Burns

        lol… really?! shit, guess i can’t take any more days off…

        1. ShanaC

          we don’t. We’re nice and welcome you back.

        2. Aaron Klein


    2. Donna Brewington White

      Addiction.And the interaction that happens outside of AVC with other AVCers.

      1. Brandon Burns


    3. ShanaC

      For an Ad Hoc System, we actually are really active and have a fairly stable communoty, though we do display seasonality. I’d like to see a little more growth tell you the truth, though for what this community is about, I’m pretty ok with where we are at (though I wish when I was moderating on site I knew who was new. I like saying hi, and I know anecdotally it helps with new user retention)I should do another analytics post about this at some point.

      1. Brandon Burns

        Well, retention aside, I think the growth issue is linked to the exclusive feeling of the blog / comment section. I guess that is an issue with any blog or online community, but I think a bit more so with this one.I read this blog for a year before I wrote a single comment. I’d read them, but it felt so… insider-y. I’m not sure when/why I finally pulled the trigger, but would be good to know what it was for others to try to replicate the experience for others.Conversely, Gawker is a good example of a platform where people feel super comfortable weighing in. Not sure why that is, though.

        1. ShanaC

          Considering the time you spent, what would have to change to get people to engage more in the comments? I recognize this stuff is the stuff of serious conversation somewhere, which might be intimidating, but…most people I run into are capable of handling it.

          1. Montgomery Kosma

            I can offer one answer, though I may be smacking a sacred cow. I find the Disqus interface keeps me from engaging. It is hard to navigate, in that it is difficult to understand the flow of the conversation, or lots of conversations. It is particularly hard to see what is new and active versus old.This is a potentially exacerbated because I haven’t usually visied AVC until the discussion is underway.Are there Disqus settings that make it more usable? Email alerts help somewhat, but they are delayed by hours, and seem not to reflect all of the discussion that’s going on.It’s also horrible on mobile, and at least in Chrome, I have a lot of trouble using Find within the page to navigate around.In the past, those issues have caused a significant amount of frustration. I have no idea whether that has been others’ experience.That said, I can understand that perhaps such transactions costs indirectly increase the signal to noise ratio. If only those who are willing to put up with the frustration participate, that could contribute to the overall level and quality of the discussion.

          2. Brandon Burns

            I’m not sure. A blog is like a bar. Some are for locals, some are more transient. This one is definitely more for the locals. That’s the way it is, but that doesn’t mean its good or bad β€” it’s Fred’s blog, he can create the environment he wants.However, I think Montgomery’s comments about Disqus are spot on. At the same time, I think those comments apply to any commenting app, really β€” the commenting format as a whole is in dire need of a redesign.

          3. Montgomery Kosma

            This comment is a perfect example of some of the barriers that Disqus needlessly throws up to engagement.1. I never would have seen it but for the email I just found in my inbox (arrived 2:39pm – 3 hours ago) for a comment that was posted 8 hours ago.2. I clicked the “Link to comment” link in the Disqus email, and sure enough it opened this page in Chrome. But, didn’t take me to this post, it took me somewhere else in the discussion.3. I hit CMD-F and searched for “Brandon” in Chrome’s “find on page” function. Chrome dutifully tells me that “brandon” occurs 18 times, and has little arrows that supposedly let me step between the matches.4. Unfortunately, while I can step through the matches, Disqus’s html-foo prevents Chrome from actually scrolling to those matches. Useless!5. So I have to resort to logic to try to find where Brandon’s comment might have appeared. It’s there, wedged between Shana’s comment of 12 hours ago, and my comment of 10 hours ago.6. Nearly 5 minutes later, I’ve found the comment and can add this one.7. Most interesting, here is what I am *feeling*: that there’s not a lot of value in spending the time to write a thoughtful response, because Brandon / shana / fred / rest of community is not likely to see it in a timely manner, or at all.I suspect that these issues aren’t good for AVC community, or for Disqus in terms of adoption & growth. (That said: I would LOVE to hear a counterargument!) No inside knowledge but my suspicion is that this is the kind of UX that makes tremendous sense from a coding (web design + data structures) standpoint but not a customer-centric interaction design standpoint.That’s easy to say, but I’ll back it up with an offer. Hey Disqus guys! I’m close to lining up my Next Big Thing, and care enough about this community and its potential to waive my $2k day rate if you want some interim help (market research, PoI analysis) to get the product roadmap aligned with user needs. You have a fantastic community here of passionate & smart users, it would be trivial to set up a sandbox with some or all AVC users where Disqus could iterate quickly and deliver a direct measurable impact on engagement and adoption. (LMK, mkosma @ gmail)

          4. ShanaC

            Do you care if I forward this to the people at disqus. I think your critiques are genuine, and are worth hearing about handling UX

          5. Montgomery Kosma

            Please do! I’d love to get their attention on these issues.

          6. ShanaC

            It is hard to say how they need a redesign. I think the email format helps somewhat, but not enough. A lot of this has to do with linearity of discussions: Comments and related discussion technology is not a linear process. Time is disrupted during the actual conversation. They stop, start, restart. Ect.

          7. Montgomery Kosma

            There’s not a simple answer — there are a variety of models for a commenting UX and I think the game-changing innovation is probably still out there. A lot of the answer depends on the nature of the underlying content and comments. Active daily engagement of the community here on AVC looks pretty different than product reviews on Amazon or Q&A on Quora or Stack Overflow. It’s ugly as sin, but Slashdot does some things pretty right. Most important — there are some good models out there, what’s needed is a bit of study and application to figure out what best facilitates the kind of behavior (thoughtful engagement) you’re trying to encourage in the context of a particular size and scope of audience. Rather than one size fits all, you could imagine evolving a couple options depending on the needs of the site where Disqus is embedded.As a big believer in form informing function, I think the ideal solution likely has some strong visual components. For example, today’s Disqus uses the indent level of comments to indicate relatedness. That’s a good start — better than if all comments were indented to the same level — but could be dramatically enhanced by some simple visuals and tools, such as a longer/bolder horizontal line that separates top-level comments and groups their follow-ups, and folding — buttons that show/hide the tree, remember what I folded on my prior visit, and only reveal comments that are “new” in the interim.monty

  31. Avlesh Singh

    Sorry, shameless plug – we call it in-site customer engagement at WebEngage. Some cool stuff we do:

  32. naama bloom

    I was thinking about this when I received the Linkedin top 1% email. It’s positioned as a “thank you” but I think one of the biggest reasons (or maybe just a lucky externality) to send the email is that those of us who got it will share it in other social networks thereby encouraging our friends, followers, etc. to return to Linkedin.The idea of using your loyal customers to reengage your less loyal is powerful. I think we’ll be seeing more examples of this as our options of where to spend our time online continue to expand.

    1. Stanislas Marion

      “The idea of using your loyal customers to reengage your less loyal is powerful.” really like this idea. I actually remember reading about a BMW commercial that targeted owners of a BMW, to make them feel special and brag to their friends instead of targeting the rest.

  33. David Petersen

    We call every single user and teach them to use the product. We try to think about how our product could be useful for that particular person, and explain it to them. This means that our customer service people have to be business minded, free thinking, intelligent, and likable — not your run of the mill call center.Some people don’t like being bothered while some people are extremely receptive to the training. In both cases, the personalized training helps increase retention.We also call our users, if say they run consecutive searches that return 0 results. That’s a good sign the user isn’t using the product right, and is less likely to come back.And of course, we put a big ole ‘customer service’ button in the middle of our app in an attempt to get people to chat us :)…

  34. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Retention : Loyalty. Priceless.

  35. William Mougayar

    There’s an important missing piece here, and that is- we can’t just automatically translate what Twitter is doing as a lesson for all other startups. Twitter has millions of users, and they have to paint with a broad brush. But, you don’t have to do that.A smaller startup will have its ears closer to the ground with EACH user that doesn’t re-activate. When a customer leaves, or isn’t active, you can set-up automated analytics to email them and ask them WHY?Then, use the collection of those answers to properly inform the right re-engagement strategy with an added level of granularity- a) either your product was missing something for the user, or b) the user didn’t know about a specific use case that might be of value to them.

  36. rafisyed

    At Foursquare, we call taking a lapsed user and converting them back to an active user “reactivation”. Then we want to retain that person rather than letting them lapse again.

    1. William Mougayar

      What do you do specifically to bring them back, and how much personalization goes into that re-activation process? And do you hand them special retaining tactics that are different from others?

    2. fredwilson

      i think this is a huge opportunity for foursquare. i know a lot of my friends who are lapsed users. i would love to be able to use the product to reactivate them.

  37. Montgomery Kosma

    Critical insight of the day: “Engaging with real humans, not just the machine, is the key in social systems.”This is why I believe that the “next big thing” for such platforms (especially LinkedIn) will be tools and capabilities that facilitate 1:1 (== relationship) not 1:many (== broadcast).Example from my prior venture: I’d watched a terrific film called Made in China that documented the impact of industrialization on rural families and economies. Around the same time, a friend of mine had shared that he was heading off to Hangzhou for a few weeks to teach a class (Western Civ. of all things). Sadly, I didn’t put these two facts together on my own, so missed the opportunity for a valuable recommendation or conversation that could have enriched his experience.The data is all there — on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and in email. You can model every person as a time-series of multi-dimensional vectors representing our interests, as in our content consumption, creation, and connections that we form.Figuring out how to overlay and align those time series, among me and my contacts? Priceless!

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Speaking of welcoming people back…Great to see you here, Monty.I think I owe you a message, right?

      1. Montgomery Kosma

        Thank you, Donna! I’d love to catch up. I’d hope to visit with you when I was on sabbatical in Santa Monica late last year. (I love those “AVC-meets-the-real” connections.)I’m making a habit of coming back here. The last few weeks I have been weeding out all the cruft from my online life. Decided that AVC is one of very few places that consistently adds value to my life and where I believe I can usefully contribute.

    2. ShanaC

      πŸ™‚ Welcome back. (Though now I am feeling bad that Donna caught it first)

  38. takingpitches

    I thought I would share a sort-of-related example of reactivation outside the internet world.I have done a lot of work with Sirius (satellite radio) over the last seven-eight years. A big part of their customer acquisition cost is the subsidy for the radio.Promotional trials are key to getting subscribers to part with another monthly fee.They get most of their subscribers from folks who convert after a taste through the promotional trials bundled in with many new car purchases. Aftermarket subscribers are fewer.New cars with satellite radios often become used cars with new owners with satellite radios. It’s always been obvious that if you can direct the promotions to buyers of used cars, this would be tremendously profitable as the cost associated with the radio subsidy is already incurred.As it is hard to know that a car is bring resold, this is not so easy to do. But Sirius has diligently created relationship with used car dealers to gain the ability to do this over the last few years. Last week, the Sirius CFO said:β€œ[As to] used cars, I’d say that it’s still sort of early days on individual metrics, and I know it sounds like we’ve got a lot of transactions, and we do. But we do like to see these things sort of trend over time. Overall profitability on used cards is going to be certainly as good as the new car profitability, the single biggest reason being that we don’t have to reinvest in the radio. So reacquiring revenue generating subscriptions on previously installed radios is an immensely profitable business for us. I think it will be a little while before we’re able to tease out sort of sustained differences in churn profile. So you just have to stay tuned for that.”

    1. Montgomery Kosma

      Interesting … I worked pretty extensively on the XM/Sirius merger, and this was clearly a big opportunity we talked about back then. Too bad it’s still not been figured out.The big obstacle is data on timing and audience for making such a pitch. Is Sirius doing any work with CarFax? They’ve done a pretty amazing job at consolidating used car transactions data (the Tech Committee on Gun Safety that I’m working with Ron Conway has discussed CarFax as a good example of what can be done bottom-up to build high quality, reliable information on aftermarket transactions). I’d imagine that there’d be some helpful selection bias at work, in that people who are inclined to check CarFax reports may be more likely than average to purchase an XM/Sirius subscription. And there’s an easy bundle offer that you can sell via CarFax to the buyer of the report: for a small upcharge, or perhaps none at all, the CarFax report gives the vehicle’s purchaser a 3 or 6 months free Sirius subscription for cars so equipped.monty

    2. fredwilson

      i wish they would have a family discount offer. both my girls have siriusxm in their cars. we have it in ours. i have more accounts than i would like.

      1. takingpitches

        hopefully, you are paying the reduced rate for the additional receivers:…the wilson family is already a good customer for john malone (as of recently); no need to be even more so!

  39. jason wright

    what’s the avc retention rate?

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Well, that depends on which AVC? The blog? Or the community?Although both seem to be somewhat kaleidoscopic at times.

    2. fredwilson

      low. of the 3.1mm visits to AVC in the last 12 months, only about 800k of them were by people who visit more than 10x a year.those 3.1mm visits were made by 1.7mm if we use the same ratio (probably a bad idea), then only 26% of them, or 440k are regularsbut i think its lower than thatmy twitter follower count is about 260ki realize some regulars aren’t on twitter so my guess is that AVC regulars are in the 300k to 400k range out of a total of 1.7mm uvs last yearthat’s about 30%. seems like a magic number, doesn’t it?

      1. Bernard Desarnauts

        Fred,Curious here… do you have a sense of your market “share”? and how it’s evolved over time? Your numbers seem pretty good/high to me if I assume you are primarily attracting entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs in the digital tech economy?Do you also have a sense of how much of your overall traffic is mostly driven by referrals from your core audience?

      2. ShanaC

        if you told me this was a random, small, content site with those sorts of numbers, I’d be super happy. It means half of UV not only stick but stick a lot. So the actual content of the site is very stick, but on first appearance there isn’t much to doIt also means there is a low barrier to optimizing. I’d be super happy.

      3. Matthew Purdon

        I am a loyal reader – but I hardly ever come to the site. I do all the reading through Netvibes. Curious how others using RSS Readers may effect the data on retention.

        1. Jen Binder-Le Pape

          Was about to make the same comment. I read everything you post, but almost always through RSs

  40. Donna Brewington White

    Really smart on Twitter’s part employing other users to help with retention. Content is important, but engagement is the edge. That is part of the secret of AVC.

  41. Aaron Klein

    Fred, off topic, but I just happened to run across this video and immediately thought of your work with the Computer Science High School and had to post this for you.It’s a 12-year-old who taught himself how to code apps.As he puts it, “it’s difficult…because not many kids know where to go to find out how to make a program. For soccer, you can go to soccer team. For violin, you can go take lessons. Most parents have done these things when they were young, but not many parents have made an app!”…He did start with iOS, but at 4:20, he indicates that he wants to learn Android. I predict you may be funding him in a few years. πŸ˜‰

    1. fredwilson

      i love it!!!!

  42. Dean Cassidy

    – Engaging them- Retaining them- Getting them back…is how it should go.But yeah, totally agree — inactive users aren’t getting enough attention these days.

  43. Nelson Bostrom

    On site retention is one piece of the puzzle, but do you have email open rates? I come to your site a couple times a month, but read every single one of your posts via email. πŸ™‚

  44. Anuj Agarwal

    This is what i have been trying to bring back inactive users at my startup. and it works really well.Send email to all users(except those who have unsubscribed and are not interested at all in your product or service) whenever something new and interesting change is made. Even if its a small feature. This sends a very positive signal to inactive users that you are actively developing the product.Save in your database the last login timestamp for each user. Also save the timestamp of new feature updates in your database. When an inactive user comes back, just show him a popup saying ‘Hey, these are some of the new changes we have made since you last visited.’… then a list of new features.Why this works? – I think we make lot of effort in releasing new features but many times those new updates do not reach the inactive users who are willing to use your product once those new features are implemented.This worked for me. May be it is working because my product is in very early stages currently. But i was able to turn many inactives into active users.

  45. Daniel Sigurdson

    I’m curious if these stats include google reader users? I always read your blog, but keep track via google reader as opposed to visiting the actual site. Sorry if that throws a big variable into the equation!

    1. fredwilson

      no, they do not