Article in Companies, Startup categories.

Wander and Engagement

The Internet’s newest overnight sensation is a startup called Wander, which has found 10,000 new users with a game that lets users generate one point…

The Internet’s newest overnight sensation is a startup called Wander, which has found 10,000 new users with a game that lets users generate one point by clicking on the image of a cow and 100 points by liking or re-tweeting it, according to Mashable.  The problem is, as of now, there is no associated product and there is no point; users are racking up statistics on the leaderboard for no clear reward whatsoever. Yet, Wander has found 10,000 registered users and gotten extraordinary levels of engagement out of them: the current leader has over 878 million points. That’s a ridiculous number of cows and tweets.  So, what can Wander’s successful emergence teach us about user engagement on the web?

An Old Adage Turned On Its Head

The old adage for Internet startup creators is that it’s all about your product.  Have a product, any product, to make sure that your users see value in their activity. But Wander has no product yet, and therefore, no point, which turns that notion on its head. A large subset of Internet users must care more about an activity itself than the product it promotes. Wander’s success hints that many users want new websites to offer them something interesting to do and, as long as it is new in some way, then there will be an online market for it.

What to Take From It

What can young web startups do with that information? Simply put: find a novel way to engage users on your site, regardless of whether or not that engagement is directly associated with your product. Creators often assume that their product is the engagement and that their goal should be to push users to instantly register for an account to use their product. But Wander demonstrates that another viable approach might be to have an associated game or activity right at the site’s entrance to entice and engage users. Once they are hooked and keep coming back to the site, then they will register for the associated product.

So, although Wander’s overnight success explicitly proves nothing, it is a subtle hint to plugged-in web entrepreneurs: whether it’s a game, an activity, a survey, or anything else, just make sure to get your website visitors involved right away. Your success is not just about your product, it’s about engagement and getting your most of your visitors involved enough to want to try it out.

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