Product Leaders: User Acquisition Series

I can be pedantic about user acquisition.  The truth is that consumer web and mobile applications are under increasing pressure to demonstrate explosive exponential traction.  Building a great product is no longer sufficient, lest you be left with the best product in the world that no one has discovered.

As an engineer and designer by training, I didn’t always put this level of focus on traffic acquisition.  It wasn’t until we tried to build an entirely new site under the eBay brand (eBay Express) that I was forced to focus our team’s efforts on one large fundamental challenge: traffic acquisition.

Those struggles, some successful (and some not) led me to appreciate how profoundly the social web changed the metrics of distribution.  When we founded the growth team at LinkedIn in 2008, we were able to structure our thinking around user acquisition, measure it, and bend the curve significantly for the site. 

A special thanks to both Reid Hoffman and Elliot Shmukler, who both contributed significantly to my thinking on the subject.

History is Written by the Victors

History is written by the victors, and on the consumer web, victory is often defined by market distribution.  Growth does not just happen, it has to be designed into your product and service.

The following posts attempt to capture some of the fundamentals that I’ve personally found useful to structure thinking around social user acquisition, and extend those concepts from the web to mobile applications:

Remember, Product Leaders win games.  Now let’s get started.

LinkedIn for Android: The T-Shirt

Today was a banner day for the LinkedIn Mobile team, with the big launch of LinkedIn for Android v1.0.  The application was built from the ground up to be the best mobile experience for LinkedIn on Android, and includes our fastest people search implementation on any mobile device. (It’s already climbing the Top 25 free social apps on the Google Marketplace)

Last year, I wrote a very popular blog post about the importance of T-Shirts at tech companies.  So it makes sense that to celebrate the launch, we made a new t-shirt.  No doubt that this will become the must-have item for  2011.

The front of this charcoal grey t-shirt will sport the following graphic, courtesy of rock star mobile designer Frank Yoo:

The back will feature the logo: LinkedIn for Android.  I love it – something about the little blue LinkedIn droid with a tie is just adorable.

Kudos to the team on a great app, a great launch, and most importantly, a great t-shirt.

LinkedIn for Blackberry: Get It Now

I know this is my personal blog, but sometimes launches are big enough that I feel compelled to announce them here as well.

LinkedIn Blog: LinkedIn for Blackberry: Anytime, Anywhere

You can download it at http://www.linkedin.com/blackberry

Twitter is on fire with the news right – I’m watching the stream of comments in realtime.  Great pieces on TechCrunch & Mashable already.  As usual, the team seems to find it amusing to use my profile in all the screenshots, so I guess that is some measure of fame.

The best part of this launch is that it’s just the beginning of our efforts on the Blackberry platform.  I’m very proud of the entire team for pulling together to make this first launch successful.  Special kudos to Chad Whitney on his first major launch and blog post – he even got a new profile photo for the occassion.  Chad joined my team in December 2009, and has already made a phenomenal impact on our mobile products.

LinkedIn for iPhone 3.0 is LIVE!

Just a quick note to say that the new version of LinkedIn for iPhone is now live in the iTunes App Store.

Download LinkedIn for iPhone

I wrote a fairly lengthy piece on the official LinkedIn blog, so no need to replicate the full walk-through here.  In any case, check out this new home screen:

This application represents a huge achievement for the team.  It’s really a complete redesign and re-architecture of the entire stack supporting the application, based on an end-to-end design that was driven by user feedback and business metrics.

Building iPhone apps is a wonderful throwback in some ways to the days of client software, except with the advantage of over a decade and a half of web-based architectures.  There is a richness to client applications that the web still doesn’t replicate, and a complexity and depth to their design that is often under-appreciated.

Of course, the team had fun too.  The “Themes” feature, for example, was never part of the original plan.  It was originally a last minute easter egg that we included for fun in internal testing.  It proved so popular, however, we felt like we had to include it for everyone.

There are hundreds of things I love about this new application.  Even the way it presents a user’s profile is thoughtful, as LinkedIn is designed to allow you to put your best foot forward as a professional:

Of course, I wouldn’t be a product manager if I didn’t also have hundreds of things I’d like to see improved in the application.  It has been fun to watch the Twitter stream all day, as the feedback has been mostly positive.  Still, while this application represents a big leap forward for LinkedIn on the iPhone, it’s really just a beginning.  What’s most exciting about the architecture of this application is that it will let us rapidly innovate and improve the mobile experience through 2010 and beyond.

So here’s a quick shout out to the team – thank you for the hard work and effort in 2009 to produce an iPhone app we can be proud of.   I couldn’t be more excited for 2010, as we change the way people think of mobile business applications.