@andrewchen

Get the newsletter · 2018 essays (PDF) · Featured · Recent

How do you apply math to Web 2.0 websites?

Quantitative approaches to social media
Two great blogs recently on borrowing concepts from the pay-per-click optimization world and applying them to social media sites: How about landing pages for the social media visitor? and also Optimizing social media landing pages.

When I refer to these approaches, I generally refer to a broad set of optimization techniques that advertisers use to make sure the traffic they are paying translates into sales. One example of this is Google’s free Website Optimizer tool, which you can use to optimize things like layout, headlines, copy, form placement, etc.

Multivariate regression testing as an example
For example, you could imagine having an invite page for visitors to virally add their friends. Which headline is the best?

  • Don’t be lonely, add your friends!
  • Example your network! Invite friends!
  • You have 10 free invitations for friends
  • Import your addressbook in 30 seconds

It’s hard to tell. And then when you add in 5 different pictures, 5 different explanations of the site, and 5 different color schemes, all of a sudden you have hundreds of different combinations. Well, turns out through multivariate testing you can end up testing just a couple variations and then it’ll automatically predict (and test) the best combination of the hundreds.

People in the paid advertising space use these techniques because when you’re paying $1 per click (or a $1000 CPM), you try to optimize every opportunity.

Multivariate testing example
Check out this solid example of multivariate testing:

http://dkm.com/

You’ll see slight different content, with lots of different combinations of other things.

How to apply hard metrics to social media
Ultimately, it seems like what you want to do is to pick a couple key "transactional" moments that you want to optimize. That could be things like:

  • Page where the user creates media
  • Page where the user votes or comments
  • Page where the user invites their friends
  • Page where the user fills out their profile
  • Page where the user shares out their widget

That is, a bunch of pages where the users aren’t doing the core mechanic of browsing from peer item to peer item. (Like video to video, or person to person). In these moments where people are about to invite friends, you want to figure out the exact right wording to get the person to spread the site virally.

These are the pages where you are most likely to apply these page optimization techniques.

Viral growth dashboard

Also, in a previous blog I had written about 10 different strategies to acquire users. In these cases, you want to build out pipelines and track the metrics around how people are progressing down the goals you want them to accomplish. Here are some possible metrics you’d want to measure:

  • Sources of traffic
  • Landing page views
  • % of users that register
  • % of users that send out invites
  • # of invites sent out, per user on average
  • % of invites delivered successfully
  • % of invites read by users
  • # of virally added users, per user on average

Or, alternatively, for widgets:

  • # of widgets outside
  • # of widget impressions
  • % CTR of widgets
  • Signup conversion rate
  • [other viral metrics]

You might also want to track overall growth rate, the viral coefficient, etc.

If you don’t watch these numbers, they’re unlikely to grow…

PS. Get new updates/analysis on tech and startups

I write a high-quality, weekly newsletter covering what's happening in Silicon Valley, focused on startups, marketing, and mobile.

Views expressed in “content” (including posts, podcasts, videos) linked on this website or posted in social media and other platforms (collectively, “content distribution outlets”) are my own and are not the views of AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (“a16z”) or its respective affiliates. AH Capital Management is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply any special skill or training. The posts are not directed to any investors or potential investors, and do not constitute an offer to sell -- or a solicitation of an offer to buy -- any securities, and may not be used or relied upon in evaluating the merits of any investment.

The content should not be construed as or relied upon in any manner as investment, legal, tax, or other advice. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax, and other related matters concerning any investment. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Any charts provided here are for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, I have not independently verified such information and makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. The content speaks only as of the date indicated.

Under no circumstances should any posts or other information provided on this website -- or on associated content distribution outlets -- be construed as an offer soliciting the purchase or sale of any security or interest in any pooled investment vehicle sponsored, discussed, or mentioned by a16z personnel. Nor should it be construed as an offer to provide investment advisory services; an offer to invest in an a16z-managed pooled investment vehicle will be made separately and only by means of the confidential offering documents of the specific pooled investment vehicles -- which should be read in their entirety, and only to those who, among other requirements, meet certain qualifications under federal securities laws. Such investors, defined as accredited investors and qualified purchasers, are generally deemed capable of evaluating the merits and risks of prospective investments and financial matters. There can be no assurances that a16z’s investment objectives will be achieved or investment strategies will be successful. Any investment in a vehicle managed by a16z involves a high degree of risk including the risk that the entire amount invested is lost. Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by a16z and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by a16z is available at https://a16z.com/investments/. Excluded from this list are investments (and certain publicly traded cryptocurrencies/ digital assets) for which the issuer has not provided permission for a16z to disclose publicly. Past results of Andreessen Horowitz’s investments, pooled investment vehicles, or investment strategies are not necessarily indicative of future results. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.