Facebook understood this concept very well. If you are the only person in your network of friends with a Facebook account, well it is pretty useless. Facebook’s customer-facing value proposition is its ability to peek in on the lives of people in your close (and not so close) network.
My family uses a free tool called Life360 that uses the onboard GPS in our smartphones to plot each person’s location on a map so we can see where all of our family members are at any given time of day or night. By itself, it has no real value. Yet when everyone in a circle of friends or family all uses the app, you can see where each other is with the touch of a simple button.
My youngest son Hank works at a restaurant and ends his workday around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. each day. The other day, I was watching the evening news and saw there was a fatal accident on a road my son drives home from work each night. With a simple click of the Life360 app, I saw he was home safe.
In another example, my whole family uses another free tool called Voxer that acts like a walkie-talkie. It even records the exchange like a messenger app, so you can play the discussion back later as a reminder or address the message later when it is more convenient for you.
With Life360 and Voxer, you only get any real value when you tell the other people in your network that they need to start using the tool too.
I can hear you saying that is great for an app, but I deliver a service and this concept will not work for me. Okay then, let’s say you have a service like Verizon or MCI. This concept still works. These companies made it free to call other Verizon phones or your friends and family in your MCI circles. Therefore, if you had a cell phone from Verizon or a landline service from MCI, you wanted others in your calling network to also subscribe to the same service so you could call them all for free. As an added benefit, it also builds in what is called lock-in marketing. For many years, I stayed with Verizon as my phone provider because my wife speaks to her sister for hours every day and she used Verizon and Verizon to Verizon calls were free.
How can you build a sharing component into your product or service?