Below is my answer to the Quora question, How has Turntable.fm grown so rapidly with no marketing?
Turntable.fm is both incredibly viral, despite being in beta, and sticky with a DAU/MAU exceeding most successful Facebook games(1). Its hockeystick growth(2) can primarily be attributed to simply being a mother-loving awesome product that users are compelled to share but there are some explicit product design decisions that have influenced its viral adoption.
Social Engagement Loop
Almost every successful social product has some form of a Social Engagement Loop. The Turntable guys have done an excellent job at creating an natural loop to motivate and re-engage users.
1) Visible Progress/Reward
- DJ Points and Fans - Points and fans represent social status and serve as a leaderboard. Even as a new user, these points of recognition are understandable and help existing users stay invested in their accomplishments.
- Avatars - Turntable offers different avatars from the mundane boy for newbies to a blinged-out gorilla for veterans. The users with the most recognition (ie, DJ points) are represented in more extravagant avatars.
Examples from other services: Follower count listed on user’s Twitter profile. Exclusive items for high-level players, visible by visiting friends in Farmville. Number of connections listed a user’s profile on LinkedIn.
2) Motivating Emotion
- Head Bobbing Avatar - Turntable’s most understated feature is the head bobbing avatar. When users click “awesome”, the performing DJ not only earns points but it also taps into positive reinforcement to encourage the behavior. This feels especially great when the whole room is enjoying the music.
- Unlock New Avatars - New users choose from a limited bunch of avatars and as users level up, they unlock gaudy avatars to represent their superior status. Who doesn’t want to look cool and different?
Example from other services: Desire to acquire more Twitter followers. Desire to unlock new items in Farmville. Desire to expand ones professional network on LinkedIn.
3) Social Call to Action
- Click “Awesome”/”Lame” - Naturally you want to express your love for songs you enjoy by bobbing your head and skip awful songs chosen by DJ’s with no taste.
- Chat - Conversation are usually fun and contextual to the music being played. It’s hard not to engage.
- DJ - The most fun part of Turntable is publicly displaying your superior music tastes to share with friends and strangers.
Examples from other services: Tweet or DM a friend on Twitter. Unlock a new gift to give to a friend in Farmville. Request an endorsement on LinkedIn.
4) User Re-engagement
- Email Notifications - Emails are sent to fans of a DJ as soon as they step up to the stage.
- Social Recruiting - Turntable is better with friends. Naturally people want to recruit their friends to share their favorite music with one another.
Examples from other services: @reply or DM notification on Twitter. Facebook notification for a gift given from a friend in Farmville. Email request for an endorsement from a former co-worker on LinkedIn.
Clear Messaging, Instantly Understood
“Play music together”. Turntable’s 3 word tagline is clear and concise. More importantly, it imitates the universally understood DJ experience making it easy for new users to understand.
The importance of the onboard experience for any web app is extremely important and while Turntable has a lot of improvements to make, their fundamental product requires little to no education for new users to get hooked.
Exclusivity Breeds Desirability
Turntable launched their closed beta in mid-May. To get in you have to be connected to a friend with access on Facebook. While this has definitely limited their growth (for the sanity of Billy), its has created an element of exclusivity. This is particularly effective for social applications with some press hype. No one wants to be left out of the cool crowd.
Side note: I’ve received more than a dozen Facebook friend requests from people begging for access. Facebook user re-engagement at its best.
Update 6/26/11: I randomly got quoted in an article about Turntable on The Next Web. Cool. :)
(1) Daily Active Users / Monthly Active Users (DAU/MAU) via AppData
(2) Monthly Active Users (MAU) via AppData