The Single Bullet Theory

Reddit recently released an app for their highly popular Ask Me Anything feature (AMA). If you’re not familiar with it, Reddit gets notable people to sit down for a session with their users where those users can, as the title suggests, ask the person anything. The concept has led to some great interviews where the questions didn’t come from a journalist, but from regular folks. And some of them are quite good.

So what’s news about a successful new app from an already successful website? Well, it turns out that this wasn’t Reddit’s first foray into apps. Their first attempt was just a Reddit app. But where AMA is a growing success, the first Reddit app was mostly a failure. Why did it fail? Well, if you’ve spent any time on Reddit you know that it is a sprawling site with hundreds (maybe thousands) of topics with users commenting, posting and interacting. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it can be overwhelming. Exploring it is a trip down the rabbit hole.  While this is an interesting experience on the web, it doesn’t work well as a mobile experience.

AMA is different. It’s about one thing. And if you look the apps you probably use the most, they’re apps with a singular focus. When the user has one touch access to whichever tool they need at that moment, having clear utility is crucial.  The “kitchen sink” approach to apps doesn’t work. 

If you look at the biggest digital brands you’ll find they don’t have an app. They have apps. Plural. Yahoo has apps for weather, sports, mail, etc. Google has apps for search, maps and “now” (whatever that is?).  Even Facebook, which seems to be a single purpose brand already also has Messenger and Paper.

Think about your brand’s mission. What is your brand promise? And what is your audience’s expectation? Once you determine that, your mobile strategy should become clear. And that strategy doesn’t have to be a one-shot-thing. At jācapps, our new V4 app is designed to be a complete engagement tool for stations to interact with their audience. Output — streams, on-demand audio and web content — and also input — social media, messaging and user generated content.  But if your brand has other attributes, maybe they don’t belong in your main app. Maybe a better tool for your user is a separate app, that best serves that audience. If you’re a rock station, maybe you have an app for the station, but also one for the fans of your morning show, and another for a local entertainment guide.

Each app is an opportunity to super-serve a segment of your audience, and offer a unique, focused and perhaps endemic opportunity for an advertiser.

As Reddit continues to evolve, I think you can expect other apps to join AMA in the app store. So learn from their mistake: stay out of the “kitchen sink” and look for opportunities that are unique to your brand.

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