IRL: How the Right UX Can Create Real Human Connections
When it comes to human interactions and connections, technology should help us—not hinder us. Today, most technology we use to forge and deepen new and existing relationships doesn’t translate online connections into real face-to-face interactions. At MeetVibe, our driving goal is to look at instances where technology can help or augment human interactions. We want to give people better tools to enable real-time and real-life relationships among people who have something in common. We don’t want to simply help them accumulate online “friends.”
Take LinkedIn, for example. Everyone wants to have a thousand connections to broaden future job opportunities—but there’s nothing built into this platform to help bring people closer together. There’s no “real life engagement factor.” The same goes for most social networking sites. The technology is not designed with the aim of building real human interactions. And when you do have two or more people who want to establish a meeting, there's often a never-ending chain of messages to sort out the logistics of where and when to meet. This back-and-forth is often fragmented through different calendar and communication tools. It may take 30 minutes to finally book a 30-minute meeting. Somewhere in the intention of networking and connecting, efficiency and productivity get lost. In today's technological environment, this is unforgivable.
Activity doesn't necessarily mean accomplishment. Attempting to schedule a meeting is tiring, and all that effort doesn't guarantee you will get a positive outcome from it. After all, you haven't even met yet. At MeetVibe, we thought this was a significant enough issue that it warranted a serious effort to try to solve the problem. We wanted to create a more fluid approach to online interaction, and eliminate the friction of evolving these connections into real-world meetings.
But any technology that’s created to act as a facilitator to human interactions needs to think about human tendencies. Every step a user takes increases the likelihood they’ll abandon the process. Any disruption to the flow of what they’re expecting creates frustration and confusion. Mobile user acquisition barriers need to be torn down.
While founding and developing MeetVibe, we needed to constantly return to the idea of user experience, and find the right tools to deliver the most impactful and adoptable solution to the human connection challenge. Grand problems call for simple solutions.
The Ideal Scheduling Solution
MeetVibe Inc. is a mobile company, and our solution is to use phone-to-phone technology to maximize networking opportunities. When we created our platform, the first issue we decided to tackle was sharing calendar availability with people in a given person's existing network or with new network connections. Our next step was to find the population for which connection and scheduling was a major pain point. We began to look at the event sphere and, through some initial discussions, we came across the fascinating concept of proximity.
If you’re at an event or a conference, it’s highly likely there are 200–300 like-minded attendees you could benefit from meeting. But when you look at the sea of faces, there’s no indication that John, Mary, or Sally is the right person to meet.
That's where we saw an opportunity to use MeetVibe, not only as a scheduling solution within the user’s network, but also as a networking solution outside of the user's network. We wanted to help users discover the people around them, establish an introduction and meet as soon as possible, and then continue to use it to build a relationship that carried on well after the event is over.
Streamlining UX for Seamless, Optimized User Onboarding
Once we had a greater understanding of where we could use our app, we had to re-focus on optimizing the mobile user experience. There were still some interactions required between people before they could connect on MeetVibe, let alone in person. New users had to receive an invitation to join the platform in the form of an SMS message or an email—but the user experience was simply too inconsistent and messy, and the channels were too collectively fragmented. It was the opposite of the simplistic user experience we had in mind.
Mobile users face a different set of challenges than desktop users do. When you're on a phone, you don't have the same luxury of time to figure things out as you do on desktop. You need links to work quickly and efficiently. When you’re at a conference, you want to engage with the event, the presentations, and the people around you—not waste time trying to find information on an app.
Since MeetVibe is primarily a mobile product, we didn't want users to open invitations via the event webpage and then have to figure out how to get to the app. We wanted the invitation link to take them directly to the MeetVibe app, where they would see the invite in a native fashion. What we needed was dependable deferred deep linking capability.
Deep linking not only helps users save time, but also helps us retain users. We know people don't have time to go through a long, drawn-out registration process while they are attending an event. The search for a deep linking platform led us to Branch.
Now, with Branch’s mobile linking platform, if you’re sent an SMS invite to connect, you receive a deep link that brings you to a profile directly within the app. This process avoids fragmentation and tailors the experience to each user's specific device, as well as each user's specific channel.
Branch is effectively our air traffic controller—the Branch team helps us track where we're sending you and whether we're sending you to webpages with the potential to install the app from the app store—and, if so, which app store is the right app store for your device. Branch even helps us determine whether to take you directly into the app because you're already an app user.
This process saves the user a lot of time while offering an optimal, tailored experience. We originally explored using Bitly for some of our other links, but we didn't get anywhere near the same level of elegance, sophistication, and personalization we found with Branch. What we’ve been able to do with Branch’s deep linking services goes back to our fundamental goal of finding ways to augment human interaction, rather than giving people more work to do.
Tracking Mobile Installs with Actionable Insights
With Branch, our initial use case centered around deep linking for great user experience, but the benefits have gone much further. As we continue to work in the event space, we need greater insights into our users for our own purposes, but also to prove the value to our event partners.
When you think about traditional marketing, like TV commercials, how does Amazon know that spending five million dollars on their will work, and how do they quantify that? They may see some halo effect over time, but getting immediate results is nearly impossible.
But the app space is different. In our instance, when we operate digitally and we know the journey starts and ends in a digital fashion, we should instantly have the analytics to see the adoption rate of the app and every detail that entails. With Branch, we can gauge and measure all of our interaction touch points, across all of the channels and all of the platforms that encompasses the user experience.
Now, we create a unique Branch link that translates into a landing page that's customized to the event, which allows users to easily download the app when they register. Then we can see what percentage of the upcoming attendees have installed the app, as well as who they connected with at the event and who they are in touch with weeks or even months later. We can even see who they subsequently invited to join the platform. These new metrics are invaluable to us and to the event organizers.
With analytics, we're able to measure and gauge pre-event adoption for a specific upcoming event. We can also give conference organizers insight into who used their personalized event link, which allows them to measure how much of their focus should be spent on getting people onboarded to MeetVibe.
These are the touch points in the journey of us getting more customers and greater visibility. At the same time, we're able to see how these interactions continue to progress down the road. Knowing that two people met because of a link that was sent by MeetVibe and enabled by Branch would be one of the best measures of our successes.
MeetVibe & Branch: In the Future
Looking to the future, we already see some exciting potential developments for MeetVibe. For example, we can eventually show users the attendees at an upcoming event, so they can begin to strategize their networking in advance. There are so many ways for us to leverage the technology offered by Branch, and we're still exploring.
People bumping into people can lead to unpredictable opportunities. That’s how we connected with Branch eight months ago, by chance at a conference in Hong Kong, and that evolved into a beautiful business relationship. If we can increase those networking interactions by a few percentage points—even just 1–2%—better things can happen.
If I know the people around me, then I know how to channel my conversation and how to focus and use my time. We should not lose sight of the fact that technology should complement human interaction rather than distract us with shiny buttons.
Our friends at Branch are truly passionate about what they do. Our work with them has enabled us to strive towards what I see as a shared goal: how to establish relationships with the right people. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of human relationships or the pull of technology. Instead, let’s bring human relationships and technology together.