What about the newcomers on Wattpad?
The past few years have seen a steady rise in the number of web 2.0 platforms available, especially those accessible via a mobile application, with social media users expected to rise to 2.6 billion by 2016. What this ultimately means is that at some point in time we all have been, or will be, newcomers to a platform.
Newcomers have both benefits and risks for all web 2.0 platforms. In order to survive a platform needs newcomers and the benefits from the intelligence and capabilities that a group collective can bring. However, newcomers also mean that you may have users who contribute in ways that are against the ‘norm’ or upset the community. I have chosen to evaluate Wattpad and their strategies for overcoming some of the newcomer challenges as defined in the text Building Successful Online Communities, in relation to their categories for newcomers, including; recruitment, selection, retention, socialisation and protection.
Wattpad is a social media platform that is essentially made up of a community of ‘readers and writers’, where writers can publish their work for free and users can read, review and share these pieces. Right now, Wattpad has over 40 million stories listed within their site that can be accessed by users at any time from the website or app.
I first heard about Wattpad from a friend of mine, who shared her creative writing from Wattpad, via Facebook, and upon research it seems that word-of-mouth recruiting is the most common form for Wattpad and they have really optimised their platform to utilise this recruitment method. It is easy for users of Wattpad to share content, not only with the community, but with their friends via existing accounts like Twitter, Facebook and Google+, with these functions being accessible from every page, whether it be if you want to share your story, someone else’s story or even a review. Burke, Marlow and Lento (2009) suggest that social media users are more likely to contribute useful content if they see their friends contributing also, so by having these ‘sharing’ options Wattpad can encourage this type of behaviour.
Wattpad is also following some of the best practices for helping to select the right ‘type’ of newcomers for their platform by having ‘hurdles’ or steps that newcomers must fulfill before having full access to the service. You must create an account and have your account verified before you are able to use any of Wattpad’s capabilities, meaning that not any average internet user can stumble across a story on Wattpad and abuse or spam the writer. It is likely that by having to wait to have your account verified, and signing in before use, that this could turn off people who may not be suitable for the community because those who are really motivated to use Wattpad wouldn’t mind having to follow the steps. By having entry barriers in place, the result can quite often be that the community is made up of more committed users as supported by Kraut, Burke and Riedl (2012) who state that “…barriers…that cause newcomers to suffer a little before joining a group should increase their eventual commitment.” However, I definitely feel if the process to join Wattpad had been much more complex or time consuming than it is, it would have turned me off ever using the service.
One feature that I think is great for showing potential new users what Wattpad is really like, is the informative introductory video about how the platform works, that users have access to before signing up. This information shows the capabilities and habits of the community before you even using the platform, which could help make the user’s decision as to whether Wattpad is really what they are looking for and in turn, help Wattpad recruit the right newcomers.
In saying all of this though, Wattpad does not just try to sway the ‘wrong’ type of newcomers to protect the community. The site is extremely dedicated to making the transition for newcomers easy and teaching them the ropes quickly. Upon signing into your new Wattpad account, there is a section dedicated to ‘Tips to get you started’, including how to get you interacting with others, recommended people for you to follow and clear links to discussion threads for specific interest groups to help lead you in the right direction for your likes and dislikes. The steps are extremely easy and not only makes you feel at ease with how to use Wattpad, but welcome, two essential characteristics to retain newcomers on a platform.
I definitely feel in comparison to many other social media sites, Wattpad has fair entry barriers and recruitment/retention techniques to ensure that they have the right type of newcomers for their community, that will assist in harnessing the collective intelligence. I would love to hear your thoughts though; do you think Wattpad’s recruitment process for newcomers is suitable? Can you think of a better way of involving newcomers to the platform? I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions!
- As 700 million new users sign on through 2016, what’s in store for social media at the enterprise and consumer level? (2012, July 18). PR Newswire. Retrieved from http://www.search.proquest.com
- Burke, M., Marlow, C., & Lento, T. (2009). Feed me: motivating newcomer contribution on social network sites. Retrieved from http://www.cameronmarlow.com/media/burke-2009-feed-me.pdf
- Howard, L. (2012, December 11). Self-publishing on Wattpad [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://laurahoward78.blogspot.com.au/2012/11/self-publishing-on-wattpad.html#.U1Se71WSyum
- Wattpad. (2014). About Wattpad. Retrieved from http://www.wattpad.com/about
- Wattpad. (2014). How to use Wattpad. Retrieved from http://support.wattpad.com/hc/en-us/categories/200110764-How-to-use-Wattpad
- Image Source: Google Images via Creative Commons