Engage & Elevate: San Francisco Event Recap

On April 25th, in the vibrant tech hub of San Francisco, industry leaders and innovators converged for a dynamic event hosted by Stream.

Emily R.
Emily R.
Published May 2, 2024

The event explored the evolving landscape of in-app community building in the digital age. Amidst the bustling atmosphere of innovation and collaboration, a panel of Stream customers and executive thought leaders delved into the nuances of modern community development, offering invaluable insights and strategies for navigating this rapidly evolving terrain.

The discussions and revelations shared during Engage & Elevate shed light on today's intricate dynamics shaping online communities. The summit comprehensively explored the challenges and opportunities inherent in fostering vibrant digital communities, from the emergence of AI-driven analytics to the quest for alternative monetization avenues.

In this blog, we delve into the key takeaways from the event, distilling the wisdom shared by former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Co-Founder and CEO of Nextdoor Nirav Tolia, CTO of Caffeine TV Michael Dale, CEO of girlgroup Shoshana Cooper, CEO of 9Count and former President of Musical.ly/TikTok Alex Hofmann, Engineering Lead of Nextdoor Felix Pageau, SVP of Engineering at Patreon Utkarsh Srivastava, and CTO of girlgroup Chris Caden.

Join us as we unravel the trends, strategies, and innovations driving the future of community building and discover how these insights can inform and inspire your endeavors to cultivate meaningful online connections.

Understanding Diverse Community Needs

The panelists commenced their discussion by emphasizing the diversity of community needs across various social platforms. They noted that each community possesses unique characteristics and preferences, necessitating tailored approaches to foster engagement. AI has further revolutionized this process, enabling platforms to analyze user profiles and suggest relevant conversation topics, enhancing interaction.

Moderation emerged as a key theme, with the panel stressing the importance of understanding and respecting diverse perspectives within communities.

Co-founder of Nextdoor Nirav Tolia shared:

When you're building an online community, what you have created is a mirror of the real world. And in the real world, what we (internally) call hurtful and harmful content happens as well. The problem is that when you're behind a computer screen, you almost feel more at liberty to tap into that side of your personality. I think there are three things to think about.

You have to be very intentional about the standards you are creating at the beginning, so you can't just serendipitously say, ‘ok, everyone can talk about whatever you want, and we'll kind of see what happens, and if you're really aggressive, we'll remove you.’ You have to be a little bit more nuanced and think about what the incentives to behave online, how have you introduced people to each other, and if you are using identity, are there ramifications for bad behavior.

The second thing is you have to think about the adjudication mechanism when there is conflict. I think AI will play a huge role in this area.

The third thing is, if you take a step back and think about more interesting ways to solve this problem, I think you can always go another direction completely, which is instead of dealing with the hurtful and harmful content, you just increase the high-quality content. So, you're diluting the pollution.

Drawing from Twitter's early history, where user-driven innovations like hashtags and retweets shaped the platform, the panelists underscored the symbiotic relationship between user feedback and innovation. They advocated for a collaborative approach, blending user insights with internal product development efforts to drive continuous improvement.

Monetization Beyond Advertising

Beyond traditional advertising, the panel explored alternative monetization avenues, such as e-commerce and subscriptions. By prioritizing deeper engagement through interactive features like polls and digital props, platforms can create value for users and creators. The integration of e-commerce functionalities, including the sale of merchandise within the platform ecosystem, offers additional revenue streams while enhancing user experience.

Challenges and Strategies in Community Building

Delving into the intricacies of chat-based communities, the panelists shared their experiences in overcoming challenges such as user management and community identity definition. They aimed to create micro-social networks catering to niche interests by fostering frequent conversations and real-time interactions. Leveraging existing resources and prioritizing engineering efforts were crucial in navigating these challenges.

Scaling for Success

Scaling emerged as a critical aspect, with the panelists discussing strategies for handling high volume and engagement. From load testing to developer empowerment, they emphasized the importance of preparedness and resilience in ensuring platform stability. Engineering applications to tolerate failures and optimizing developer efficiency were highlighted as key strategies for sustainable growth.

Analyzing User Engagement

Concluding on a practical note, the panelists emphasized the importance of analyzing user engagement metrics to drive continuous improvement. Viral loops, push notifications, and event participation metrics were cited as crucial indicators of user engagement. 

Co-founder of Nextdoor Nirav Tolia provided a thought provoking anecdote,

Sometimes, short-term engagement leads to long-term problems with retention. The more interesting example is if you've joined Nextdoor, and I hope you have, you know that we send a lot of emails. We can drive more engagement by sending more emails, but I don't think anyone wants that. When we send more emails, we know we will see more unsubscribes and fewer people visiting Nextdoor as frequently. 

This nuance of how you find the balance between the short-term movement of metrics and long-term retention-centric metrics, I think that's really tough. It's particularly challenging when you start from zero users, which is when you really want to max out any kind of engagement because you're trying to fuel that community to almost 100 million users, which is where we are with Nextdoor. It is a completely different challenge. If you get caught in the short-term metrics game, I think you can do a lot of long-term damage.

By harnessing these insights, platforms can tailor their strategies to meet evolving user needs, fostering vibrant and inclusive communities in the digital realm.

The Future of Digital Communication

The panel discussion provided a comprehensive overview of the evolving dynamics of community building and engagement in the digital age. By embracing diversity, innovation, and data-driven insights, platforms can create immersive experiences that resonate with users, driving sustained growth and fostering vibrant online communities.

Engage & Elevate was capped off with Stream's CEO Thierry Schellenbach demoing the company's Video and Audio API, which has recently been released for general availability.