Building products is a cycle of identifying signals (data, feedback) and using intuition and patterns to make decisions. We’ve learned a lot about how to prioritize, and our goal with these product updates is to invite you into the process and learn about how we think & build at CoffeeBreak.

What did we add?

We already give users two suggestions of people who we think they should know based on their goals and interests. We added an additional suggestion per week, called “In your circle” suggestions, for people our users are already connected with. This can either be somebody they met through CoffeeBreak before, or somebody that they already know and add as a contact on CoffeeBreak.

Why did we decide to add it?

Our goal is to connect users with the people who help them achieve their goals. As we move forward in life, we meet all sorts of people, and it can be difficult to keep up with them. We all have more extensive networks than we realize, and a trigger to reconnect with a relevant person at the right time can be career-defining.

We’ve received a lot of feedback from people that leveraging existing networks can be quite challenging. Our connections come from a variety of places - friends, old coworkers, person we went to school with, and people we’ve met at events and conferences years ago and not reached out to since. Many connections on Twitter and LinkedIn can be people you’ve never met, and have never interacted with outside of a feed. Even these connection can be a “warm in” and become stronger over time.

This feature has both growth and utility baked into its core. Having a large network of diversely talented professionals is crucial to our success as a service, but these networks can take time to grow, especially as we expand into different industries and regions. By allowing users to bring in and leverage their existing network, CoffeeBreak can be a useful tool even in places where the user base isn’t very large yet. At the same time, it gives our users a strong incentive to invite others onto the platform, giving us a viral growth loop.

What sort of things did we consider as we were building it?

Current outreach methods. We thought a lot about how people keep in touch with their network today, and what makes them effective and ineffective. Feeds on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are one way to keep up with people, but not everyone is very active on these platforms, and the signal to noise ratio can be quite high. Other people have systems (like spreadsheets or CRM) that they use to reach out to all their connections on a regular basis, but most people don’t have the time, process, or discipline to keep in touch with more than a handful of close connections on an ongoing basis.

User’s bandwidth. Ultimately, our users should be setting the cadence for how often they meet, and we don’t want to overburden them with reminders to get back in touch. For now, we give our users just one recommendation of a person to reconnect with per week, and our users can choose to reach out or not to control their bandwidth.

Distribution. Developing this feature in a way that makes it easy for users to bring in their existing connections, and obvious why they would want to, will help us grow much more quickly.

What were our initial takeaways?

So far, 1 in 5 of the users we’ve given “In your circle” suggestions to have reached out to at least one, with many returning to do it more than once. Of those who have tried it, we’ve gotten significant positive feedback. We’re happy with that start, and are confident we can grow the usage.

We’ve had some feedback on discoverability of the “In your circle” tab being a problem. We’ve since added a notification to the tab to make it more obvious when our users have one of these suggestions. We’ve also gotten feedback from users not understanding what the feature does - in particular, we’ve seen confusion around the term “In your circle”. As we invest more in this feature, we’ll need to look into opportunities to make it more discoverable and more easily understood.

What are our next steps?

We think helping people leverage their existing networks has a lot of potential, so we’re excited about possibilities to flesh out this more in the future!

We’d like to make it easier for users to bring in their existing connections. One way to do this would be by integrating into other places users keep in touch online, such as email, LinkedIn, and other social media.

If we can better help users keep track of their interactions and history together, we could better suggest when to reach out. Knowing things such as how they met, when they last met, and things they talked about or worked on together would be some examples. If we do this well, we could become the primary place keep track of their network.

We also want to make it easier for our users to update their goals on an ongoing basis. The better we can understand the nuances of our users’ goals, the better we can help them leverage their network.

Thoughts? Questions? We’d love to hear from you.

We’re constantly learning as we go and we’d love to learn with you. Shoot us a note at [email protected]