Houseparty X White Bear
We met with Julia Onken, Houseparty’s Product Marketing Manager, to discuss meeting your users where they are and how to really get to know your customers in order to drive brand. Our chat covered everything from hanging out with teens over pizza and sharing google docs with them to create their new game Chips And Guac. You can also watch her whole talk on our Youtube channel.
“Meeting your users where they are and prioritising user insights and product design will impact growth,” Says Onken.
Meet Your Users Where They Are
Onken dived into the science and art of on-the-ground market research and how being personable is key to establishing genuine relationships with your audience.
“Meeting your users where they are is not just physically meeting them where they are, it’s mentally as well. Really being able to step into their shoes, understanding their motivations, the kinds of things that are important to them, the kind of things that they’re motivated by, as far as an app, outside of an app, socially, especially in a social network. You’ve got to understand the dynamics between different friend groups and what’s going on in the culture in their lives. It’s really about spending time with people. And our mission is to connect people in the most humane way possible when they are physically apart.
Many brands have a subset of users or customers that are very vocal, and it’s really easy to only listen to those users. These people will post on Reddit, Twitter or reach out with their opinions which are often negative. It’s really easy to take this segment of your audience as a big representation of how your users are feeling. It’s very important that you do keep your eye on those, but it’s not necessarily representative of the majority of your users or your target users. And so meeting your users where they are is about figuring out how to put together a well-rounded user research programme, so that you can get a holistic perspective and build your roadmap around it.”
Knowing who you are marketing to is an ongoing project. By giving your audience a place to be themselves, you’ll be able to unearth and explore how your brand is received.
“There’s no perfect way to do this, but I’ll walk through some of the ways that we found worked best for us. The first step here is to know who your market is. I know this is probably the first step of any business presentation ever in the whole wide world, but I’m still going to start with it. Because it’s important for you to know who your market is. Houseparty is very focused on the way that we make our Gen Z audience feel comfortable and feel like they can speak their mind and be themselves.
I’ve actually spent a few years flying around the US and going to different town suburbs, and meeting with throngs of teenagers by renting out pizza restaurants in those neighbourhoods. We’ll go to that town, rent a pizza restaurant for a couple of days and have back to back groups of teenagers come and hang out with us. We go in, and we have an agenda and objectives, but we do not have a script. In these situations, we go in with whatever we’re working on, whether it be a game or a campaign, and try to understand how that’s going to fit in with people’s lives. By the end of pizza, they are swapping Snapchats and connecting on Houseparty afterwards.”
Chips, Guac and Google Docs
Evolve past conventional market research methods and make your market research into a brand-building opportunity that people will want to take part in.
“One of the icebreakers that we always go in with is we ask participants to open up their phone and point out which apps are who at a house party. We get people saying “Oh, well Facebook is the dad upstairs locked in the bedroom not allowed to come down until he kicks us out with a party. Snapchat is the one on the table.” Another couple of things that have come out of these pizza groups are around ways that teens are evading detection by teachers and parents when it comes to social media and the ways that they behave there.
We recently created a game called Chips and Guac which is a play off of Cards Against Humanity. We knew that we’d have to be super culturally relevant and topical here if it was going to be funny. So, I opened up a Google Doc and sent it out to our contacts for help. Then they sent it out to their friends. And before we know it, the Google doc was full of different college students and high school students calling each other out saying this is funny or this would be funnier if you added this. And now it’s still one of our most popular games.”
Move Beyond Gen Z
By targeting your core audience and ensuring your brand is always relevant for them, new audience segments can pop up in surprising places.
“Even though we are heavily focused on Gen Z, it’s important to understand smaller segments of your audience as well. I discovered a big community of truckers in the US who drive freight across the country for days at a time. Their office culture is non-existent because they are all distributed across different routes. But we found out that there was a huge community of them who joined Houseparty instead of using their CB radios.
We were the number one app in 82 countries this year, which is mind-blowing. We are focused on making the app extremely simple and keeping things simple applies to many generations. I think one of the reasons that Houseparty blew up with everybody during lockdown, was that we already had that base of highly engaged Gen Z users that were able to introduce the app to people. They were locked at home extremely bored. So, prioritising our core audience actually opened us up to other audiences as well.”