What 6 Months Of Social Media Abstinence Brought Us

Approximately 6 months ago, I put a countdown screensaver on my Mac for our 60-day goal as we got started on a massive series of experiments that will tell us whether we had what it takes to build and market a mass market interactive platform. And I vowed to stay out of Medium, Facebook, LinkedIn and literally anything that will distract us from our goals. Today, nearly 120 days behind on our initial 60-day milestone, I break my silence to talk about what we have accomplished and where we’re headed.

As I write this tonight, on Friday, Sep 28 2018, the teenagers hosting a string of AMAs on U13 on “the Future of the United States from a teenager”, “#iAmInteresting”, “going through high school without sex”, “dealing with bullying in school” and some 40 other topics, fun and serious, make me emotional. If we go no further than this, we have achieved what we set out to do — bring people together for real interactions — and that makes us extremely proud!

From There To Here — 100 Rapid Experiments And More

Last year, we went live with our AMA platform (UrbanAMA), initially geared towards authors, journalists, politicians, college professors, and many others engaging existing audiences on Twitter and Snapchat. We have had over 10k AMAs from 100s of authors, political candidates, journalists, professors, and others. Our AMA hosts ranged in age from 17 to 75, saw huge growth in Twitter engagement as a result of their AMAs and 90% of them came back for repeat AMAs. But that didn’t build our own sustained mass market audience.

Faced with the crossroads of being a tool for media vs the destination where interactivity happens, we embarked on a series of experiments that would lead us here. We built a web app that would be conducive for rapid overnight experiments and built and tweaked nearly 100 small to moderate experiments in 3 months. We ran multiple experiments a day with a/b testing across a cross-section of 50–100k users, poured over data day after day to identify what captured the imagination of teen audiences.

The Birth Of U13 Flops

With tons of data and insights, we put together a revision for UrbanAMA — U13 Flops, which went live on Aug 22. We woke up on the morning of Aug 23 to graphs that we hadn’t seen before. That began a 30-day streak of learning, product design, tweaks, ads, and engineering that surpasses anything we have ever done before in our combined careers!

It took grit and resilience we never knew we had; and the courage to make fast and bold engineering decisions.

In the last 30 days, we have increased every relevant metric 10–100x, we have daily sessions and session times that now match Snapchat and Facebook Messenger and interactions that teens are having nowhere else on social media at the moment!

Our best 30-day period in the last 4 years looks like this 👇

And one of our proudest entrepreneurial moments looks like this 👇

The Road Ahead

We have a long road ahead and we know it will take a sharp focus to bring Internet scale to this. And we’re ready for it.

But there’s something important we’re doing now that brings me to break my silence. With the growing discussions around bullying, depression and mental health amongst teens that we’re seeing, we are bringing teenage counselor AMAs to the platform, starting next week.

U13 will be a platform that enables teenagers to seek help when they need it through formats they love — messaging and AMAs — alongside having fun discussions.

With this, we’re taking on one of the biggest growing problems of the next generation. This is just the beginning.

One Last Thing…

I am deeply grateful for the co-founder I have, our fiercely loyal team that has proven to have the fighting spirit and the early investors who believed in us. Without any one of you, this would be impossible. So, thank you!

What About Social Media Now?

Now that I broke my silence, there comes this question of whether I’m going to be active on Medium or Facebook or LinkedIn over the coming weeks and months. After 6 months of no Facebook on my phone, it’s going to be tough to go back to having it!

Truth be told, there have been tons of topics that have outraged me to levels that would previously have me furiously writing. Writing to not only vent but to inspire anyone I can to do something. But, I realize that our biggest contribution is, in fact, going to be providing a platform for all voices to be heard and amplified.

I am sure I’ll be back to more writing, but for now, I’m going to reset my screensaver for our next milestone!

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Vidya Narayanan

Building Rizzle (rizzle.tv), the future of video! In past life (@Google, @Qualcomm), I built stuff that you’ve likely used!