Interview: No one can afford to treat users as commodities, says LBB’s Suchita Salwan

User referrals have played a significant role in the growth of LBB, a platform that derives its core strength from UGC; we ask Suchita Salwan for journey insights.

For platforms like LBB (Little Black Book), the social media community plays an important role in engagement and growth. Efforts are pumped into understanding their needs and create on-platform incentives that align close to what is expected of them. Suchita Salwan, CEO & Founder, LBB, has, on many occasions, spoken about the importance and value of the LBB community. We put forth a few questions to understand the world of content through her eyes. Here’s what we found!

To what extent do you feel the content ecosystem has been successful in treating contributors as real people and not commodities?

I think social media has made companies — be it content, commerce, logistics, any kind of consumer-facing company — significantly more cognizant and considerate about their online community. It’s easier than ever for users and communities to reward or admonish brands and platforms; and we have seen more and more brands and platforms tailor their content and messaging to be more relatable, engaging and grounded. No one can afford to treat their users and community as commodities — there is way too much choice for consumers for platforms to take their market position for granted.

Also Read: #SAMMIE2019: Experts discuss how content community leads to commerce

Could you share some tips for upcoming platforms on how to build a community?

I think the most important step is to figure out what community means for your platform, and how will you measure successful engagement with this community. For example, in LBB’s case, the community consists of our LBB Insiders who post their recommendations on our web and app; and its users who shop on LBB and align with the ethos of LBB — which is essentially spending their time and money on ‘local’ brands and businesses (largely SMEs). Our community also includes brands that sell their products as well as those who advertise on our platform.

So step number 1 for us was to chalk out

  • a) Which communities create product leverage?
  • b) How do we engage with these communities to continue strengthening our product leverage?

I would encourage brands and platforms to think of their community as a potential product differentiator (if it can be constructed to deliver on that outcome), as opposed to something you work on only for brand marketing. 

What are your views about the success of UGC-based platforms in tier 2 and tier 3 cities?

We already see a huge volume of enquiries coming in from tier 2 and 3 cities asking for a platform like LBB to launch in their cities and towns. And we know there’s a huge opportunity for us to tap into newer, unaddressed markets and grow our user base from there. At the end of the day, LBB is a platform that helps you make the best lifestyle choices for you — across your areas of interest and budget; and our platform will succeed in any market or city that has a young population (22-32 years), who are eager to try new things in fashion, lifestyle & experiences. 

Also Read: Reinvention is one way to build a strong social media community: Suchita Salwan

How do ensure people continue to see your platform as a lucrative option over posting the content on their own social media?

If you look at the format of posts on LBB’s own platform vs say platforms like Instagram or TikTok, LBB’s much more in-depth and immersive. The use case and context for posting on LBB is not for selfies — it’s for people to share things they’re discovering. I think that’s our greatest leverage. So the same user can post across multiple platforms, but what they post on LBB is very different from what they’re posting on IG, TikTok or YouTube. At the end of the day, we’re optimising for users to share authentic information about their experiences; so the way in which we make the opportunity lucrative for our Insiders community is different from what it is on other platforms.

Is the rise of individual influencers a bane or a boon for curation platforms like Little Black Book?

It’s totally a boon! We work with a lot of excellent influencers and content creators on LBB — we’ve launched Pop-Ups with Pooja Dhingra, video series with fashion and food influencers, and they’re also a big part of our community. At LBB, we’re all about having more and diverse voices on our platform, and truly showcasing the best independent brands and businesses that exist!

Tell us about the marketing and media mix at play for LBB?

For our own marketing, we use different channels for the web and app. The web is optimised for search engines; and of course, Facebook and Instagram play an important role in us building our brand and reach. The best platform, however, has been WhatsApp — especially for app growth. User referrals (peer to peer sharing) within WhatsApp have been a very healthy channel of growth that’s brought in an engaged and retained user base.

We also see a good amount of direct traffic, with our core user-base going to LBB.IN or LBBs app directly, and spending about 10-15 mins per session. We are a digital-first company, and use digital media as a way to acquire and engage with users. That said, as LBB is about discovering great brands and businesses, offline (specifically, events) has played a strong role in reinforcing our brands’ proposition and introducing people to LBB in real life. Partnerships with radio have been helpful as well. 

Which social media platform works best for you, in terms of engagement and promotions?

Instagram is most definitely great for engagement, Facebook is good for reach, and Google (though not social media) still wins at steady, high intent traffic. But we’re excited to start leveraging YouTube and TikTok over the next couple of months.