I noticed many growing apps adding basic group functionality, seemingly as a nominal feature, to increase engagement and foster community. I believe this is a mistake.
I believe all groups will eventually fail and only individuals will prevail as constants over the time of an apps existence. The reason being: "ownership".
The most successful group implementation has been the hashtag. A user generated keyword to categorize a collection of individual actions. In early implementations these can help shape community and give easy/fun context to data. This assists users in networking by creating fun/simple references, providing "group" context initially, but over time the community matures and repetition pervades.
Eventually, users desire additional value with little to no additional effort. And groups are not the answer.
Groups are certainly appealing. Users are begging for additional controls, especially for networking tools. You want to make the app “stickier” and groups give users tie-ins to specific, interest-based subsets of the network. And your VCs are curious as to why you have not released any new features lately. All weak in logic.
We are humans and we know no bounds. Groups are confined, volatile data mines that quickly become the networks baggage. The user goes through the process of adding these subsets and trusting other users with their subset suggestions (or worse, gets tied in by other users) only to quickly lose interest, feel obligated to the group despite their lack of interest, and have their experience suffer.
We are interacting online more and more like we do offline, and networks need to accommodate, or better replicate real world interactions. I am no longer part of the engineering groups, reading groups, and music groups I was a part of when I was in high school and college. Yet I still build things, read, and play music. Why is that? Because our interests change, our location changes, our friends change, our lives change. We move on. Successful online networks need to be utilities remaining constants throughout ones life.
The goal instead is to increase the value of each account. And you do this by "designing for one". This means building the product and community based on supporting your current users to do more of what they are already doing while adding zero additional work. Key implementations include reducing friction where possible, closing feedback loops, and highlighting connections.
Reducing friction: solving real problems users are having with your app. Providing simple step-by-step processes, using gesture-based actions, and eliminating steps when possible.
Closing feedback loops: the app is used for its utility. Users who feel like they are completing tasks, whether for work or fun, will begin to rely on the technology, instill trust, and support word of mouth.
Highlighting connections: We humans crave positive connections. Apps need to subtlety highlight these experiences, giving users the feelings of personal satisfaction they would experience in successful real life connections.
Implementing these features will help the accounts reach a level of value (or at least the potential for said value), where each account itself can act as a glorified group. This way, it interacts at the same level as the rest of the network, the communication behaviors are unified, and users are directly connected to the accounts so they can freely connect and disconnect with zero effect on others in their network. This ultimately leads to greater ownership of ones account(s) and exponentially increases both the individuals and overall community experience going forward.