Pocket: The Evolution from Read-it-Later App to Powerful Social Network

Pocket, the world's leading save-for-later service, announced an exciting update late last year, and essentially evolved from a normal app to social platform. The Pocket team rolled out “Recommendations� enabling users to not just capture, read, and watch the media most important to them, but to connect with other users and discover and recommend content.

This shift to social platform follows a trend we’ve observed from other key players including , or . These platforms are now leveraging the effect of networks to enable better discovery and ramp up user engagement.

Pocket is an excellent example of a simple app that transitioned into a powerful social network. Below we take a closer look at the features Pocket added, how they have impacted retention, and what insights you can take away for your app.

Embedding the social features into the UX

A quick glance at Pocket’s updated UX proves Pocket’s commitment to social. Three of its four main tabs in the navigation bar (Recommended, Notifications, Profile) are related to new social features. The Recommended and Notification tabs feature a notification bubble designed to create expectation and indicate new content when the app is freshly launched.

Pocket now takes advantage of two standard features of successful social networks: the user profile and an activity feed. The user profile enables individuality, making the experience more personal with a profile picture and stores the user's history of recommendations. The notifications are combined with push notifications. They are important triggers for personalized and relevant notifications within your social graph.

Recommendations: A smarter way of sharing

Another exciting feature is the new “Recommend� section where users can follow friends and influencers who can then recommend stories they find interesting. Here’s a quick look at how Recommendations work:

On every story screen, Pocket has added a “Recommend� button. Once a user taps “Recommend,� he or she can add a comment, and then he or she has the option to share the recommendation to Twitter or Facebook simultaneously, which has the ultimate goal to drive new new users to Pocket. A user can also recommend the story by quoting some part in the text.

Recommendations show up on the news feeds of people following the user and are shown on the user’s public profile, where Pocket aggregates all recommendations and makes them accessible to the community.

Smartly Growing the Social Graph

In order to have a sustainable network and avoid the empty room problem, users need to connect with each other. Pocket tackles this process in their “Find Users� process. The first thing a user sees after clicking the “Recommended� icon is a big banner prompting them to add fellow users. This feature is well communicated and easily displayed, enabling the user to understand the need to connect with others. Pocket recommends prominent users and influencers. It also prompts the user to import Facebook, Twitter, and address book contacts.

The Power of Pocket’s Social Network

With these new features, Pocket’s users don’t only come back to the app to read stories they had previously saved, but to discover new content through their friends and influencers. The experience of reading now has a social element included.

Pocket’s users now have access to curated stories, recommended by users with similar taste and a credible recommendation history. When someone you know and trust recommends an article, you are more likely to read it. By creating credibility through social networks, Pocket has undoubtedly dramatically increased engagement.

There is also a viral component that needs to be mentioned. With more advanced onboarding, including the ease of inviting contacts, users will be even more incentivized to invite their friends. Onboarding combined with automatic push notifications related to the social graph will enable better discovery and make the experience more relevant.

Ultimately, Pocket has realized that a social network built on top of their content is a lot more powerful for discovery and engagement. It isn’t just Pocket that can benefit from network effects. No matter what type of app you have built, adding a social layer can boost retention and engagement.