Great social products create affordances for connection

A few weeks ago my team did a quarterly team bonding offsite. We went go kart racing. We bonded, and we observed something interesting. The go kart place does a great job of keeping score on the track. Each rider is assigned to a car number, and each car is tracked every time it crosses the finish line. This means the operators can produce a scoreboard showing every lap time for every racer. They can show aggregate metrics like the average lap time for a particular racer, or the fastest lap time for a racer. They can accurately track who’s fastest racer. If they wanted to, they could put racers onto teams and calculate scoring between them.

The track keeps all this data, and smartly, when a group finishes a session, they give each racer a printout containing a bunch of this data. This printout is genius.

It’s an excellent affordance for connection. It gave us tons of stuff to talk about. We were comparing top lap times, average lap times, racing order. We were comparing ourselves to top racers from other groups that week at the track. We were complimenting each other on our strengths. We were jovially jibing one another for our suckinesses.

All of these interactions promoted a feeling of connection between us. And for humans, connecion is enormously motivating and rewarding.

If you think using a certain product will help you to be ‘in’, connected, part of the tribe, you’ll feel a strong pull to use the product. If the product is successful — if using it creates experiences in which you feel connected, valued, respected, helpful — then you’ll want to use the product more.

Successful social products create affordances for connection.


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