DIY: Create Your Social Action Matrix

After much experimentation, I developed my Social Action Matrix – a tool to identify the core social activities that MOTIVATE your players. This model is inspired by personality quizzes and player types, but focused around VERBS AND ACTIONS rather than human archetypes.

Why make this shift? Why not just stick with player types? I’ve tried both – and found that when I work with teams to build a Social Action Matrix for their project, several good things happen:

  • once you remove the need to lump players into a limited number of categories, you open up the opportunity to create unique clusters of actions that describe the particular motivation of your players.  This process is inherently more flexible than archetypes – and leads to actionable output.
  • everyone gets focused on the actions people take, and what motivates those actions. This mapping makes it easier to translate unmet user needs (uncovered during Customer Discovery) into systems, features and UI affordances.
  • once your team has a tool to rank and prioritize social actions, they’re more effective at triaging and prioritizing bug fixes and new features throughout the product lifecycle.
  • once you visualize and identify the core social actions in your product, your team is better equipped to identify and focus on core social and progression systems. Not every team is good at systems thinking – so I embrace any tool that helps teams develop this crucial skill.

If you’re a product creator, try using this tool to stay focused on meeting core customer needs, and to iterate smart when adding new features and systems. Here are some guidelines for how to use it at different stages.

  • for customer development: use it to create testable hypotheses about customers’ motivations and needs
  • for customer research: use it to generate questions for surveys and interviews
  • for rapid prototyping: use it to analyze, cluster and prioritize user feedback
  • for product planning: use it to align your customer’s motivation with your core social systems
  • for feature prioritization: use it to focus your efforts on high-value high-match social actions
  • for growth strategies: use it to assess and design the necessary breadth of social actions for growth

To show you how this works in practice, let’s say  you’ve just done some customer development research, and gained a better understanding of their needs, desires and motivations. You and your team have also been hard at work fleshing out your ideas for a great product – and perhaps building it as well.  Here’s how you would use the Social Action Matrix to turn customer insights into actionable product decisions.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.50.04 AM

Follow the steps – you can draw on a whiteboard, use colored stickies, create a digital drawing – whatever form works for you.

  1. Start with the Social Action Matrix template (above)
  2. In COLOR 1, write  the social actions that your game enables. Place those actions on the matrix where they most align.
  3. In COLOR 2, write  the social actions that represent your players unmet needs and core motivations. Place those on the matrix as well.

Now ask yourself: does your product align with the needs and motivations of your players? If it does, you’re on the right track baby – double-down on your efforts. If it doesn’t, you have some further work to do – either in changing your target audience, or re-thinking your product design. Either way, it’s a useful outcome.

There are more sophisticated applications of this tool – we’ll touch on those in future posts. In the meantime, try this out and let me know how it works for you.