Building Netsob: Episode 5 – iUniport Subscription Upgrade

This is the seventh entry in a series of entries which follows Sorbari Akpea, a young, ambitious, Nigerian entrepreneur, as he tries to build the next internet giant called Netsob. The original post was entered into his journal at 9:18pm on the 23rd of March, 2012. You can find the complete entries published so far here.


Two days after we launched our iUniport subscription feature, I decided it was time to upgrade it. The flaw of the current subscription feature became immediately obvious because I was also subscribed to the site.

The subscription script was posting every news update that appeared on iUniport website on my Facebook wall as it was supposed to, but because of the recurrence of the news updates, it began to mess up my wall, making the news updates look like one of those annoying Horoscope things on Facebook.

Immediately I noticed this, I realised our users will need a way of filtering and selecting the type of updates they want posted on their Facebook wall: meaning – users need to be able to set their preference during subscription.

So I went to work. An hour later, we launched the improved iUniport subscription feature which came with a few options that gave users the ability to select what they wanted to subscribe to and how they wanted to subscribe to it.

Prior to this, there were no options to choose from during subscription. To subscribe, users simply clicked on the subscription link which took them to a page where they can add our news reporter as their Facebook friend. I had intentionally chose this method because it was simpler and I didn’t want anything that gave users the impression that they were being forced to fill a registration form and that was what giving them options to choose from was going to feel like.

But after I experienced firsthand the horrors of not having any way of setting a preference, I strongly believe people may be willing to spare a few seconds selecting a few options if it’s going to mean they won’t have our news updates deface their Facebook wall.

We also launched another feature called “Manage Subscription” which gave users who were already subscribed to the site under the old subscription program to take advantage of this new features and set their subscription preference without having to subscribe again.

Some of the options we provided include: what type of news updates the user wants to subscribe to; how often he wants to have it delivered to him and how he wants it delivered.

The “Deliver as?” option (i.e. how the user wants the news update delivered to him) gave users the choice to either have the news update delivered to them either as Facebook wall post or as Facebook message. However, I had some reservations including this option. I loved the idea of having the news updates delivered to the user’s Facebook wall because that way their friends can see the updates and also learn about our site. It was a great publicity strategy. And I knew if we included the “Deliver as?” option, most of our users will choose to have their news update delivered to them as Facebook Message so as to keep their Facebook wall clean and we’ll lose a lot of publicity.

It was a real tough decision to make but at the end I decided it in favour of our users. Not [only] because I’m a nice guy but because prior to starting up Netsob, I had compiled all what I knew about how to build a successful and enduring business into a code of conduct that will help guide me when running the business so I never lose my way and run the business into the ground. I call this code of conduct the Netsob Founder’s Pledge.

One article in that code reads: “We promise to always put the needs of our users first when making any corporate decision. Whether we’re thinking of instituting a new company policy, creating a new feature, or simply deciding how to place our ads; we promise to ensure that our decision ultimately serve our users, rather than our own internal goal.” So the choice to decide it in favour of our users is also a decision that benefits our company in the long run.

The reason I incorporated this article into Netsob Founder’s Pledge is because I had previously learnt that in business, your major aim is to keep your users happy. Like the people at Google rightly phrased it, focus on your users and everything else will follow.