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Orders of Magnitude: Power Users vs. Mainstream Users

Yes, you “know” that your power users are different (more vocal, more active, more tech-savvy, more exploratory) than your mainstream users.

But do you know HOW MUCH different they are?

Chances are, they’re not 10% more active. They’re not 20% more expert.

It’s probably more like 100%. 200%. 500%.

That translates into realities like this:

  • Mainstream users send an average of 0.8 messages per day.
  • Power users send an average of 27 messages per day.


  • Mainstream users have completed an average of 7 different tasks in your web app.
  • Power users have completed an average of 492 different tasks in your web app.


  • Mainstream users are following an average of 2 users.
  • Power users are following an average of 1,100 users.

And then situations like this:

Power user: “I’m getting too many messages — it’s annoying and I feel overwhelmed.”

You (a person who is naturally an expert on your product AND a power user) identify with the customer. You think, “hey, she’s right — I’m getting too many messages too!”

You make a change to your product to reduce the number of messages or display fewer messages. Now you enjoy your product more. The vocal power user enjoys your product more and tweets about how psyched they are about the fix.

But a month later, when you check your stats, you notice that usage is down. Logins are down. Activity is down.

How is this possible? You listened to customer feedback! You even focused on the problem rather than the solution — what went wrong?

Where you went wrong:

You listened to a non-representative user.

You applied a universal solution to a variable problem.

For your product to succeed, it needs to solve a problem for a lot of different people who will use it in a lot of different ways. If this were easy, more people would be running billion-dollar companies.

Next week: how to think about power users vs. mainstream users.

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