I loaded up Think Up, and saw this:
I created a group on @Branch to discuss my work in “Dragons of Night”. Ask to join or watch to follow along: http://t.co/XdybBl7Z
Hmm. A year ago, I announced with a lot of excitement that I started a group on Branch... I was sure it was going to be the next big thing, but I was wrong.
What happened to Branch?
The site is still up, but I haven't used it in forever... in fact, I haven't really heard anyone mention it in quite some time. So what happened?
Branch had built a powerful collaboration tool. I was using it as a place to discuss ideas with the inner circle, but then the Branch developers freaked out. I am not sure exactly why, but they pivoted the company away from everything that made them special, and took out all of the group collaboration features (here is there announcement).
Eventually, they launched a You Bundle-like group app (does anyone remember You Bundle either?) that didn't have any of the tools that made Branch special.
What made Branch special?
It was a conversation aggregation tool that allowed people to bring in content from multiple sources to discuss them in a neatly ordered threaded conversation that could easily Branch out into subtopics while keeping it all easy to read and follow.
Branch was the best tool that I have ever used to foster discussion. The Group feature meant that you didn't have to be invited into the conversation, you could read along or participate in the topic.
When these features were removed, the service lost its distinctiveness and became little more than a public email thread.
The Lesson we need to learn from Branch
I understand the necessity of a business to pivot. I am in the midst of one for my business right now. However, if the pivot removes those things that make your product (whatever it may be) less useful or differentiated from its competitors, then it will only damage your business.
When we change course, we have to consider what it is we do well and that our audience enjoys. Double down on those attributes and find a way to strengthen them.
If we are not building on our strengths, then we are building in weaknesses.