Ok, so I've been on Cake for about three years. What drew me to the site was @Chris and him being a long-time family friend from church. We've done marathons together, gone to Africa together, etc. So, I consider him and his family to be close friends and I got on the site to show support.
I also am interested in trying new things and as a writer, I love to share my thoughts with people. In addition, I also felt that the concept behind Cake was good. Following topics, not people. Having conversations about topics that really interest you, etc.
I don't think any social media site out there has figured out the conversation part. They have bits and pieces of it, but not the fullness of what it takes to have meaningful conversations. That's what makes the creation of Cake interesting. It strives to accomplish something that other sites haven't. Even more boldly, Cake comes out and points the finger at other social media sites for failing to do so. It is for this reason that I believe Cake has the potential to pay real dividends.
However, there are five things that I think Cake should consider doing if it is to avoid doom and gloom. I will briefly share those five things with the hope of making the site better and giving Chris the type of feedback that he was hoping to get from this thread.
#1. More promotion of Cake via other social media platforms: While Cake strives to be different and unique from other social media platforms, that doesn't mean it should totally ignore them, either. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have tons of users, many of which I'm sure would be willing to join the Cake community if they only knew of its existence.
I think it would help if Cake had more of an active presence on Facebook and Twitter to promote some of the better, more enriching conversations we've had on here. I know that a Cake twitter account has already been set up and when used, it has done a decent job of promoting some interesting conversations. The problem is the account hasn't tweeted much. Typically 1-2 times a month and it hasn't tweeted or retweeted anything since June.
I understand that you don't want to tweet too much and that the goal is to siphon off users from these other platforms, but without tweeting or posting at all on these sites, you are also robbing yourself of a chance to promote your brand for free!
As for what type of content Cake should tweet out, I think tweeting out top conversations that have generated lots of responses should be the goal. This can of course include interesting panels, something I'll get into in my next point.
So, I think if Cake tweeted out 2-3 times a week key conversations that have generated at least a solid conversation (10+ comments), that would be a good place to start. You wouldn't be selling just the content, but the conversation around the content. Maybe someone reads a Cake post on Facebook or Twitter and thinks "Hey, I want to be in on that conversation" or "I wish I could join in on conversations like that" and sign up for Cake.
This is something that @JazliAziz has brought up multiple times on here. For good reason, I think.
#2. Run more panel conversations: When I've talked to Chris about his long-term vision for Cake, something he's brought up to me is the panel conversations. Bringing in notable people who are experts in their field and allowing every day people who are interested in that subject to pitch them questions and get their responses.
As a member of the media, I can tell you a lot of fans wish they were in my shoes to pitch questions to college basketball head coaches about the game that was just played. People want to connect with notables. If you brought in some notables to have a panel conversation and got everyday people to participate and pitch them questions, that could generate some real interest in the site.
Of course, you're not going to start with say Michelle Obama, but I'm sure there's a lot of highly qualified people in the science and tech industries that would be more than happy to participate in a panel conversation if asked. Maybe this avenue has been exhausted and/or the interest isn't there, but I do think running more panels and of course promoting them as I said in my first suggestion would really help the site's potential for growth.
#3. Focus on building up communities in areas that are already strong: The most followed topics on Cake are Apple, science, science news, technology, technology news, and computers. Politics, US politics, and Philosophy aren't far behind. There's some other topics I'm leaving out as well, but these are the main ones that come to mind.
When it comes to finding conversations that Cake can promote, I think these are the topics that should be getting the most attention. When I write a post on Cake, I always try to see if I can attach my post to at least one of these topics because I know these topics have tons of followers on Cake.
If Cake is going to grow, it's going to need content that attracts readers and quality conversations. Given that these topics have a solid following, Cake would be smart to focus their energies on creating thriving communities that area interested in these topics. I'm not saying Cake hasn't been doing that or that Cake should ignore the other topics on the site, but I do think when it comes to panels and conversations that are tweeted out, really focusing on these topics should be a focus.
Get a thriving community that is interested in science and tech on Cake first and then once that is really humming, the other topics of conversation can follow. E.g. Sports, which hasn't really taken off on here but has potential due to how much it is consumed online.
#4. Consider a premium/paid version: I respect the decision to not run ads on Cake, so if that option is a big no-no, then I think having a premium subscription model should be strongly considered. At GoldenBearReport.com, which is part of the Rivals.com network, we have a thriving community of diehard Cal fans that are willing to pay a monthly subscription, around $7.99 a month, to get access to our premium message boards and premium content. That premium content includes scoops on the basketball and football teams, exclusive interviews, and a message board community that is popping with fun conversations about all things Cal sports.
I'm not sure what premium a subscription to Cake would look like, but by paying $4.99 a month, premium subscribers could get access to more features like the ability to start more conversations, get first heads up on what panels are upcoming, the ability to have more reactions, multiple identities, etc. You could have "Premium Cake" be a followed topic where those with a paying subscription get the type of premium updates that I'm talking about. They can have more of a voice in the direction of the site and the type of content that will be produced.
#5. Consider a direct messaging option: I don't know feasible this is, but nearly every social media site has some form of direct messaging. Maybe this could be a premium feature? I think one thing that could keep people on Cake is the ability to direct message users. At Rivals, people are able to direct message each other via a private forum. Obviously, you don't want people to be spammed by unsolicited/unwanted messages, but there's an easy way to go about that. You could allow people to "follow each other" or something purely for the purposes of being able to direct message each other.
There have been times where I wish I could message @Pathfinder about a photo he posted or @Shewmaker about a cool religious post he had. Maybe I want to message @Glenn_Smith more about his photos of Saturn and Jupiter coming together, but I don't want to detract from the conversation on the main thread.
By being able to message people, you are able to draw closer to them and build more of a sense of community. I do think an ability to message people on Cake would really help create more user engagement.
Anyways, those are my five suggestions for how we can make Cake better/how Cake could have been better. I would feel bad if I never wrote this as I do love the community that we have created on here. We just gotta get the word out about how awesome this place is to the right people!