The Power of Social Capital: Case Study of Paper’d Co-Creator Nicole Antoinette

March 20, 2012

1:00 pm

Social capital: is it some high falutin, new-age terminology meant to give relevance to the irrelevant or the most undervalued hiring criteria in today’s economy?

Nicole Antoinette co-creator, wordsmith and marketing director for the recently released iPhone wallpaper app, Paper’d, is making a strong case for the latter.

In the seven days since the app’s release, Paper’d has already surpassed 60,000 downloads.  Even more impressive is the 241 app store reviews (averaging 4.5 stars).  Two hundred forty one reviews.  In a week….How?

Again, two words: social capital.

It all started five years ago when I started blogging.  I didn’t know what I was doing, I just started writing about my life.  Almost immediately I was shocked by how many like-minded bloggers there were.  I started to form a lot of strong friendships through the comments on my website,” says Nicole Antoinette.

A lot of friends indeed.  More than 5,000 followers on Twitter (while following only three hundred), more than 1,000 Facebook friends, and an immense readerbase that often accounts for more than 100 comments in a given post.

Antoinette has since founded Bloggers in Sin City, a 60 person conference in Las Vegas bringing together other “personal bloggers.”  In her own words, “There are a lot of other blogger communities out there, all focused on specific niches, mom bloggers, fashion bloggers, food bloggers – there wasn’t anything in place for the people who share what’s going on in their life.”  In the process, she has become one of the de facto leaders of this not-so-niche community.

But having a solid following is only a fraction the battle in terms of Paper’d’s (apostrophe party) early success.

“Once we launched the app, I offered a few clear calls-to-action on how my readers could help.  I asked them to download and rate the app, share across their social media profiles, and to show their friends the actual product offline.”  She continues, “But the only reason this can work is because they were involved during the entire process.  We shared our progress on Twitter and Facebook throughout.  We made a point to engage our fans.  By the time the product launched, not only were people excited, they were eager as to how they could help.”

The Challenge

The app’s designer and other co-creator, Jamie Varon, also happens to be Antoinette’s best friend and former roommate (after meeting on Twitter, no less).  The duo created Shatterbox, a two-woman design operation, through which they developed their close working relationship.  Prior to starting Paper’d, however, Varon succumbed to her wanderlust impulses and moved to Paris – nine time-zones ahead of Antoinette’s home in Los Angeles.

When asked how the duo is able to overcome the distance and time challenges, Antoinette responded:  “We’ve broken all the rules.  ‘Don’t go into business with your friends.  Don’t live with your best friend.  Don’t go into business with your roommate and best friend.‘  It was the ultimate trial run for us.  We spent every hour of the day together – we got to know each other so well.  We became totally familiar with one another on all levels.  Now that we don’t have the benefit of face-to-face meetings, it really comes in handy that we have such a deep understanding for how the other operates.  As for the time difference, because we have a finite amount of time together, we’re forced to be more efficient with the little time we do have.”

Although Antoinette and Varon have found an effective working relationship through their unconventional circumstance, Antoinette is cautious to give a blank slate endorsement for others looking to go into business with friends.

“The fact that we know each other so well is the only reason we’re able to make this work.  The most important thing is to communicate, to talk about expectations and fears until you’re totally exhausted, and then talk some more.  When money gets involved, it can get messy really quickly if you’re not brutally honest and straight forward.  In our situation, our partnership has been an advantage.  We push each other.  Knowing that you have someone that you love and care about depend on you helps a lot – although I realize not everyone will have that.  Be honest with yourself and you’ll find out what the right path is for your business.”

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When Zach Davis isn’t getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail’s Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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