How is coto Decentralizing Social Media to Make it Safer for Women?

How is coto Decentralizing Social Media to Make it Safer for Women?
How is coto Decentralizing Social Media to Make it Safer for Women?
In a digital landscape dominated by social media giants, a groundbreaking Web3 social community platform is quietly making waves. This transformative platform, known as coto, has carved out a distinct niche by providing an exclusive space for women, fostering self-expression in a secure and empowering environment.

The coto platform was launched in October 2022 by the founders of the Eve World, Rajneel Kumar, Tarun Katial, Aparna Acharekar and Avi Kumar who worked together in leadership positions at Zee5. The coto app reached 100,000 subscribers within three months of launch and now has 7000+ thriving Web3 communities built by women across different domains.

But how does coto solve women’s real-world problems through a Web3 platform? And why did coto begin life as a Web3 platform, to start with? To find out, we reached out to Rajneel Kumar, the cofounder and head of product and engineering at coto. Here’s the story.

The Genesis of coto

The initial idea for coto came from a personal incident in Tarun Katial’s life. Tarun’s wife found herself at the centre of online harassment when a stranger started stalking her and sending offensive messages on WhatsApp.

Triggered by this incident, Tarun (former CEO of ZEE5) reached out to his colleagues, Rajneel and Aparna, to find a solution for creating a safe online space for women. Rajneel, who headed product and technology teams in his previous stint at Viacom18, was instantly hooked to the challenge of solving a real-world problem.

“I was keen on building a solution to solve a real problem which existed out there. It became quite apparent that the online space has been as unfair to women as the real world. The idea really was to bring together my experience of building product and technology solutions,” says Rajneel.

With a visionary product leader like Rajneel in the team, who was driven by the passion for creating meaningful user experiences, coto’s vision statement took shape – to develop a women-centric platform that empowers them, celebrates their interests, and offers a safe environment free from judgment or unwanted interactions. Not just that, the coto platform aimed to empower women with unique opportunities for growth and financial independence.

From Embracing Web3 to Challenging META and Twitter

Central to coto’s inception was also the aspiration to challenge the status quo of major tech companies and their monopolistic control over user data.

Rajneel says, “When we were building coto, we saw data privacy problems with the big tech companies. In general, the Web2 space is owned by these large corporations where the users don’t own their data, nor can they monetize their presence.”

Concerns over data privacy and the disproportionate ownership of user data by large corporations drove the founding team of coto to explore the possibilities of building the platform in Web3 and taking advantage of its decentralised nature.

“For me, it’s always about the user and how tech can solve problems to improve their lives. The user comes first, and the platforms and technologies are second. So, I was looking to understand the fundamental challenges women face on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. We started by identifying what was broken and figured out the users' needs - they want ownership, privacy, they don't want corporations to sell their data, and they want a safe online place,” says Rajneel.

For coto, Web3 just happened to be one of the solutions to meet user needs and solve all the fundamental problems they face on social media platforms. By embracing Web3 principles, Rajneel believes that coto enables users to own their digital identity and the content they create entirely. It also empowers users to token gate their content and establish marketplaces, offering unique opportunities for financial growth and prosperity.

The Unique Value Propositions of coto

In a world where advertising often dominates the online landscape, stifling individuality and monopolizing content distribution, coto emerges as a refreshing change.

“Everything that creators need to drive traffic to their property on any social platform today is always linked to some form of advertising, and advertising always links back to the large tech companies who control it with a monopoly,” says Rajneel.

When it comes to community building and social networking, there are several platforms out there that offer a range of ad-driven features. But what separates coto from the rest is the level of control it offers to its platform’s users.

Rajneel says, “Community building features are just one small part. But the problem is that when you look at creators, what they lack is a platform which not only gives them the features but also gives them control over what they want around that community. For instance, getting the kind of people they want in on the platform, curating the experiences people have in the community, and creating monetization opportunities.”

What coto really offers to its community owners and creators is the power to set controls in place and curate the kind of conversations happening. By doing so, coto empowers content creators to control narratives, promote meaningful engagement and open the door to genuine discoveries in a community-driven environment. This discovery process allows women in the platform to expand their reach organically.

coto's Distinctive Content Creation Approach

Rajneel emphasizes that coto’s core essence is centred around fostering conversations, setting it apart from image/video-driven platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.

“If you look at social media platforms, they're largely image or video heavy. While coto also generates engagement with images, videos, and texts, we treat them all at par. Since coto is a conversational platform, we prioritize providing a space for users to have meaningful conversations,” says Rajneel.

By driving the conversations, the platform has become less about individual users’ personal lives and more about shared interests and experiences. The platform allows users to choose the format that best suits their communication style. This approach reflects Coto’s commitment to inclusivity and versatility in content creation.

User-Driven Development

At coto, user feedback plays a crucial role in shaping the platform’s features and ensuring they cater to the needs of its community. They have a five-step approach to user-driven product development and management.

1. User Interviews and Research: The process begins with in-depth user interviews and research to understand the challenges and pain points the community members face.
2. Prototype Testing: After designing a feature based on user feedback, coto conducts prototype testing. This step allows the team to assess the feature’s usability, identify any areas for improvement, and gather feedback from potential users.
3. Data and Metrics Analysis: Once a feature is developed and launched, coto closely monitors its adoption and usage through data and metrics analysis.
4. Continuous User Research: coto maintains an ongoing research program to collect feedback from community members and community administrators.
5. Iterative Design and Development: Armed with user feedback and data insights, coto embraces an iterative design and development process.

Rajneel explains, “It all starts with user interviews and discussing their problems in a particular area. User feedback and research translate into building the feature prototype. Once the prototype is ready, we go into prototype testing, and then it goes into development. After it comes out of development, we get the actual data and metrics on the user adoption and platform usage, depending on the type of feature which has come out.”

The process of prioritizing new feature development in coto is driven by a core principle – user value. Rajneel emphasizes that each potential feature is evaluated based on the user value it brings to the platform and its community members.

“We believe in building in public. For us, prioritization always comes down to user value and what user value we are driving.”

Community-Driven Monetization on coto

coto offers its members and community owners a range of monetization opportunities that empower them to turn their passion and expertise into tangible rewards.

“Monetization is driven purely by what users do on the platform, which is primarily built around getting points for all the actions they perform on the platform. And then that leads to a redemption centre where they can redeem the points to get platform features.”

This unique approach to monetization by providing user value helps to foster a thriving ecosystem of community-driven commerce. This system incentivises engagement and active participation, allowing users to unlock premium features or access exclusive content by redeeming their earned points.

At the heart of every coto community lies a shared interest or theme. This common interest creates a fertile ground for offering contextual social products and services.

“And that is not restricted to only other community creators, but any member can really be offering a service, whether it is being able to offer courses,” says Rajneel.

Community members in coto often organize offline events and meetups that resonate with the community’s theme. “For example, The Bangalore Besties or Hyderabad High Tech Angels are some of the big communities with a lot of engagement. And if their members are organising local events, they can set it up on the platform and open it for registration to monetize it.”

“By placing the shared Interest of the users at the core of our communities, it makes it easy for members to use the tools of the social product, service and live commerce to generate revenue opportunities,” said Rajneel.

The platform’s focus on user value and community-centric commerce ensures that both creators and members find opportunities to thrive and contribute to the growth of the coto ecosystem.

Overcoming Challenges

As with any platform, coto faces its own set of challenges, and the primary focuses are on building and maintaining engaging conversations.

“The biggest problem we are obsessed about solving right now is not really a problem. It is something which will forever be a quest for us. It's about how to build engaging conversations. Engagement by itself is something which has many shades to it. And we have solved a lot of those problems. It is all done on the bedrock of AI to make an engaging conversation for the members of those communities.”

Also, maintaining privacy and security is a top priority for coto. The platform utilizes robust security measures and strict data protection protocols to safeguard user information and ensure a safe environment for all members. Solving these challenges is an ongoing process, and coto remains dedicated to refining its offerings and enhancing user experiences.

Adapting to Emerging Trends in Web3 and Blockchain

As for trends in the Web3 and blockchain space, coto is excited about the growing usability of blockchain technology for protecting user identities and enabling users to have ownership and control over their data.

“This aligns well with coto's commitment to privacy and security for its users. It is something which has been growing and will continue to grow, where the user's identity also belongs to them,” says Rajneel.

Additionally, the platform is interested in leveraging NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) for token gating of communities and experiences.

“We use NFTs for token gating communities, experiences, and interactions because it puts the power of monetization purely in the hands of the creator or the community owners and, and people who are part of it and members.”

By embracing these trends and continuously innovating, coto is poised to create a thriving and empowering ecosystem for women, positively impacting their lives and experiences.

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