How to Build a Viral Facebook App: Lessons from RockYou CEO Lance Tokuda

Facebook HoroscopesFacebook Slideshows

The last couple of weeks have shown the unprecedented power of Facebook as a software distribution platform. Within days, many application providers have their creations in the hands of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of users. RockYou is one application company that has succeeded in achieving rapid viral growth in use of its apps, with Horoscopes’ 1.3 million users and Slideshows’ 500,000 users. We sat down with RockYou CEO Lance Tokuda to get his thoughts on gaining viral distribution through the Facebook platform.

IF: Several of RockYou’s apps are extremely popular on Facebook. What do you think makes a Facebook app successful?

LT: Facebook has created the most viral platform in the history of computing. In the first week, the popular apps were similar to what you would find in other major social networks: music, slideshows, video… and horoscopes! There were also a few native apps like X Me and Extended Info which enhanced core Facebook functionality. By the end of the week, the growth rates started to decline on most major apps.

RockyouIn the second week, Flixster uncovered the viral loop around invite requests. This channel was so viral that any app using invites grew much more rapidly than other apps. The top five growing apps all had friend invite requests as a part of their install flow. By the end of the week, even Facebook was using invites for their own Video app. Long term, I believe that the Facebook has created an operating system for social media and we’ll see successful applications in all shapes and forms.

IF: How did RockYou’s apps’ growth on Facebook start?

LT: There was a small level of seeding through Facebook’s applications directory but for the next week, it was all viral growth around the mini-feed. An interesting case study was the X Me app which grew to over 200,000 users in a few days without even being listed on the Facebook directory. Even a single person could start a viral chain leading to the acquisition of hundreds of thousands of users. In total, we acquired over a million users in the first week.

rockyouIF: How are RockYou’s Facebook apps going to change going forward?

LT: We are looking at even deeper integrations into the Facebook platform but as always, we reserve the majority of our development resources to make the changes that our users ask for.

IF: What are your wishes for how the Facebook platform could be improved?

LT: First would be a solution for auto-playing Flash content that would preserve the Facebook experience. Many of our users are requesting that our slideshows auto-play when someone visits their page as they do in most other social networks. We’ve heard that there may be an opt-in solution for auto-play on the horizon so we’re hopeful. Second would be profile access to FQL (Facebook’s database query language). That would allow for more dynamic content updates on your profile page. Third would be another viral channel to explore… you can never have enough of them! 🙂

[tags]rockyou, horoscopes, slideshows, facebook, app, viral, growth[/tags]