The dynamic of Facebook application marketing is rapidly changing. What once was an environment in which your application was practically guaranteed to go viral has shifted to one in which you need to come up with creative ways of marketing your application. The MyBucks application is a perfect example of this. After Aryeh Goldsmith (the creator of the MyBucks application) added the “Top Referrers” feature, the application immediately turned viral. After seeing all the applications go viral I have decided to do a brief overview of a few key features that help your application go viral. While this is not an exhaustive list, it covers the majority of tricks of the trade that are currently being used.
- Forced Invite – The first instance that I saw this implemented was by David Gentzel when he launched the Happy Hour application. Within a matter of weeks the application has already become the 13th most popular application on Facebook, which is no easy feat. This method was duplicated by other applications with varying success within a matter of hours. What exactly is this method you ask? As soon as someone decides to add the application they are forced to invite 10 friends. This is a risky tactic but David Gentzel was able to leverage his other highly popular applications to drive traffic to this application. Personally, I don’t recommend this tactic. It is a brute force method that can be used by those with popular applications that don’t have rich feature sets. I have a feeling that most happy hour users don’t return to the app on a daily basis, but then again I don’t have statistics to back that up.
- Invite after action – When the Facebook platform first launched there were no restrictions as to how many people an application user could invite per day. As a result many of the initial applications that took advantage of the checkbox invite forms grew rapidly. Since the launch, there is now a limit of 10 friends per day by each application user. While it has been significantly limited by Facebook, it is still a useful form of marketing. When building your application you should definitely come up with an effective way of allowing users to invite other people.
- News feed – The news feed is the most powerful component of Facebook. Period. There are two ways that applications can leverage the news feed. The first is naturally built in. Most of the time, when a user adds an application it is displayed in their friends’ news feeds. While it is not a guarantee that it will show up in other people’s news feeds (due to a number of factors pertaining to news feed optimization), this is the primary thing that helps applications spread virally. When I launched my Bush Countdown clock I added no viral components and relied completely on people’s news feeds. This has spread the application to close to 8,500 users. While not spectacular, it is hardly something to sneeze at. The second way of using a news feed is by leveraging the news feed API calls that Facebook has provided. Within reason, you can regularly post news items to a user’s mini-feed within their profile. A small percentage of the time that item will end up on their friends’ news feeds. While this is severely limited, at least you can get it on to your users’ mini-feeds. Every form of exposure you can get (within reason) for your application, you should strive for.
- Referrals/Giveaways – This is the most recent form of viral marketing on Facebook. I am seeing a number of applications adopting this technique. The referrals tactic is to come up with an effective way of encouraging your applications users to market your application for you. They can market your application on blogs, websites, forums, Facebook walls, messages to friends and more. The bottom line is that you end up with your application users being the ones that get scrappy with the marketing, not you. Giveaways are usually combined with this to provide an incentive for users to promote your application. There is a risk though in making your application look cheap, but for now I think this is a great technique.
- One-on-One – Used alone, this technique may not result in viral growth of your application but combining this technique with one of the others I have listed can result in exceptional results. The concept is straight forward. Reach out to people that you think will find your application useful. This technique is more for targeted applications, not for generic applications such as poke wars or zombie biting or any of the other generic applications out there. Reach out to those individuals that you think will benefit from your application and then follow-up with them once they’ve added it. The result is passionate users that become your own brand evangelists. This technique has been used by countless communities to help generate passionate users. If you nurture your application users you will see positive results in the long-term.
While each of these techniques can provide varying results, all of them are targeted at creating the viral effect. Ultimately that is what makes the Facebook platform so appealing currently. You can rapidly reach thousands to millions of individuals in a short span of time at minimal cost. The problem with these viral techniques are that many of them will become practically useless soon after I release this post. That is the nature of viral marketing. Viral marketing techniques lose their appeal after they become adopted by the masses. While the techniques that have been used until now are far from revolutionary, I have a feeling that we will begin to see truly creative techniques in the coming months.