So you’ve decided what kind of application you want, and you’ve programmed it up already. Now the problem is “How do you grow and maintain it?” These two issues (growing and maintaining) are managed through two separate processes every application (or website for that matter) should keep in mind.
I like to call these two processes the invite and re-engagement loops. The invite loop refers to how you get new users, while the re-engagement loop refers to how you connect with old ones.
The Invite Loop
Invite loops are all about intelligently inviting new users. Forced invites are out of the question. However, the most effective invites we’ve found are the ones that provide a social context. Social context means that a people’s ego and relationships are leveraged as an incentive to add and application.
This happens to a degree when one user pokes another. Depending on who pokes me, I’m either more or less likely to add an application and poke back. When you tie ego into it, it becomes even more persuasive. If my friend bought me on “Friends for Sale”, it assaults my ego in a way that makes me more likely to add the application and buy them instead. If I’m told that my friend needs only $5 more virtual dollars for their cause, I’m more likely to add the application to help them out.
Tie invites or notifications to these actions in order to get new users interested in your application and test on a variety of messages.
The Re-Engagement Loop
When Facebook first started, applications were all about installs. The more you had, the better your application was, or so we thought. A lot of users install applications, only to not use them again, or only infrequently. The reasons for re-engagement are obvious. More users returning to your application provides more opportunity to sell to them.
Aside from creating an engrossing application experience, there are a couple things you can do to encourage re-engagement. Similar to the invite loop, you can use notifications to inform a user when their friends are active on the application, making the case for re-engagement more persuasive (i.e. John wants to play a game of Scrabulous with you). Don’t forget you can send email notifications to your users.
Another frequently used method is to tie virtual currency into your applications. You can give more money to users who re-engage more frequently or carry out specific actions. This can also be an opportunity for you to earn real money when users complete CPA offers.
Also, applications are driven by changing content. You need to have something new for the user every time they log in or their frequency of returning will go down. It’s the same deal in the blogging business. One suggestion is to let users subscribe to more or fewer notifications when content changes.
In closing, you should think of how to engineer these two loops into your application. What actions trigger a socially relevant event to let new users know about your application? What incentives can you create for users to return (new content, more currency, social relevance)?
Finally, don’t be spammy to your existing users. I’ve essentially turned off Fun Wall because I’d get an email nearly every day telling me about how someone else I barely knew forwarded a photo to me. I’m not interested in simple friend spam, and I’m sure your returning users aren’t either.