Q&A with two Stanford Facebook class teams who reached 1M users in 30 days

stanford.pngAs we initially wrote in September, Stanford University students had a unique opportunity to take a cutting-edge class this fall: “Create Engaging Web Applications Using Metrics and Learning on Facebook.” The class, taught by Dr. BJ Fogg of Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab with the assistance of Dave McClure, quickly swelled in ranks as students jumped at the chance to learn how to build and market Facebook applications.

While the quarter is now wrapping up, two teams in the class have achieved unexpected levels of success: both KissMe (by Joel Darnauer, Eduardo Abeliuk, and Chris Mocko) and Send Hotness (by Joachim De Lombaert, Ed Baker, and Alex Onsager) have been installed by over 1 million Facebook users in under 30 days, each with over 100,000 daily active users (in fact, Send Hotness just reached 2 million installations and currently has over 300,000 daily active users).

We spoke with KissMe team member & Stanford undergrad Chris Mocko and Send Hotness team member & Stanford GSB student Ed Baker about their experiences in CS 377W and the success of their apps.

IF: Why did you decide to take this class? What was your background with social web apps?

kissmejd.jpgkissmeea.jpgmocko.jpgCM: Throughout the summer, I never really had too much interest in Facebook applications and only supported the applications because of my addiction to Scrabulous. I did not comprehend the possibilities made available by the Facebook API, nor did I have any experience in other social web apps and widgets. I did know, however, that when I received an e-mail from my department mailing list announcing the class, I had to do anything, even drop a course required for my major, to be a part of the class.

I did not come in with much experience in web development, but I had a very strong interest in learning everything and anything about the subject, and what better way to learn than by pairing up with the smartest students in the country! I have been fortunate to be paired with two excellent partners, Joel Darnauer and Eduardo Abeliuk, who have been essential in setting up the servers and the database and implementing the code.

sendhotao.jpgsendhotjl.jpgbaker.jpgEB: I decided to take this class partially just because it sounded cool, but also because I was impressed with the professors and with the other students in the class. I helped virally tune a Facebook app called Compare People over the summer, and as a result they grew from a couple thousand users to millions of users.

I have been practicing viral tuning for several years now and have been amazed by the viral metrics of Facebook apps versus stand-alone sites. Not only is it easier to get a higher viral factor, but the periods are much shorter, which result in an even higher “effective” viral factor. Alex and Joachim had built a really cool Graffiti app before taking this class, so I knew they’d be good partners to team up with.

IF: What metrics of your success are you the most proud of, and why? What did you do (tactics, strategies, clever tricks) to get there?

CM: We are most proud of reaching one million users. We remember during the first weekend after our application’s launch being thrilled when we reached 500 users. To think that we could reach one million installs in a month, with no prior experience and no investment to “buy” installs, boggles our minds. A metric that we are currently tracking and very intrigued with is our daily active users because this number stagnated for a couple of days, but is currently on the rise again! Getting users is one thing, which we owe to the application’s inherent virality, but keeping these users engaged is a much more challenging task.