The Current Approach To Facebook App Growth

The current state of the Facebook Platform is about the ongoing shift from viral growth to reengagement.

Facebook has long been a platform that generated instant successes through the viral growth of previously unheard of applications. However over time Facebook has systematically dialed down the viral communication channels (invites, requests, notifications, feed publishing, etc), each change stunting the growth of previously successful developers. With each change comes a new strategy, and the latest one appears to be best aligned with Facebook’s goals: reengagement.

A couple weeks ago I spoke with Wooga CEO, Jens Begemann. His company has been successful at growing its user base despite the ongoing changes by Facebook. Compared to other social gaming startups, Wooga was relatively late to the game, not starting until 2009, two years after the Facebook Platform first launched. That hasn’t stopped the company from succeeding though. Wooga now ranks as one of the top 3 largest Facebook game developers and it’s growing every day.

Jens told me that while the company has spent money on advertising, it’s not the sort of levels we’ve heard of from companies like Playdom and Zynga, who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing each time they launch a game. Instead, Wooga has organically grown its user base, with only 3 percent of users coming from advertising. The top sources of growth for the company currently come from three channels: cross-promotion, discovery stories and invites between players, something which is pretty well known to most developers.

Jens stressed to us that the new wave is a focus on reengagement. Previously, applications could throw away every new user to their application because there were millions more that would join. With the ability to spam users now effectively gone, reengagement is king, and bookmarks are currently serving as the primary source of reengagement. Thanks to the updated counters, the bookmarks are critical to an application’s success.

While one would be eager to call “virality dead”, Wooga’s growth hasn’t come from nowhere. If only 3 percent of users were from advertising, we’d have to expect that the others were through the various communication channels, also known as “viral channels”. Clearly these channels have become restricted over time, and we’d expect that to result in a greater dependance on advertising for new users.

In the meantime, Wooga will continue optimizing their applications to generate as much organic growth as possible. Each small step is simply part of the company’s broader vision to become one of the top 5 gaming companies in the world.