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Path

Facebook Premium: It's in the Product Experience

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, took to Medium this week to share some thoughts on Facebook: "Now that I use Facebook more regularly, I started having some ideas for the service—here’s one... They could offer Facebook Premium. For $10 a month, people who really love Facebook (and can afford it), could see no ads. Maybe some special features too." First off, I like that he's doing this on Medium - a service / platform that I am really growing fond of... and a service / platform that encourages this kind of discussion from thinkers like Biz. (The other service I am enjoying: Branch, which enables discussion in a different, interesting way).

On Facebook Premium - it's the right idea, particularly for a service that so many users are so passionate about and dedicated to. At ESPN, we have a premium service called ESPN Insider that is sneaky-big itself and a combination of premium tools and content (ie Fantasy Football product enhancements and unique articles on recruiting, etc).

For me to pay a monthly subscription to Facebook - which I gladly would - I think it has to follow suit: it would have to be some specialized feature(s), enhancement(s), etc. My guess is that mobile and the mobile application are the biggest opportunities for those sorts of features.

And then there are single-use purchases as well: while Path is a much smaller community, my network has been gobbling up premium stickers ($1.99 each) to make conversation richer. And there are filters, etc. This is different than Facebook Gifts - which is really a one-to-one transaction rather than an enhancement that adds value to core product. Path's stickers, for example, have become mechanisms for comments / conversation... which of course has a viral loop.

The trouble with marking premium as ad-free is that it changes much of the Facebook experience. Sure there are ads that are not much different than traditional CPM advertising... but most are hybrids of advertising and social interactions. A couple questions arise including the central point that many of Facebook's units, while paid advertisements, are actually value-add to the consumer - for instance, the mobile application installer ('your friends are using xyz') is quite useful. What happens to the social and advertiser economy if certain friends pay to opt out? What happens to fans who want to follow brands onsite? Many brands are hybrids of paid and organic content, activity, etc. How does this effect Facebook's relationship with advertisers - whose network of users (and likely the most active, influential users) shrinks?

In short: if Facebook's ad strategy were solely traditional banners and units, it would be a far easier proposition to all (users, advertisers, etc). But the deep blending of advertising with social layers & interactions makes it far tougher. And that's a credit to Facebook because they are innovating on the ad experience. The premium opportunity better exists within premium features and products.

Path Stickers Facebook

Nike's Game On Facebook Campaign: Data, Nike+ and Great Photos.

Nike is so good: - terrific Facebook campaign during the NBA Playoffs

- smart experimentation on Twitter with Promoted Tweets

- innovative personalized shopping engine (which now includes licensed products)

- and that doesn't include Nike+ and their terrific / innovative integrations with Path, Facebook and Twitter

Here is yet another great campaign by Nike. In an effort to promote Nike+ ("the future of sport"), Nike took to Facebook and highlighted a barrage of athletes training and collecting data via Nike+ and/or Nike Fuel. Like most of Nike's social work, it's very visual, fun and unique. It is also on brand and tapping into the personal data / gamification theme. Notably, this was also released the day of the NBA Draft - which is driven by similar data analysis.... and many of those athletes will soon be sponsored by Nike.

On Facebook, Nike does a great job of clustering photos into albums - whereas many brands / pages, highlight individual photos.

Utilize the Mobile App Update Section. Examples of FourSquare, Path & Square.

Maybe I am too much of a geek, but I actually enjoy reading application version updates. I assume most people do not read them thoroughly (many do not regularly update their apps either), but it is a really simple way to communicate with users and share what's new. It is so simple to do... and yet so often forgotten.

Most app updates read something along the lines of: - "fixed crashes" - "fixed various bugs" - "app runs faster"

In fact, I've seen many that say "the free version now has ads". Yeah, that's going to make me download the update!

Here are three great examples from three great apps: Foursquare, Path and Square. I particularly like the Path update because the app underwent a significant product change... this update is their first opportunity to introduce existing users to the changes. Of course, the app experience itself should also introduce / familiarize those changes.... but this is such an easy way to get started. And because so many developers overlook it, the mere attempt to communicate changes distinguishes these apps:

What mobile apps have been successful without a web component?

Continuing to post select Quora answers on my blogyou can view them here.

A few obvious themes and a couple apps associated with them:

- Gaming. Games make up the majority of the most successful paid applications. Examples: Angry Birds, Cut The Rope, Electronic Arts, etc. - Photos. There are numerous successful apps around photos - either as a network (Path (company), Instagram, etc) or around functionality (Hipstamatic, etc). They are improving a core utility around the device itself. Neither Path nor Instagram launched with web components. And Hipstamatic and others are entirely on the phone.

- Local & Device-Related Companies. Applications where location and/or the device are required components. Examples like FlightTrack, Uber (formerly UberCab), Shazam, etc.

- Messaging & Communication. Kik, Beluga, GroupMe, Tango, etc