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Facebook's Recently Used Apps Module & The Larger Relationship with App Ecosystem

Last week I wrote about Facebook's newsfeed clustering of posts published by the same applications. While it is interesting as a signal of the newsfeed's evolution - it is represents the larger theme of Facebook relationship, promotion, and integration of applications (and the larger application ecosystem). Obviously Facebook has always been supportive of the ecosystem - from Zynga & LOLapps (gaming) to Spotify & Pinterest (content) to Wantful & ShoeDazzle (off-Facebook commerce), etc. In fact, yesterday's news was that "visitors from Facebook accounted for 1.1 billion visits to iOS and HTML5 apps, meaning an average of more than 6 visits per user."

The emergence of Facebook's Timeline, Open Graph and the proliferation of applications atop the platform (mobile, newsfeed, ticker, etc) - Facebook relationship with applications is evolving:

- How do they cluster by type and by shared users? (example here)

- How do they cluster by recency (example below with "Recent Used Apps")

- How do they cluster by popularity (example of trending here)

- How do they prevent the Ticker and newsfeed from being overwhelmed by content? (more here)

- What role does Timeline and off-Facebook play here?

- And ultimately, what does this mean for Facebook's strategy: promotion, monetization, mobile, etc?

Word With Friends User Onboarding

I've written about the importance of using user-segmentation to deliver unique user / site experiences and email marketing. Here's a brilliant example of Zynga's Word With Friends (the mega-popular Facebook & mobile Scrabble game).

Obviously the game is predicated on multiple users playing... and that obviously starts with an invitation process. Words With Friends users your Facebook / Twitter networks to create an address book of friends playing the game. The first people in your address book are new users (with big, prominent NEW badges next to their name). It's a super simple, basic concept - but it's brilliant because Zynga knows that:

- new users need to be prompted to play - once they play a couple games, they are hooked - current users feel a sense of goodwill / obligation to play with newly joined friends - current users likely play within the same confined network... this broadens that

Small UI placement that makes an important difference.

Starbucks Cards: Game Mechanics Done Well

Last week I wrote about the "do's and don'ts of gamification"... in other words, how to effectively add game mechanics to your site / service. Thanks to the success of leaders like Zynga and Foursquare, companies across different verticals are layering game mechanics to their product. In my last post, I wrote that the key to successful "gamification" is to make surre that game mechanics [are] natural, rewarding and straightforward.

Here is a great example from Starbucks (who generally always does a great job on the social and marketing fronts).

You'll notice a few things with the below screenshots:

1. It is Natural: Starbucks has not created a new program here... rather, they have tied it in to the Starbucks Card system that has been around for years. This is just an incentive to register and actively use your card.

2. It is Rewarding: In fact, the Starbucks Card program comes from the "Starbucks Rewards Team" and card-holders are notified of their status, their rewards and their goals.

3. It Progresses: As you progress through various levels are membership ("black, green, gold"), you earn different rewards. Starbucks clearly defines your 'status', your rewards and what is needed to reach the next 'level'. Again, the program is straightforward and rewarding.

4. It is Accessible Email, & Mobile: The program has several reach / access points. The emails are well crafted and targeted to the specific user's 'status' (notice below an email sent to a green member and gold member).

5. It is Social: Below you will also see an example of sharing your purchase and rewards in Facebook. The image is specific to your status / balance and is tied to a check-in via Facebook Places.

Starbucks email sent to a Gold member:

Starbucks email sent to a Green member:

What the check-in looks like on the Facebook feed

And the custom Starbucks Rewards graphic on Facebook

Optimizing Call to Action Buttons

Smashing Magazine has a terrific guide to designing "call to action buttons." Design and optimization can increase conversions dramatically - just ask (and study!) these conversion-focused leaders: - Social gaming: RockYou, Slide, Zynga, etc - Flash Sales: Gilt Group, Rue La La - Couponing: Groupon, LivingSocial Smashing Magazine lists dozens of examples. I boil it down to the following:

- size and location: think of visiting a grocery store and what catches your eye in the aisle - color and 'clickability': does the button stand out? does it change on hover? - call to action and copy: what are you asking users to do? is it tempting? This dictates size and location...

With so many variables, the only way to optimize is thorough A/B testing. Cycle through messaging, placement, size... collect data and optimize upon that.

Looking for inspiration? Visit the companies listed above: they are industry leaders in funnel and conversion optimization. Here are two examples from LivingSocial & Groupon. Notice how each call to action has large & colorful buttons, clear messaging and conveys urgency:

Zynga's Frontierville: 0.45 DAU / MAU (50% Better than #2 Farmville)

When Zynga launched Treasure Isle, I wrote about the economies of scale that enabled them to drive nearly 17,000,000 monthly active users in the game's first 18 days... staggering figures. Zynga's latest game, Frontierville, is now 19 days old, and also seeing meteoric growth. In their first 18 days, Frontierville has markedly fewer monthly actives than Treasure Isle did... but it is worth noting that virality on Facebook has gotten more challenging over the last few weeks (it is always a moving target). Whereas Treasure Isle had 17m monthly uniques, Frontierville has 12m:

12m uniques in a partial month is large by any measure ... in fact, it puts Frontierville at #20 on the largest Facebook games list (behind other Zynga properties like: Farmville #1, Texas Holdem Poker #2, Treasure Isle #3, Cafe World #4, Mafia Wars #7, Petville #13, Fishville #17):

Click for full size

The most impressive aspect of Frontierville's success is their DAU (daily active users)... a metric that better indicates engagement and retention than monthly uniques. Frontierville is #6 on Facebook by their DAU count (5.3m) and just behind Texas Holdem Poker, Cafe World and Treasure Isle (Farmville and Blackberry are #1 and #2 are orders of magnitude greater: ~20m and 10m respectively):

And when you compare the daily active users to the monthly active users (DAU / MAU) - you get a direct measurement of daily engagement with a game. The DAU / MAU metric is a critical factor as it defines engagement / retention ... and in turn helps drive virality (invites, feed posting, etc) and revenue (whether virtual goods, offers or ads).

And this is where Frontierville really shines: of any game, it has the highest DAU/MAU rate at 45%. To put that in perspective, Farmville is #2 and is 30%. Obviously Frontierville's rates are inflated because they are only 2/3rds through with the month - but even significant discounts over the next 10 days would result in leading rates.

Data and charts are from AppData - the best source for app metrics A Strange Redirect to Facebook App

Earlier this week Zynga launched their newest game Frontierville - it already has 1.3m monthly actives and 450k fans. While Frontierville's gameplay inherits many of the best practices of its siblings, its domain behavior doesn't. Zynga has made an effort to instill their own branding across the properties and place games at their own domain - like (screenshot at bottom). however behaves differently. Rather than its own domain and embedded gameplay, it uses a frame to display the Facebook application page while maintaining the domain. The page itself is grayed out - but still active (showing your Facebook data and playing the Frontierville music). The page isn't actionable... but when clicked (anywhere) you are directed to the actual game and application page:

Here is

Game Mechanics, Badges & eBay Feedback Ratings

Thanks to the success of Foursquare, Booyah / MyTown and Zynga, "game mechanics", "badges" and "leaderboards" have become cornerstones of any web marketer's dialect and user-acquisition strategy. What these three companies have done so well is figure out how to apply game mechanics to the core experience... in a way that is fun, on-brand and - most importantly - adds value to the users. As an example, anyone can add badges or leaderboards to their product - but if it is merely a front-end layer, it won't stick. And as more companies race to understand and apply game mechanics, differentiation and core integration becomes even more important. Not to take anything away from Foursquare or Zynga - who I have great respect for - game mechanics are not new concepts. Mainstays like eBay and Amazon have been applying game mechanics to their core businesses for years.

One of the great examples is eBay's seller rating system... which is represented by stars.

It does several things well:

1. Clarity: it clearly and obviously conveys reputation

2. Persistence: it travels alongside the username throughout the entire eBay experience

3. Value-Add: the reputation system adds value to the buyer and to the seller

4. Incents Behavior: sellers fight very hard to foster their reputation and earn new stars. It also fosters communication between buyers & sellers.

5. Drives Activity / Engagement: there are gaps between each 'reward' that drive activity and excitement. But the goal is transparent and well-defined.

6. Marketing Opportunities: for eBay marketers, it is an opportunity to engage customer segments. Your first star, for instance, is welcomed with a congratulations email and certificate.

7. Scarcity: the higher level stars are earned by a select few (1,000,000 ratings!). For them, it is a badge of honor that extends on AND off eBay.

In summary: think about how game mechanics apply to your core product and brand... and how it adds value to your users. Game mechanics are powerful only if fully weaved in to consumer experience and mentality.

For fun: check out the Wikipedia page of Foursquare's badge list.

Zynga's Treasure Isle: Economies of Scale in a Social World

There are two camps in the world of social gaming:- One side thinks that it has been won outright by Zynga - The other side believes that we are in the early innings of a nine-inning game No matter where you fall on this spectrum, it is clear that Zynga benefits greatly from their massive userbase (which they worked hard to amass). It is also clear that this is a major competitive advantage precisely because it is a tremendous lever to launch new titles.

Ever watched a popular television show or event and seen the constant reminder of an upcoming show on that same network? This is more powerful because it is in-browser, social and can be cleverly incentivized / connected.

Proof: Zynga's newest title Treasure Isle is days old (launched April 6). It now has roughly 17m monthly actives and 7m daily actives. Not only does that make Treasure Isle the fastest growing Facebook App, it makes it the 16th biggest game on Facebook ... in a matter of days.

It of course helps that Treasure Isle is very well done - a generational improvement over Farmville and Cafe World. But, as many developers know well, audience collection is often tougher than building the game. Zynga has done both:

Farmville Defaults to Facebook Credits

I encourage you to read Eric Eldon's piece on InsideFacebook about how Facebook's most popular game, Farmville, now defaults to Facebook Credits and Payments. As location and geo dominate the blog headlines (Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla), Facebook Credits has managed to stay relatively under the radar... but Facebook's payments platform is important as it is going to be very big. And, despite being young, Facebook Credits is now exposed to Farmville's 84,000,000 monthly actives... that's quite the launchpad.