Evolution of Facebook Apps

I must admit, building Facebook apps is certainly not what I had envisioned I would be doing some 5-10 years ago.  What surprises me even more is how much such a platform has evolved. Nowadays, it seems that you need a degree in social behavior, be a marketing genius, along with a PHD in software engineering.  Nothing is as easy as it was, but I do like challenges.

Back when the platform just came out, I could bang an app out within a day, send some invites to friends and put links up on various websites, next thing you know I had thousands of people in my app.  One at it’s peak reaching 800,000 Daily Active Users.  Whatever happened to those days?  I miss them!   Getting those kinds of numbers on new apps will likely run you a few hundreds of thousands of dollars.   It is a shame, because now the smaller guys have absolutely no chance to compete with the bigger guys.

The complexities and the level of detail required to make a game or app function are also astonishing. Thankfully for me, I grew up with the platform and consider myself to know many of the dos and don’ts (there are a lot).  Apps and Games that you want to be successful require the love one mother would give to any child (Happy Mother’s Day Mom).   You want success?  Well you need to focus on user messaging, social behavior, providing value to your content and giving continuity to your game.  Don’t try to silo those 4, because there is a LOT of overlap between them.

User Messaging

This concept is simple, but never obvious.  Every feature developed will need 50% more time just to ensure that users get the feature.  That means adding it to the tutorial, adding UI elements to point the user in that direction, and explaining how the feature works.  Users will look to you to provide the basics before they can begin to explore and find the details on how to make this new feature work better for them.

For example, if you decide you to put a mechanic that rewards a random gift every hour with user interaction, you need to make that very clear.  First thing you do is tell the user they can claim their random gift, by giving them a modal or getting the user’s attention with visual cues.  Next, you add it to tutorials or hints that will explain the functionality to a user.  Lastly, try to add the feature to other mechanics, ensuring that the user gets that this feature is important and they should interact with it.

Another very important piece of user messaging is knowing your demographic. Depending on your focus you can get away with providing less detail for more engaged mechanics or are required to give your users details on every little thing they do.  Demographics are crucial for building a product, otherwise you may put your users on a path they won’t understand and will never be excited about your game, regardless of how good it really is.

Social Behavior

Games all claim to be social, but these days, social tends to mean adding your friends so you send them a gift.  Boring!  Users are increasingly looking to have added functionality and perks by playing with their friends.  The catch is that it must be done by being the least intrusive as possible.   Social should be more fun and interesting.  Adding friends is a basic step that opens a lot of doors, but take it to the next step and make a user’s friends have an effect on their game play, whether positive or negative.

One of the most powerful mechanics I have worked with over the years is the concept of a referral link, that provides a bonus of sorts to users asking their friends to click.  I’ve been using this mechanic for 6 years, it has only become popular recently with social games using this mechanic to ask friends to help them complete construction of a building.  This certainly is a step in the right direction, but before users will want their friends to be fully engaged, there will have to be more perks and incentives to the users.

Content Value

Your app or game will more than likely have content, otherwise how would it exist in the first place?  You can display the content or the interactions with the content in a very straightforward manner, but you will more than likely lose your user’s interest.  Instead, you need to have your users aspire to content or the interactions with the content.  Have a game? Lock your items until the user reaches a certain level.  Have a dating app? Have your users engage with other members, but limit their interactions.

The point is to give your users a taste of the mechanics they want before you put it just out of their reach and tell them that they need to pay to get it.  If users get that paying $5 will give them a very shiny Yacht that brings them special powers, they will pay the $5 without ever thinking it was expensive.  The user must feel like they are getting something at a good price and that it is something they will be able to brag about to friends and other people.

Continuity

Continuity or retention is extremely important for any application.  The user must feel that they want to come back to the application or game in order for them to even consider interacting with a friend, let alone spend a dime.  As the user plays for the first 5-10 minutes of your game or application, they must understand the core of your application and must interact with it at a basic level.   Games tend to allow users to play a lot in the first levels, just so that the users can really get a feel for the game mechanics, but as they start to get addicted, their turns run down and are being limited in their actions.  At that point, the user is asked to interact with friends to continue or to spend some money to keep going.

At Social Game Universe, we are about to launch one of our greatest new games, with an extremely wonderful and talented team behind it.  Will it be a success?  Heck yes!  Why?  Because we’ve paid attention to detail, we’ve built in the things people want and focused on our core demographic.  Give me a few days and I will announce the name of our new game, ladies, you will love it!