by C.G. Lynch

6 Ways to Create a Successful Facebook Application

Mar 25, 20083 mins
Enterprise Applications

 BJ Fogg, a Stanford professor who teaches a “Psychology of Facebook” class, spoke today at the Snap Summit 2.0 in San Francisco, where he told the audience that he believes Facebook is the most revolutionary technology since the radio in terms of influencing the decisions we make and the actions we take.

He also laid out six ways in which Facebook developers can create successful applications by tapping into Facebook’s capability to facilitate “mass interpersonal persuasion.”

Took some quick notes on them here:

1) Facebook is a persuasive experience. Since Facebook opened its platform to third party development, there has been an explosion of applications. As Dave Morin, Facebook’s senior platform manager said today, around 30,000 have been application created to date since May 2007. Fogg says that explosion has been driven not just by the technology itself, but by people encouraging peers to install it, use it, share it, and keep it.

2) Automated Structure. Due to Facebook’s simplicity, and the ease with which you can share and post information to it, it allows people to collaborate faster. As an example, Fogg says that telling people to set up a group of supporters for Barack Obama in person can be difficult and require time (weeks or months) and money. On the other hand, setting up a Facebook application for people to unite under the presidential candidate, which they share with friends (and so on), could take hours.

3) Social distribution. The success of an application often depends on the amount of people who share it. As such, it’s incredibly important that Facebook maintains an environment of trust, where people believe they will be caused no harm when they participate. 

4) Rapid cycle. From a business perspective, quick and dirty can often be better than slow and polished. In order to have an application get noticed on Facebook, you need to develop it fast and make tweaks after it hits the directory.

5) Huge social graph. Tap into “the large sandbox” that is Facebook, and try to go broad instead of niche. The social graph is what Facebook has to show users degrees of separation to their “friends” and “networks.” The more of the social graph you reach, the more successful an application will be.

6) Measured Growth. Not only do you need to develop applications quickly, you need them to catch on virally. One of the ways that Facebook users decide to download an application depends on how many people on Facebook have added it. If the install rate is low, and doesn’t rise quickly, it’s likely to fall off the radar. Companies that have done this well, Fogg noted, have been RockYou and iLike. CIO did a feature months back on what business lessons can be learned from these start-ups.