Facebook is massive and still showing little sign of slowing down – 80 million users, the most popular photo sharing site on the internet, the 6th most trafficked site online. Every week or so, some friend who has determinately and passionately held out against joining, joins. Either they creep in and silently make a profile and try to casually add each of their friends, as if they were always on Facebook, but for some reason didn’t have you on their list. Or, they make a big fuss about joining, like those people who talk loudly and laugh as they walk into a bar.
As with any other successful online application, Facebook draws lots of people who want to make money. You think people design those millions of applications that you are asked to add to your profile just for fun? Sure, some people do, but overall the industry is still trying to figure out what works, what doesn’t and how to make moolah.
Initially, there was lots of fuss about the power of Facebook to target your marketing to precise demographics. But as it turns out, overtargeted ads are just creepy. Living in India, when I see on-page ads that say “Looking for fun now – in Bombay” with a picture of a white model standing on a beach?? Or when the ad throws back your exact age at you? Yuck. Thankfully they don’t work very well. According to Steve O’Hear at ZDNet, “click through rates have been on the extremely low side — 0.04% based on 1.4 million impressions”.
Successful applications can be so simple. Charging Facebook users $1 to send a little picture of a gift to someone? Not even a real gift, just a picture of one. Even if 0.01% of Facebook’s users did this just once each week, you still make $416,000 each year.
No one wants content.
You don’t go to Facebook to look for information. You go to connect with people – thats it. Successful applications are based around this. Funwall, Graffiti, Sell your Friends etc. The next step is how to earn money out of these. As an example – Favourite Books allows you to share your favourite titles with your friends, along with convenient links to Amazon. Users can easily buy books that their friends recommend, Amazon sells books and pays a commission to the application developers. Everyone is happy.
So there’s the key rule for Facebook applications – they have to facilitate communication. The ones that don’t, quickly fade away. If you can develop an idea that is so interesting or fun that people will pay to use it, then all the better.