The challenges & recommendations for app developers

6th of March 2008 by admin

Application development on social networking platforms was the hot topic this week at the Graphing Social Patterns conference in San Diego. Ironically it’s like the wild wild west of a few hundred years ago – lots of prospectors in an undefined territory where the opportunity is massive.

Here are the key challenges and recommendations I collected from the speakers and conversations I had at the conference:


  • Applications and widgets are hard to monetize. Traditionally brand advertising is related to the web CONTENT (e.g. target “Grey’s Anatomy” watchers because they appear to fit with the brand). Essentially the new world of social network advertising is trying to monetize NEW types of experiences and context-free environments. Since users can create any type of group, profile, page etc. there is some fear over what the ads will be placed next to.
  • There are low barriers to entry. Anyone and their dog (who knows a bit about PHP) can create an application on Facebook rather quickly at very low cost. This has lead to low quality, low utility, disposable, spammy apps but the good news is that the trend is quickly moving towards high value, engaging, quality apps.
  • The metrics for measuring and analysing applications are minimal. This is an evolving area in itself.
  • There are multiple APIs. OpenSocial vs. Facebook/Bebo platform – different audiences, channels, usage patterns etc.


  • Develop apps that have utility and meaning. Facebook is changing the rules of the platform to protect its users and provide an experience that increases communication and improves user engagement.
  • Ensure your app is: 1. Clear in its proposition and easy to use, 2. Measurable – track growth, engagement, advertising etc., and 3. Flexible – many crappy trials beats deep thinking/planning (Note: I believe this was the case for the low quality apps but the future apps require significant planning to make them of value. The main point of this is to get it out there early to see how users react – “perpetual beta”)
  • Apps have three distinct stages of development: 1. Marketing – use appropriate channels to spread your “call to action”; 2. Growth – tune and track virality; What are the other apps in your category doing?; 3. Engagement – increase page views and time spent on site
  • The level of trust must be improved between the users, applications, networks, and marketers.
  • Plan for a portable ID. The industry trend points towards a future that allows for an ID that’s shared between applications/networks but will be controlled by the users (e.g. permissions)
  • For social games the “social” aspect is more important than the “game” – it’s better when your friends are contacting you to “play”. You still must implement typical aspects of gaming – level/goal progression, turns, leader-boards, incentives/rewards: gifts, unlocking features etc.

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