Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Viral Marketing of Apps on Facebook

What form of sharing should I use?

A recent article in the Journal of Marketing analyzed the success (or failure) of 750 Facebook apps in an attempt to understand how various mechanisms of social sharing impact acceptance or reach.

While a lot of ink has been given to influence (Gladwell) and seeding-strategies (Watts) this research looked at what tools marketers can deploy to facilitate sharing.

Specifically, marketers can choose to use one or more of the following tactics
  1. Unsolicited Messages vs. Solicited Message 
    • A message appears in the inbox about a new app vs. see what apps appear on a members "About" page
  2. Messages with incentives vs. those without
    • "Try and get a month free" vs. just "Try it out"
  3. Direct messages from friends
    • Communication among 1st degree contacts (similar to forwarding an email to a specific individual)
  4. Broadcast messages from strangers vs friends
    • Timeline posts viewed by 2nd to n-degree contacts on others vs. own timeline
The analysis focused on how those choices impact the adoption rate of leisure vs. business apps (or in the language of academe - low utility vs. high utility). 

The key takeaway: the techniques that garnered 100m users for FarmVille in roughly 40 days would be counter productive (and possibly detrimental) to a business-oriented apps.    From the research:
The very mechanisms that made FarmVille so successful is a recipe for failure when used in a different product context.  Unsolicited and incentivized broadcast messages from friends are the least effective sharing mechanisms for primarily utilitarian [business] products.
You rarely see such strong language in journals.

And speaking of context, the results would theoretically be different on LinkedIN because it is by nature a business/high-utility social network.  The mechanisms of how people choose, and what information cues they use, differ depending if they're looking for a job or playing Candy Crush.

So, as we design campaigns with "Share This" functionality, we need to understand what the usefulness of the app/content is as well as the distribution platform and choose our tactics accordingly.