How Facebook Applications Will Expose the Gold Mines Beneath Micro Networks

Facebook applications

Ever since May 24, 2007, the blogosphere has been abuzz with news about Facebook opening its platform to developers. The buzz is completely justified, though, because unlike other APIs, Facebook’s allows developers to take advantage of an existing base of over 30 million active users.

Anyone who understands the power of networking will immediately recognize the fact that being able to offer an indispensable service to the Facebook community is a juicy proposition. It’s no secret that if you can hook half a million users on an application that they use repeatedly, then you’ve got yourself an extremely valuable commodity.

But what really defines a valuable Facebook application?

Is it sheer number of users? If that’s true, then an application like Zombies, which has 2.6+ million users, is extremely valuable. Upon further inspection, though, Zombies really offers no real benefit or service to its users—people simply “bite” their friends, thus turning them into zombies.

My internal “value meter” has never been so uninspired.

Finding the Real Value on Facebook

It’s clear that one metric alone is not going to define a successful application on Facebook, but I think there are a few tried and true indicators that are just as valid on Facebook as they are on the rest of the Web.

1. Pageviews
Are people really using your application, or is it just sitting on their profiles, collecting dust? If you’re not driving people around through different pages and actions, then are you really doing anything?
2. Users
Sure, you might generate 5 pageviews per user, and that means you’ve got an interactive application, which is great! But what if you only have 124 users? The power behind Facebook lies in the way you can create cross-sections of existing networks, and if you’re not reaching enough users, then you’re not really leveraging this power in a valuable way.
3. Information

Human-to-human networks are living ecosystems, and like any living thing, they leave behind tangible evidence of their existence. On Facebook, these networks produce data – information about their members – that can be harvested, dissected, analyzed, and used in various ingenious (and hopefully honest) ways.

Flixster is an example of an application that is creating a ton of value in the information space, and it’s doing so through the collection of user-generated movie reviews. Since launching their app in June, Flixster has gotten users to submit hundreds of thousands of reviews, and believe me—they’re loving every minute of it.

Leveraging Network Hierarchies to Find Success

The real key to unlocking the economic “sweet spot” in the Facebook app community is to fully understand the network hierarchies that exist on Facebook. To understand these, though, you don’t have to know anything about Facebook—you simply have to know a little bit about human nature!

Each one of us exists in an all-inclusive network that consists of everyone with whom we interact. In addition, we are members of micro-networks that are more distinctly tied to one another. For instance, one of my micro-networks is a group of friends on my softball team.

These micro networks literally define who you are, what you do, and the general experience that is your life.

They are also the “sweet spot” for finding value in a Facebook application.

Facebook is the all-inclusive network, and now Facebook applications are serving the highly-targeted, highly-relevant, and highly-personal world of micro networks.

Now what is Facebook worth?

When Facebook reportedly turned down a $1 billion acquisition offer last year, I thought they were crazy for not taking it. After all, at the time, it was just another networking tool. Granted, it was a damn good one, but there wasn’t anything truly remarkable to distinguish it from the competition.

Now, however, by open-sourcing its platform, Facebook has uncovered a completely new networking vertical that is infinitely extensible and closely tied to the very fabric of basic human interaction. Suddenly, 12-digit valuations don’t seem so ridiculous.

As an application developer myself, I can see how future generations will be accustomed to having all of their micro networks not only tied to one another, but also available in the same place. At this point, it looks like Facebook is going to be that place, but on the Internet, suppositions like that are always subject to change :)

My Application – Pro Pigskin Pick’em

For 9 years, I’ve enjoyed the NFL season by picking games against the spread and competing for prizes in season-long pools. Somewhere along the way, pool management moved from Microsoft Excel to the Web, which is the perfect medium for running a game like this.

Pick’em-style games can be found all over the place, from CBS to Yahoo! to smaller independent outlets. Problem is, these games rarely integrate with people’s existing online traffic patterns or contacts. As a result, pool managers have trouble growing their pools organically, most notably because they are isolated in protected corners of the Web.

When I looked at this problem, I realized that a Facebook application would be the perfect opportunity to synthesize a popular online game with the benefits of being able to leverage people’s existing networks. With that in mind, I created Pro Pigskin Pick’em, a very simple, very cool way of creating, managing, and tracking NFL pools on the Facebook platform.

Now, I could go on and on about why I think Pro Pigskin Pick’em is the best platform out there for running Pick’em pools, but when all is said and done, that’s not what’s really going to make it stand out from the crowd.

The most remarkable thing about the application is the fact that Facebook users will be able to slice and dice their existing micro networks to compete against one another in a variety of different ways—nationally, against their friends, and within whatever pools they’re members of.

And of course, they’ll never have to leave the Facebook platform in order to enjoy a game that they would otherwise be playing somewhere else on the Web (or not playing at all), which I see as a huge benefit. It’s kinda like the Wal-Mart effect:

Would you rather buy all your stuff in one place, or would you rather make a bunch of separate trips to specialized retailers?

This season, only make one trip—head on over to Pro Pigskin Pick’em (free Facebook account required) and check it out!

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42 comments… read them below or add one

julien August 17, 2007

this space seems super interesting to me. i don’t use facebook enough but it seems like you’ve got your concepts down pat. good luck on your app!


Steven August 17, 2007

Hey Chris – The Pro Pigskin Pick’em app is really top notch, great job tying all those functions in, it might honestly be the first app I’ve added that I’ll actually keep – most I just look to see what they’re doing. A couple of my friends signed up just because of the auto feed that said I added it, with the feeds your going to be publishing on top of that I can see it’s user base soaring once you get accepted into the directory (that going to be soon?).

Good luck, hopefully Ben and I will be able to make some really ‘sticky’ apps too


Niko Bellic August 17, 2007

Very interesting, I don’t use facebook but it would be interesting to leverage it for a market.


Connor Wilson August 17, 2007

I’m not a FB user, and my perspective of the whole F8 thing is to move more towards a MySpace audience.

I’m not sure on the time line, but taking of the invitation only status, allowing highschools and then anyone to join, and now widgetizing anything you want. MySpace may suck but it’s more popular and probably makes much more money.


James August 17, 2007

I agree with your take on Facebook and the value of leveraging micro-networks. Now take that overarching concept and think about what you could do with mobile technology.


Chris P. August 17, 2007

Steven — Thanks for the kind words, man! Actually, the application was accepted into the directory on Tuesday afternoon, and I’m sorry to report that adoption rates have returned from the stratospheric levels they occupied when the Facebook platform was first made available to the public.

Be that as it may, I’m going to announce the season prize over the weekend, and I hope that will spur the viral growth of the application as we move into week 4 of the preseason.


Chris Papadopoulos August 17, 2007

The Facebook platform does ensure that the masses will not stray from the site for most of their casual socializing and other needs and that will keep other casually focused sites like Xanga and Webshots limited in potential growth, but I think the real value that Facebook has is the Networks feature along with their entire collection of statistics of all users.

Facebook has compiled a detailed database of consumer preferences in the 20-35 year old market-segment. Combine that with the Networks feature for assessing local trends, and you can start selling directly to people. The possibilities for commerce that Facebook has seems pretty unlimited.


Shane August 17, 2007

Hey Chris,

Never used Facebook, but might give it a try just to see your app – thus proving that open sourcing brings people to the table.

Rock on.


Dave August 17, 2007

Chris, kind of basic question but as a none Facebook user here’s my question. Do you benefit in the old finance department from creating this app? How can you generate some dollars for Chris with a free app on Facebook?


Rico August 18, 2007

This has Brian Clark written all over it. First, prove the value of Facebook apps, then promote your own. Pure genius. :)

There are many wonderful apps on Facebook, but I fear that the increasing number of people using them is creating something I like to call App Spam. I’m getting barraged with notifications to install honestly pointless apps, which lessens my willingness to sign up for genuinely useful ones.


kristarella August 18, 2007

Chris – I think your app is a great idea, although being an Australian girl I won’t be using it. :)

Connor – Facebook is quite a different audience to MySpace. I think of MySpace as being for bands to maintain contact with their fans and for teenagers. I’m fairly anti-MySpace because I don’t like the be-my-friend aspect of complete strangers. Facebook is more like a MySpace for adults keeping in touch with friends that they’re already actually friends with and sharing things like photos, games and now even footy tips.
With that in mind it’s not really fair to compare them the way that you have.

Dave – perhaps Chris could stick a PayPal button in his app and the people that really appreciate him will give him money? I use the Scrabulous (Scrabble game) app on Facebook and they have a PP button. I’d love to give them a bit of money, when I have more in my PP account I will think about doing so. :)


Chris P. August 19, 2007

Dave — An application called Where I’ve Been was sold for $3 million last week, so clearly, the deep pockets are at least somewhat aware of the potential audience that exists on Facebook.

On top of that, if my application does, in fact, garner a huge number of users, it should boast a high number of pageviews as well. From an advertising standpoint, that will be attractive to potential sponsors, and it may even provide me with some leverage in the affiliate sales market.

Either way, I’m not all that worried about the money side of things just yet. My focus is on providing people with a service that is both fun and easy to use.

Rico — App spam is becoming more and more of a problem, and honestly, I feel like my application is being held back as a result. Facebook users have no reliable way to separate the signal from the noise, and as a result, Pro Pigskin Pick’em notifications (which are designed to be useful to people), are getting lost in the fray.

Recently, I’ve seen even more egregious examples of app spam in the form of misleading emails. For instance, the iLike application generated an email that said one of my friends had dedicated a song to me. In order to see what the song was, I had to install the application (gotcha!), and once I did that, I found out that no song had been dedicated at all.

It was all just a ruse to get me to install the application, and I think that’s despicable. In my opinion, iLike (and other misleading pieces of crap) should be banned from sending out notifications altogether.

Just like anything else, though, if I resist and try to take the high road, I’ll probably end up losing. It ain’t fair I tells ya.

kristarella — I left that MySpace comment alone on purpose… There are some battles that aren’t even worth trying to win, but I certainly see that you know what’s up :)


kristarella August 19, 2007

Heh, sure – some battles can’t be won, but I always feel trodden upon if I don’t at least say something :P

I had no idea there was so much money in selling apps and didn’t even think of the advertising benefits! You’re right about things getting lost in the wilderness. I’m ignoring more and more apps because I keep getting emails about wall messages and super wall messages and fun wall messages and you have to install the wall to see the message someone sent you. I can’t help wonder why someone would send me a message on a wall I don’t have on my profile page! Then there’s pirates and ninjas that don’t do anything. There was fishtank, which was pretty cool, but then there was also garden… it gets too much.


asia_b August 29, 2007

Hey Chris, this off topic but would appreciate an answer. I was on the 4 Hour Work Week blog and noticed that it looks very very similar to yours. Wondering if you are nearing a release or something on the theme you use here, or maybe it was a hook up. I guess mostly wishful thinking that it’s something you are about to release. Thanks in advance…love your work (on Celebrity Hack too, I howl with laughter to myself at work, making me look more insane).


Chris P. August 30, 2007

asia_b — Actually, the guy who designed the Four Hour Work Week blog just took “heavy inspiration” from this site… without asking, of course :)


asia_b August 30, 2007

Oh, that’s too bad, biters are shameless aren’t they. You’re gracious about it, cause, “heavy inspiration” is being kind on your part, but good for you, you’re the bigger man.

p.s. I’m signing up for Midphase using your hookup, thanks alot for that btw…


Chris P. August 30, 2007

Excellent! Their shared servers are extremely fast—I’m sure you’ll be quite pleased!


Rousseaux Vincent September 10, 2007

Nice your article!


IMVenturer September 18, 2007

Yes, Facebook is really taking of, especially after it’s soon exposure to search engines. I’m a programmer myself, so I’ll try to make some FB apps, already tried yahoo widgets, and that was a pleasant experience.


cristina September 18, 2007

There are some Facebook applications that are so unnecessary, like sending your friends a “happy hour” drink. However, I think the Flickr application to send your photos to your Facebook is a helpful one to have. But does anyone really care about getting compliments?


kristarella September 18, 2007

Well, Facebook itself isn’t necessary, some apps are just fun (including Happy Hour). Although too many of these bit-of-fun apps can get tiresome.

There’s also a plugin for iPhoto to share photos on FB – pretty handy!


uncle sha September 26, 2007

I jumped on the Facebook bandwagon because my friends was bugging me

An ‘old bird’ like me was overwhelmed by the many applications, currently it’s underutilized. I think someone who is not IT savvy will just get lost and give-up

I understand where this entry is heading, the future of Facebook indeed looks ‘bright’ as you mentioned

Going to login to FB now and try out your application :)


Bask September 27, 2007

Great and Perfect Articles
FaceBook Are good Application and now i will login to facebook and try out your application


kate October 11, 2007

I have my own profile on facebook,but it’s a pity in europe is not very wellknown,here people uses MSN space,and my family in south america uses hi5.
of course facebook’s power is on applications and graphic is simple but awesome


JasonM October 13, 2007

The problem with facebook applications now – they are a dime a dozen and the current applications force friends to annoy each other with requests.

I guess if you are 15 then it is all good.


Speech Girl October 13, 2007

Facebook can be a useful additional tool (if monitored) for children with learning difficulties.


qbr October 22, 2007

have you seen the latest application for sending sms on facebook?sound great,but I’m having problems on attivation..


Ern October 28, 2007

Thank you for this information, It has become a little daunting for beginners to bolt all the marketing bits together, but this helps.


CGlines October 31, 2007

I tend to disregard all facebook apps as garbage, but understandably it is a huge feeding pool for marketing. Nice read.


ciclic November 8, 2007

Dear Chris

thnx’s for your work

contributing to that the others they be expressed is of the better things than one can do

Supperluck in your projects


Malik Saab November 12, 2007

I tend to disregard social networking apps… Networking ought to be kept simple.


Marco November 20, 2007

How does one find developers for facebook apps?


Prue November 21, 2007

Thanks for the super informative sit, not a facebook (or any social network for that matter) fan but i totally get the ecomonical and networking appeal
Goodluck on your future projects


mr.maddog January 23, 2008

What does any of this have to do with SNOAR News?


Graham February 8, 2008

Hay Chris – good to see your site back up …I got a bit worried you’d done a runner!!!!
…anyway I have been working with a company that enables wordpress to become an e-commerce store and a good one at that. This company have also as part of this ability have developed a facebook application that allows you to sell your products – what ever they may be . It works using an rss feed and when it loads and displays it shows the products you want to sell… great!! . I’m just testing it at the moment for a company that sell motocross stuff in the UK and will report back on how i’m finding it .
The site ive developed is using’s e-commerce plugin on a theme derived from your copyblogger theme.


Chris February 24, 2008

Hey , but what can I do if Facebook ist not pupular in my Country? I live in Germany and we don’t use here Facebook. Do you have come tipps for people who live in non-english-language-countries?


Claudiu March 6, 2008

Chris, you are saying that: “the guy who designed the Four Hour Work Week blog just took “heavy inspiration” from this site… without asking, of course”

Well, can’t you do anything about it…I sure wouldn’t sit and do nothing about this.


Bertamus May 20, 2008

Great post. Thank you!

Personally I like the Did Today application (It’s a journal app or how I like to use: A super “What are you doing right now?” app!)

I’ve also used (and well still do to browse cars) the Sell My Ride Application. This app lets you sell your cars, etc.. for free on Facebook. A cool little app it is :)

Anyways, thanks for the great post!



Jacques Snyman June 2, 2008

Great post, Chris. We are all only too aware of the numbers facebook harbours, but getting these numbers to work for us is the challenge. Your post has been most insightful and goes a long way towards answering these questions!


Megan K January 15, 2010

I think it will be interesting to see how social media for change will benefit through Facebook Causes, which is still relatively new. As far as creating a user interface design that keep users attention, I think its a bit lacking and should not have the same feel as the rest of facebook does…They should allow for ease in “branding” as well to set causes apart from others. Regardless, I am hopeful for the future of Causes to encourage a more informed society through conversations, networking and ultimately a rise in donations.


Lorenz December 1, 2011

Pssst. Chris. How much do you make a year?!


p.s. your blog rocks, and I know you know


Chris Pearson December 6, 2011

Lorenz, when I was a freelance web designer, I was making between $60,000 and $80,000 per year (USD).


Hoot and/or Holler

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