Friday, October 26, 2007

Designing for Virality and Retention from SNAP Summit

Blogging live from SNAP Summit 2007. Similar panel to the Viral Strategy - News Feed Optimization(NFO) from Social Graphic Pattern

  • Moderator: Susan Wu, Partner, Charles River Ventures
  • Keith Schacht; Developer, Grow-a-Gift
  • Dave McClure, Master of 500 Hats
  • Jia Shen; CEO, RockYou, have 26M users 50% of total Facebook users among 26 Apps.
  • Mark Kantor; Developer, Graffiti
Good set of smart guys know Facebook Virality, Jia keeps going to mathematical analysis, lot of quick discussion, I am not doing justice capturing all of them

Define Virality from each member of the panel:

  • Keith - Conversion from each install, for each user who installs how many new users do they convert.
  • People who are referring, rate of conversion of people invited
  • Jia - Mathematical equation - how many people using it
  • Two types of virality - personal reason to invite friends, other is wanting to showoff to friends, most apps are the latter.
Viral Channels

  • Jia - On Myspace, Inprofile virality concept of self-expression, bulletins (equiv of scripting invite friends), In facebook, there are 14 viral channels.
  • Earlier it was just sending an message to join. Now its grown with not showing a friend's message in an invite.
  • Keith - Diff between Viral and Stickyness: Look at the stats of App, the one with new users and returning users is more sticky.

Dave McClure - Two types of virality

1. Active - Invite, Notification, Request, wave effect initially
2. Passive referrals - people looking at profile, mini feed activity. eg is Fluff friends App. Currently App messages are not visible for people who haven't installed App, if facebook adds this it can increase virality more.

Use A-B Testing on messaging.

Jia Shen - All facebook built in 2 stages, first to test out the concept and initial viral acceptance, then focus on engagement.
Lot of developers now focusing on engagement which helps with virality better.
Draw out diff kind of channels for your App and track on per install viral channel for each.

Keith Schacht: Developer, Grow-a-Gift

  • Track all granular details number of users, track forst 10-20 clicks as soon as user enters an App, right from start.
  • Grow-a-Gift was viral, we were lucky. Found 20% of invites converted to installs, 10% of feed converted to install so tweaked to make it better.
  • Hatching Egg, now added Dog Egg
  • Facebook promised to clear out all notification.

Best practices

  • - Value of a facebook user is more than a web site user.
  • - Photflexer (I am hearing their name 3rd time this year) is an example which can do more by challenges and games to engage groups of friends.
  • - Dave - Startup metrics for pirates from Ignite talk applies to facebook too.
  • In feeds - create messages based on app action, you can include upto 4, use a button like graphic mimic the psycology of facebook Apps, RockYou and Slide do it well.
  • - Using FBNames in actual message itself - the ability to refer a person in the message will work.
  • - Show interaction of two friends by name, can be seen by networks of both friends. Show list of multiple friends grouped together in a message, so more people can see it.
  • - Keep invitation as part of the meaning of the App, thats long term whats most important.
  • Design for user interaction binary or multi-person interaction.

Variability and Conversion Rates:
  • New invite system from last thurs, users has to enter user names so facebook has riased the bar that user has to be more passionate about the App to send invites to friends.
  • If you send an invite you are restricted to 20, show selection that has higher conversion rate eg people in relationship accept invites more, we got 30% conversion.

  • Measure conversions daily or hourly, conflicting discussion the value. Jia thinks too much of these stats do not matter from a monetization stand point.
  • Dave's suggestion to study engagement in 30 days similar to Ad industry.
  • Analytics - Google Analytics is good, use simple SQL statements , track dots in images, grouping by min or 5 min. Google Analytics can log events for Rich Media not just pageviews
  • Jia - Its totally possible to do Multi-variant analysis like invites, how many wall posts etc.


Top 5 viral channels:
Invite, minifeed, application name word phrase should be self-descriptive one word, profile action, default profile action (when u browse other people's action that shows there)

How many Developers - Customer acquired /developer :
  • 4-5 full-time, 3 of them developers, 20Mil Facebook users
  • Jia - RockYou 20 people, 4-5 business people, 5-6 developers
  • Dave about Stanford class 25 teams of 3, one developer
  • Keith 3 full time, 3 part-tim1. 1.5 people doing development, 6Mil users.
  • Users get excited about App, one person should be devoted to an App on the creative side.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Social Email Graph (SEG) Yahoo's low hanging fruit

This is part 3 on my Social Email Graph(SEG) series. (part 1 SEG industry analysis here, part 2 SEG = facebook here)

Yahoo! You own the web email world with 250Mil of 500Mil web email users. Stay the king of email by strengthening it with SEG!!!

I think Yahoo has an advantage here over gmail, MS and AOL for the same reason that Y! suffered focus earlier because it had spread itself to many verticals solving many segments as a portal play.

Most ideas discussed around "tapping into the social graph" by the large web based providers today is centered on the idea of asking users to add profile information and finding friends from email interaction.

Yahoo can take it forward as a 2-step process:

Step1 : Find the user's social graph in user's emails:

Build metrics and learn the social pattern of a user's network by association, frequency and persistency.
- track user frequency of emailing someone
- association of users by being cced in emails
- association of being part of email groups for a particular user.
- allow user to tag users when they email based on repeated pattern. I prefer tagging over categories because the same person maybe related under different tags.
For example, I email my Mommy friend as "mommy friends" email group, no connection amongst them, but there is a pattern from my relationship to them - I see them all as Mommys (apart from whatever they are in life) so I can send them the next "William Overture for Moms". You cannot ask me to categorize them, they will fall under family, friends, colleague etc which does not do justice to my real social relationship with them using email today.
- people who a user chats with messenger from email get to see their status change and are part of one group, in an inner circle.
- people who a user responds to a chat quickly are again a privileged category of friends.
- spam list of users, stalled list of users whose chats are not responded quickly.

It maybe that I am part of a Y! Group with some of these friends subsets and Y! can track and build upon that to connect with rest of Yahoo - later!

The easiest application of these metrics is friends finder, maybe cool for early adopters to find friends in different categories and tag or categorize them. Wheres the sustainable value to users from this exercise and how can yahoo lockin these users for competitive advantage?

Step 2: Present opportunities to do what user does intuitively in her real social graph.

Travel, Shopping, Finance are all social activities where we exchange emails researching, collaborating, purchasing and finalizing logistics of our plans with different set of friends.

Some friends influence the purchase decisions, some contribute to research data with search from web or sharing pictures, and a select few get to consume the experience with us.

Your travel plans maybe initiated by looking at your friends' Hawaii picture.
When you research, you check in with friends on their best deals for reference to sources.
Your review session with friends are different from review session with family or friend who is traveling with you to make purchase decisions.
On purchase you exchange emails on logistics of travel, not to mention you start the review cycle again to begin your experience of consumption of the travel.

The more I think about it, Autos, Tech, Movies, Music are all similar with some, more intense in
email communication involving reviews, while most are intense in the peer influencing communication, and all involving purchase and consumption with different sets of friends.

Yahoo can bring rest of yahoo network to layer upon email, building upon the SEG.
Add different use cases of user behavior based on the SEG metrics collected and offer new value added products and services.

The trick is to present it as a clean UI, with simple intuitive usability.

Users will adapt the best solution from anyone be it a large or small company, from existing email or social networking company where the user can "simply be themselves", they can bring more and more of their real self to their online world, the most important part of their online world, their email.

Social Email Graph (SEG) = Facebook

This is part 2 in my series on Social Email Graph (SEG) - the solution to capturing our real world social graph to online world which is embedded in our email activities.

What Facebook has done well is let users take their social behavior from the real world and translate it to the online world on Facebook. Ok, they have done this well for younger crowd and have smartly opened their platform for the older crowd to bring their behavior to Facebook thru Apps.

I pay for my y! mail and use gmail with gtalk daily for totally different set of communications. But, increasingly I find myself using Facebook Inbox Messaging for my email with my Facebook friends.

Luke of Facebook sowed the seeds in my mind with his blog about switching email to Facebook Inbox. He said "there's no need to switch between Facebook and email for your daily communication needs” and “I am never going to use gmail again!" That’s a lofty goal, but given how I am drawn to switch my entire web world to start from Facebook without Facebook folks even marketing to users to do it, this is the first time (I saw) that Facebook asked me to switch from a web app - my email.

Heres what Facebook Inbox team can do to extend to SEG:

  • First the usability of inbox has to improve. Facebook provides basic threading of messages, but that’s nothing as cool as gmail but it’s an important start. Ability to organize messages with clean UI, being able to search and get to past messages is a must.

  • Allow tagging and categorizing Inbox messages based on friends messaged.

  • I spoke to Chamath Palihapitiya of Facebook after his panel at Social Graphing Pattern and he said Facebook did not build Inbox using email (using SMTP) because they want to protect the privacy of users. One example he gave was that with an email you could forward an email from a friend to another friend without the consent of the first friend, hence they don't support forwarding in Inbox. Valid point!

  • Facebook has implemented emailing from Facebook Inbox or Event RSVP brilliantly to create viral play while preventing spam of Facebook users. (see pictures of the non-facebook user's experience here)

In my mobile middleware startup Coola in 2000, we had amazing success with a “Send to friend” Coolet (a Coolet was a widget code on a web page that a user clicked to send pieces of web content into a friend’s Palm App via the web) where we used email for invites but restricted the usage unless the recipient signed to our service Coola leading to 1Mil user registrations quickly.

I can see how Facebook has brought viral play but avoided building two messaging threads on Facebook and our email client trying to bring everyone to Facebook platform. I believe in Facebook platform, but do not believe the whole world will switch out of a standard like email to Facebook. So, Facebook should provide better support to other email systems with the convenience of the user in mind.

  • Facebook Inbox can become a social email only when Facebook users can start using it in lieu of email AND do intuitively all that I use email to do using my social graph of the real world. So, following email protocol to match up with email is not enough.

Facebook should open up FB API to access inbox with capabilities to allow using inbox as email but allowing the user to make associations of groups, events and repeated usage of trusted friends.

For example if I reply to a message received, allow the option to add them as friend, filter as spam etc.

  • User joining groups and RSVP to events is similar to email play on facebook but each group or fellow members have an association with each other. In fact its common these days to meet people at events and send them a friend request to join facebook, similar to event specific alumni groups on linkedin which is a type of friend/social relationship.
  • When a user signs up for an event, allow association with members of that group (similar to networks today), which is part of the social email graph.
  • On receiving or replying to a message allow assignment to trusted circles as specific school, work, kids school, church etc.
  • Build in metrics to track repeated messaging between friends, replying or ignoring messaging from certain friends and allow user to choose their behavior to define the circle of this friend. This can be taken one step further to allow specific actions appropriate for that segment of friends. This last item is best done by App developers catering to a wide range of social circumstances instead of being built by Facebook.

  • Then Facebook truly becomes a platform, bringing all our social interaction hidden in today's communication to let our real social graph of the world flow through Facebook and reach the whole world.

    Tomorrow, lets look at how email players can evolve and extend to SEG play.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Social Email Graph (SEG) bringing all real social interactions online for all ages - Part 1

I cannot get this thought out of my head from the OpenFace panel from Social Graphing Pattern) (Dave, why do you organize such conferences and make us think so we cannot sleep for days?)

I've blogged this live; Chamath Palihapitiya's vision of Facebook is Huge! Inspiring!"- There is one real social network of 6Bil people in the world, we want all social information to flow through Facebook and reach the whole world"

Email is still the killer app of the net with all its limitations. I remember Om Malik saying at Web2.0 Expo in April07, "wish someone would make an email client that will help organize my work flow based on what interaction I follow to get a job done”.

It’s the Social Email Graph (SEG) as I'd like to call it.

Is the solution of tapping your email social graph an evolution for email companies or is it a transition out of email clients as we know them, into an existing social network (like Facebook) or is it a new product that offers email functionality with facility to tap into the social graph?

Who can bag this business? I am torn between my belief in building an open connected web and the business sense that every company would want to get users from another network, but lock in into itself to creative competitive advantage.

The entrepreneur in me says it is possible for any of them and it is a question of execution will power for existing companies or a startup (in stealth) or yet to be born! So I present all scenarios on what I see each player can do to provide a solution to get us - the consumers the best Social Email Graph (SEG) asking for minimum change in behavior and providing maximum value.

A new startup as a SEG player?

A new startup can create a new product that provides email's social graph use cases and current email functionality in one or can add a layer on top of existing email client to add a layer of social networking capabilities. Tim O'Reilly mentioned xobni at the Social Graphing Pattern conference. There is buzz about them because of being techcrunch40, they seem to be working with Outlook API for corporate customers asking us to include our emails to their close invitation list.

Yahoo and Google as SEG players?

I am more of a Y! mail and gmail user and they cover 500Mil users on the web which personally interests me more than Outlook and LotusNotes as a consumer. Y! Mail and Gmail have open APIs, and for what is not open, it is easy to screen scrape for smart developers.

So whats possible with Y! mail or Gmail is possible by any startup or by the companies themselves.

Lets not forget, Facebook can extend into the Social Email Graph (SEG) with its messaging.

As I started writing this article, Kevin Delaney and Vauhini Vara of WSJ wrote about what Yahoo,Google and AOL are going to do to make a social App out of email. I am a Kevin Delaney fan and am thrilled that it validates my thinking.

I'd like to take it one step further.

The real winner to grab the Social Email Graph (SEG) world will have to go beyond finding friends in email networks to providing means to bring more of their real social graph interactions online.

Lets look at it indepth for each player to understand strategic opportunities tomorrow. Got to grab some sleep now!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Structured and Open Web leading to Interconnected Open Social Graphs

I followed a Curious George trail starting from this good story about the Structured Web from my facebook newsfeed, from a shared link posted byDave McClure.

I liked the article, the last line said "liked this article Digg it" and I Digged it. Digg asked me to login to my Digg account and I did. I saw a "Blog It" link and clicked on expecting to see several steps to select my type of blog, select the actual blog and then post it with some of my original words ....

Guess what, thats it! Digg had this blog URL linked (guess I must have provided it sometime). The blog post was created, and because I've setup this blog to import into my Facebook notes, you see it on facebook.

I am impressed at how seamless it was and see this as an example of how we can build a connected web as sites(what will they be called when Web3.0 is called something else ;-)) build connected services upon each other's APIs to let users exhibit their natural behavior seamlessly, be it sharing content (like this example) by blogging or perform transactions across sites or encourage their discovery on the web.

What comes in the Way?
What comes in the way is the incentive for businesses to build an Open web.

The Open Social Graph panel discussion from day before still keeps ringing in my mind. I blogged it live here.

Offering APIs to provide integrated services benefits businesses. Most APIs today allow users to bring in their profiles and addressbooks from other services to migrate to their new site and help themself grow. eg links to find friends from your y! or gmail or accounts.

Chamath of Facebook eloquently put Facebook's dream's loftier than Google "We want all social information to flow through facebook and
reach the whole world", which means a 2-way flow not the one-way platform as we know Facebook platform today.

Joseph Smarr of Plaxo did an awesome job translating what how each nuanced reply from the panelists meant to the user. The panel stopped short of moving to any possible action to open to make a truly Open Social Graph.

Its a huge entreprenerial opportunity for new ideas from big and small companies alike and I am charged, excited and restless and a little lost.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Viral Strategy panel: Invites, Notifications, & News Feed Optimization (NFO)

I am blogging live - this is one of the best panels of the conference so far

Justin Smith, InsideFacebook (moderator),
Panelists: Jia Shen RockYou, Blake Commagere Mogads / Zombies, Jason Beckerman / Lotto, Tim O’Shaughnessy Hungry Machine

-No control on who sees your news feeds , no stats on impressions or click-thrus.
- Invites earlier open so early App developers grew to millions, no restricted to 20/day 10 at a time. No stats from facebook on who saw invites so developers have to build in metrics each.
- No transparency on what notifications is trapped as spam by facebook.

Blake Commagere (Zombie) - Best Quote of the Day "Nobody should doubt the power of the newsfeed"
- Optimized invites, provided clear incentive to user to checkout App, worth A-B testing.
-Notifications - didn't leverage much. Use it not as viral tool but to keep user engagement.
-Newsfeeds are seen by non-app users too, so accomodate app users and non- app users with messaging.
- Would like to aggregate friend's engagement of app as a single news feed (like profile updates are listed by facebook)

Tim O’Shaughnessy:
- His App requires active choice from user.
- If same event has two codes for same feed based on whether the user has app installed or not it would be nice (lot of discussion about how newsfeed is a blackbox)

Jia Shen

Invites - to grow app virally, tried multi variant analysis to understand target users guys/girls and tuned apps. People who are in relationship accept invites, people who have 20+ wall posts accept invites more readily, that means they are core facebook users and have active friends.
notification and news feeds are to engage user
mini-feeds - changing different graphics that correlate with the feed item increased user-clicks.
What number would you tune in your App: Track number of mini feed events sent, number of user actions base don the mini-feed.
Notifications - we don't use when we launch new apps, or can be blocked as spam quickly.

Jason Beckerman

Was built on daily engagement from start, which mini-feed helps well.
Give bonus ticket for weekly jackspot, different jackspot prize value on min-feeds.
Built out metrics - is it from new users or from core users, trying to find what $prize brought good viral response.

Question by Dave McClure - If facebook turned on feed notification to non app users how will it change for each develope, will they user invites better?

Should Virality be part of the app, what if its a utility app and not naturally viral?

How many users drop off because it requires invites of multiple friends?

Lee Lorenzen Altura Ventures had a VC like question - how would it affect virality if facebook reports the uninstalls of apps? It brought a nice finish to the panel with response from all panelists.
Blake of Vampire has 13% uninstall, but its hasn't affected its use, its not an interesting stats for users. Jia thinks the stats are not for user, it is for industry. He thinks how long a user kept the App before uninstalling would be more interesting stats.

AppNite awards winners at Social Graphing Pattern conf

Saw Demo of all these 3 at lunch time today at Social Graphing Pattern conf.

  1. Yay! Robert Fan from our facebook meetup won $1K for his The Game App
  2. Chris built an App in 34 hrs Judge-O-Rama, its like a compare app comparing friends to rate. (wish facebook would make it easy to search apps, I am unable to find it on facebook, someone ping me when you do)
  3. Visual Bookshops find Amazon recommendation and adds their own reco based on Social Graph.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Social Graphing Pattern - the Facebook conference

I am at Dave McClure's Social Graphing Pattern Conference, helping Chris Heuer with the organization of the OpenFace Day today.

Lot of entrepreneurial energy, I love it.

Keynote by Reid Hoffman: (updated with Reid's presentation here)

Reid spoke about Facebook as a Platform. He covered the general trend in a nice summary:
- Facebook stays fresh because of new Apps coming up with its open platform
- Facebook has done well with taking Flickr one-step further with Photo by adding friends tagging, he says FB app developers need to take that genius to other apps to build on sharing.
-Some Apps are extending into the web, eg Y! Music used Rockyou widgets to launch its music on fb and the aquisition of "Where I've Been" by Tripadvisor.

Audience had questions about Linkedin building Facebook Apps and he said they have one App as a test case without much traction and will launch more if it helps their customers and users.
On a question about whether Facebook will see some commerce activity, he qualified that he doesn't like to make predictions but thought that social networks will support Commerce couple years down the line and he doesn't see facebook evolving to that now.

Marketing - Charlene Li (updated with her real presentation here)

Charlene Li of Forrestor spoke eloquently about marketing facebook apps and had great stats.

Rock You CEO Lance Toduka (real presentation here)

- Third party Distribution enables success eg. Showcased how Rockyou helped Y! Music pickup traction, Launched a new CBS Widget last thurs.
- Facebook is the best distribution platform, 7x better than MySpace
- Distribution is till hard - only 1% succeed

On questions on managing load at 1M users, he thought Amazon AWS was good though RockYou doesn't use it, they use MySQL and facebook takes lot of the load based on the app design.
Question on building viral play he said:
a. Build Invite as part of App
b. Call for action for receiver of invitation too
c. Use news feeds effectively
d. Use colorful buttons like Continue - -> worked to increase viral play for them.