Commercial Facebook Applications: Is There Hope or Only Hype?

Ed Whiting from Travel Remark put together this eye-opening video about Facebook travel applications. Just for fun, take a guess how many travel-related Facebook applications there are before you click play (the grand total will be revealed at the end).

And this is just one category of commercial applications, folks.

When Facebook applications were launched last year, first movers in ecommerce included Blue Nile’s Wish List and Backcountry’s Steep and Cheap. I give credit to these retailers for giving it a shot. Unfortunately, almost a year later you can count the number of daily users for these apps on one hand.

Other social shopping applications like StyleFeeder and Polyvore get a few thousand daily users – not bad, but they are definitely the exception.

Challenges in Social Shopping Facebook Application Marketing

1. Application Aggro – Requests to add applications from friends are no longer trusted. Much worse, in fact – it has turned friends into perceived spammers and prompted many Facebook statuses along the lines of “stop sending me [radio edit] applications!

2. Saturation – At this stage in the game, there are so many applications that to get popular, you have to be remarkable. You have to provide so much value that people will add your application and risk losing friends to evangelize your app with invites.

3. Commercialization – Judging by daily average users, it’s clear that Facebookers would rather buy and sell each other than buy real products.

4. App ADD – Even if someone adds your application, that person has to be really motivated to use it on a regular basis. Otherwise it will inevitably be removed.

5. Co-dependency – Many apps depend on a sufficient number of your friends’ participation for there to be any practical value (Facebook being a social network, after all). If a user doesn’t have mutual friends with the application, he can get no utility out of it.

Given these conditions, I don’t think there’s a future for e-tailers to win at this game. What do you think?


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