The Top 5 Viral Facebook Techniques

Posted by Nick O'Neill on July 26th, 2007 4:04 PM

The dynamic of Facebook application marketing is rapidly changing. What
once was an environment in which your application was practically
guaranteed to go viral has shifted to one in which you need to come up
with creative ways of marketing your application. The MyBucks application
is a perfect example of this. After Aryeh Goldsmith (the creator of the
MyBucks application) added the “Top Referrers” feature, the application
immediately turned viral. After seeing all the applications go viral I
have decided to do a brief overview of a few key features that help
your application go viral. While this is not an exhaustive list, it
covers the majority of tricks of the trade that are currently being

  • Forced Invite - The first instance that I saw this implemented was by David Gentzel when he launched the Happy Hour application.
    Within a matter of weeks the application has already become the 13th
    most popular application on Facebook, which is no easy feat. This
    method was duplicated by other applications with varying success within
    a matter of hours. What exactly is this method you ask? As soon as
    someone decides to add the application they are forced to invite 10
    friends. This is a risky tactic but David Gentzel was able to leverage
    his other highly popular applications to drive traffic to this
    application. Personally, I don’t recommend this tactic. It is a brute
    force method that can be used by those with popular applications that
    don’t have rich feature sets. I have a feeling that most happy hour
    users don’t return to the app on a daily basis, but then again I don’t
    have statistics to back that up.
  • Invite after action - When the Facebook platform first
    launched there were no restrictions as to how many people an
    application user could invite per day. As a result many of the initial
    applications that took advantage of the checkbox invite forms grew
    rapidly. Since the launch, there is now a limit of 10 friends per day
    by each application user. While it has been significantly limited by
    Facebook, it is still a useful form of marketing. When building your
    application you should definitely come up with an effective way of
    allowing users to invite other people.
  • News feed - The news feed is the most powerful component
    of Facebook. Period. There are two ways that applications can leverage
    the news feed. The first is naturally built in. Most of the time, when
    a user adds an application it is displayed in their friends’ news
    feeds. While it is not a guarantee that it will show up in other
    people’s news feeds (due to a number of factors pertaining to news feed
    optimization), this is the primary thing that helps applications spread
    virally. When I launched my Bush Countdown clock
    I added no viral components and relied completely on people’s news
    feeds. This has spread the application to close to 8,500 users. While
    not spectacular, it is hardly something to sneeze at. The second way of
    using a news feed is by leveraging the news feed API calls that
    Facebook has provided. Within reason, you can regularly post news items
    to a user’s mini-feed within their profile. A small percentage of the
    time that item will end up on their friends’ news feeds. While this is
    severely limited, at least you can get it on to your users’ mini-feeds.
    Every form of exposure you can get (within reason) for your
    application, you should strive for.
  • Referrals/Giveaways - This is the most recent form of
    viral marketing on Facebook. I am seeing a number of applications
    adopting this technique. The referrals tactic is to come up with an
    effective way of encouraging your applications users to market your
    application for you. They can market your application on blogs,
    websites, forums, Facebook walls, messages to friends and more. The
    bottom line is that you end up with your application users being the
    ones that get scrappy with the marketing, not you. Giveaways are
    usually combined with this to provide an incentive for users to promote
    your application. There is a risk though in making your application
    look cheap, but for now I think this is a great technique.
  • One-on-One - Used alone, this technique may not result in
    viral growth of your application but combining this technique with one
    of the others I have listed can result in exceptional results. The
    concept is straight forward. Reach out to people that you think will
    find your application useful. This technique is more for targeted
    applications, not for generic applications such as poke wars or zombie
    biting or any of the other generic applications out there. Reach out to
    those individuals that you think will benefit from your application and
    then follow-up with them once they’ve added it. The result is
    passionate users that become your own brand evangelists. This technique
    has been used by countless communities to help generate passionate
    users. If you nurture your application users you will see positive
    results in the long-term.

While each of these techniques can provide varying results, all of
them are targeted at creating the viral effect. Ultimately that is what
makes the Facebook platform so appealing currently. You can rapidly
reach thousands to millions of individuals in a short span of time at
minimal cost. The problem with these viral techniques are that many of
them will become practically useless soon after I release this post.
That is the nature of viral marketing. Viral marketing techniques lose
their appeal after they become adopted by the masses. While the
techniques that have been used until now are far from revolutionary, I
have a feeling that we will begin to see truly creative techniques in
the coming months.