How To Create A Viral Facebook App

Back in May, Facebook launched a platform that allowed developers to tap into the Facebook hub itself. The Facebook Platform is a set of resources and tools that enables rapid development of applications for Facebook users. It’s proven wildly popular, and companies are leveraging it to gain thousands if not millions of new visitors to their websites. If you are interested in leveraging the 12th most popular website on the Internet (according to Alexa), here is how you can develop a good Facebook App:

Target your audience

Although many think Facebook is filled with teenagers, it is actually open to people of all ages. It may not seem that way, but Facebook has millions of members, and even though older people make up a small percentage of the user base, they still make up a big number. Before you build an application for Facebook, you need to determine which demographic you want to go after and create something that appeals to them.

Think viral

The best way to get an application popular on Facebook is not to spend thousands of dollars marketing it but rather to create something that is viral. If you can create something that others want to send to their Facebook friends, then you’ll have an application that will be used by millions of people. One good example of this is an application called Zombies, where your goal is to bite as many as your friends and turn them into a Zombie.

Provide value

For someone to use your Facebook application they need to get something out of it. This could be as simple as entertainment or it could be as unique as learning something new. When building an application, don’t just think about how it will benefit you, but instead think about what value you can provide to the user.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

A fatal flaw that I have noticed with some Facebook applications is that they are too complicated. If it takes too much effort to fully utilize an application then don’t expect too many people to use it. One of the main reasons why applications such as iLike are so popular is because the concept—leting you add music to your profile and find your favorite concerts—is simple.

Keep an objective in mind

You can build a great Facebook application that is used by millions of people, but if it doesn’t help you with your business, what’s the point? You can leverage Facebook for branding purposes like Zombies did for RockYou, or you can leverage Facebook as Shelfari used Facebook to increase book sales. Whatever your main objective is, keep that in mind when building an application or else you’ll come out with an application that doesn’t help with your bottom line.

Neil Patel is co-founder and CTO of ACS and writes regularly on social media issues through the company’s blog, Pronet Advertising. The Let’s Get Social column appears Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social | Social Media Marketing


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  • dangerlarson


    Two of those apps you linked to didn’t work – one said it was “upgrading”, and the other went to a blank screen. Guess that’s the growing pains of a new app?

  • DanielR

    I’ve compiled my own list of what ever FaceBook App should have, but it is more tactical than Neil’s list, see excerpt below.

    Full blog article on Facebook on Emergence-Media:

    What are the 6 Basic Features that Oodle’s BandTracker Has (And yours should have too):

    1. BandTracker: Recently Tracked
    Or Basically: What was just added?

    2. BandTracker: Who likes what you like?
    Or Basically: Who has similar interests to you based on your selections?

    3. BandTracker: Most Tracked
    Or Basically: What are the most popular entries?

    4. BandTracker: Who I’m Tracking
    Or Basically: What you inputted as your interests

    5. BandTracker: Who’s Upcoming
    Or Basically: News about your interests: events, special deals, etc

    6. BandTracker: Who My Friends are Tracking
    Or Basically: What are my friend’s interests

    @DangerLarson: Actually, FaceBook was down this morning. See ValleyWag:

  • Neil Patel

    Weird, the links work for me. Maybe you have to be logged into Facebook for them to work.

  • Michael Visser

    >”Guess that’s the growing pains of a new app?”
    The new Applications side of Facebook is having some stability issues, I’m an active (addicted) user of many Facebook apps. and the servers just aren’t coping with the increased load. Also, there’s a mix between sponsored (hosted by Facebook) and self-hosted applications.

    Just to give you some clues as to Facebook apps. that have done really well in the 19-24yo market I’ve listed their name as well as unique feature.

    -Pirates (become a pirate, pilate, get attacked, pillage some more… text-link ads at the bottom)
    -Likeness (do a quiz, find out how alike you are to your friends)
    -Happy Hour! (send drinks to your friends!)
    -Vampires (bite people, they bite people, you all become one big happy family)
    -Pirates vs. Ninjas (watch your team mount an epic battle against each other, pirates will win for sure)
    -Free gifts (Facebook makes you pay for gifts, this one doesn’t, amazing huh!)
    -Causes (an online donation community, funds are given to your “causes”) Quiz (online quiz across various topics, updated daily)
    -iLike (music profile and community, have a popular “guess the song” competition)
    -myTV (integrate youtube into your profile)
    -Movies (favourite films, take the “likness film test” with your friends)
    -Graffiti (draw pictures on your friends profile, what more do you want!)

    Facebook has finally destroyed MySpace, now MySpace is working their pants off to integrate the features Facebook has had since day one. An interesting time for the biggest social media communities.

  • Facebook Application Developer

    Wow the information is really seems terrific and amazing to me. Well i am also thinking about sharing as well.


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