Why Facebook Apps Suck

August 16, 2010

Young Passionate Entrepreneur (YPE): “I’ve got this great idea and I’ve done the research to prove that the market is $X,XXX,XXX,XXX big!”

Seasoned Internet Professional (SIP): “Sounds interesting.  What’s the idea?”

YPE: “A website that finally lets people _______________ (fill in the blank).”

SIP: “Pretty cool idea.  How do you plan to scale?”

YPE: “Easy.  Events, SEO, AdWords, and connecting to Facebook through Facebook Connect.”

SIP: “Sounds like you’ve done your homework, but your idea SOUNDS LIKE A FACEBOOK APP.”

I’ve heard “Sounds Like a Facebook App” so many times, but are we really thinking the phrase through before speaking? Why does any new website that connects friends via the web always “sound like a Facebook App”? What if LinkedIn, Twitter, or Foursquare (all naturally sound like Facebook Apps) started as Facebook Apps? Would any of them be where they are today, even if it were just to test the concept?  There are very few success stories for Facebook Apps other than Zynga videogames, which are the rare exceptions, but remember these are videogames, not Web 2.0 sites.  Converting a website concept to a Facebook Application will set it up for failure because people don’t trust Facebook’s sharing of private information with 3rd party developers and Facebook Apps require users to commit to providing their sensitive Facebook information before allowing users to test the applications.

Facebook has become an information depository; users blindly place all of their personal information and data (no matter how sensitive) in their Facebook accounts, only controlling how others access this information via their Privacy Settings.  Unfortunately, Facebook has demonstrated a pattern of privacy gaffs, creating an almost tangible distrust with its users.  With updated Privacy Settings on an annual basis, and with new settings defaulting to “Public,” Facebook users don’t know how to 100% protect their sensitive information.  Even though, users are presented with a warning of the exact information that will be shared with applications, they often ignore or distrust them.  When connecting to a Facebook Application users often feel like they are rolling the dice, hoping that the information they view as sensitive remains private.  For a user to risk sharing their private information with a random developer by connecting to an application a great degree of social proof must be demonstrated.  According to the social proof hypothesis, Facebook users won’t sign up for an application unless they see their friends signing up.  With all the noise going through newsfeeds, it will probably take more than 1 (probably close to 4-7) friends signing up for an application before you notice.  The obstacles for a Facebook Application to gain the exposure needed to provide social proof for a user to consider providing their private information is immense.  One may argue that the same exposure obstacle exists for off Facebook applications that connect to Facebook via Facebook Connect, which is different because of the ability to sample the application (build trust) before committing to providing sensitive data to the developer.

Facebook Applications require users to provide their personal information before trying them out.  When a user identifies a Facebook App that seems intriguing, he/she may see screenshots of the application via the application’s Facebook Information page, but in order to tryout the application permission must be granted through the Request for Permission pop-up box. The Request for Permission pop-up box is where users usually change their minds, and decide that it is not worth the risk of giving away personal information to a 3rd party developer for an application that they haven’t even been able to try, and click the “Leave Application” button.  With Web 2.0 sites, users often are only required to enter a username and password to gain access, and may add additional information to their user profiles at their discretion.  Once the Web 2.0 site proves itself useful and trustworthy, the user may select to share their use of the Web 2.0 site by connecting with their accounts through Facebook Connect.  Connecting with Facebook Connect allows the Web 2.0 site to communicate with the users Facebook profile, allowing the user to share information from the Facebook user account with the Web 2.0 site and vice versa.  In many cases, users’ of Web 2.0 sites may share what they do on the Web 2.0 site through their Facebook newsfeed (which may even include a link to the Web 2.0 site) after connecting to Facebook on their terms via Facebook Connect.  People understand that they must be more responsible with their Facebook information, and are becoming more selective with whom they share their information with; thus developers must first build trust with their users before asking for their sensitive information; a process that Facebook applications DO NOT support.

Selecting to go-to-market with a Facebook Application rather than a Web 2.0 site that uses Facebook Connect is not a small decision, and through the proper user behavior analysis it becomes clear that Facebook applications limit adoption because users are not willing to share their Facebook information with 3rd party developers before trying applications on their own terms. Finding examples of non-videogame Facebook Apps that have a large number of users has proven difficult.  I welcome your comments regarding Facebook applications and what types of web applications are best fit to be tested and introduced as Facebook Apps rather than Web 2.0 sites.

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I’m Baaaaaaaack!

August 13, 2010

Blogging is a never-ending commitment; a commitment that I’ve neglected over the past year and plan to resurrect.  Today I will restart blogging as The Boston Entrepreneur, providing the expertise and insights that achieved such recognition as one of the Top 150 Blogs for Entrepreneurs.  Come back next week for the first full-length post in the return of The Boston Entrepreneur.


TBE Makes List of Top 150 Blogs for Entrepreneurs

December 6, 2008

The Boston Entrepreneur is proud to be included in Open Business’s list of Top 150 Blogs for Entrepreneurs. Being named in a list acknowledging TBE’s contribution to entrepreneurship is an honor.


The Power of Numbers

October 15, 2008

We’ve all heard it, to assume is to make an “ass” at of “u” and “me.” Making business decisions based on feelings, preferences, and observations are marred by biased assumptions. Strong businesses decisions emerge from fact; and there are no stronger facts than numbers. Quantitative analysis is essential to business decisions; it’s the power of numbers.

Quantitative Analysis – I have a simple process for performing quick quantitative analysis.

Step 1) Identify the Desired Destination – Know where you want the numerical data to take you, why the data will take you there, what the data can tell you, and how the data is working. Without knowing your destination, you may quickly get lost. Know your destination.

Step 2) Collect and Organize the Numbers – Finding the numbers is not easy. Choose whether to manually gather the data through surveys or to collect it from published (or unpublished) sources. If you encounter trouble collecting data, speak to a librarian (they are expert data gatherers and can be your best free resource). Once you have your data, organize it properly and you will get to your destination efficiently. Organizing your data can be as easy to choosing the order of the columns or as difficult as creating tables within Excel.

Step 3) Manipulate the Numbers – Now that the collected data is organized, can you get to your destination with the data in its current state? If not, then figure out what needs to be done, and do it. Make sure you don’t ruin the value of the numbers with your manipulations.

Step 4) Get the Facts – Use your answer to the question, how is the data working to get to your destination?, to apply calculations to the numerical data (collected & manipulated). The results will provide you with facts. These facts will be used to make your decisions.

Step 5) Don’t Take the Results for What They AreFinding patterns in large outputs is like searching for a needle in a haystack. The output of facts may seem sufficient to make your decision, but pictures tell a thousand words…

Step 6) Graph the Results & Make the Decision Graph the outputs. Graphical dashboards are valuable components of decision making because they show patterns that one might miss by just looking at the raw numerical facts. More outputs produce more factual support, but also more data and better graphs. Better graphs produce easily interpretable facts, which are used to make strong concrete business decisions. The graphs accurately get you to your destination.

Again, this is a simple process I use to make concrete business decisions. In the context of more time, resources, and risk, I would apply statistical and economical regression and forecasting to make stronger factual business decisions. The importance lies in using numerical data to provide factual insights in making business decisions, demonstrating the power of numbers.


TR35 Winners: EmTech08

September 24, 2008

And the winners are…

TR35 Humanitarian of the Year – Aimee Rose – ICx Technologies

TR35 Innovator of the Year – JB Starubel Tesla Motors, Inc.


Competitive Capture Link Building for SEO

July 7, 2008

I’ve recently been researching Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and come across a great tool called SEOQuake. SEOQuake is available as a plug in for Firefox 3.0 and also for download for other browsers at www.seoquake.com. The tool pulls information from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and other services. Overall, the SEOQuake tool provides users with valuable “one-stop” SEO information.

SEOQuake provides quick links to the Google Page Rank, number of in-directing links, the url of in-directing links, the number of landing pages to a given website, the number of links to internal pages, the number of external links on a page, and other valuable information optimizing search engine rankings. My favorite SEOQuake link is to Yahoo’s Site Explorer, which provides the location of all in-directing links. I utilize the Yahoo Site Explorer tool by targeting an identified keyword. I Google search the identified keyword, and start by clicking on the highest ranked link; once the highest ranked page loads I click the Yahoo Site Explorer link from the SEOQuake toolbar and a new tab opens with the listing of the pages with in-directing links. I then analyze the websites with the in-directing links and look for opportunities to create in-directing links from these pages to my website. I repeat this process with the second highest website for the target keyword and continue through the top ranked sites. I call this technique “Competitor Capture Link Building.”

Competitor Capture Link Building is one of many uses for the SEOQuake tool. Please share your thoughts on Competitive Capture Link Building, other link building techniques and ways you use SEOQuake to optimize your search engine rankings.


Social Networking’s Future?

June 26, 2008

As I blogged after attending the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, the social networking boom amazes me. I continuously ask myself questions to better understand the future of social networking. Most of the answers are speculation, but with knowledge of the history of social networking one can formulate educated predictions. Please take a look at these questions and provide your predictions in the comments section.

Questions?

Is there a need for both formal and informal personal profiles? Will social networks provide users the ability to create multiple profile view options for select friends (personal view, professional view, family view)? (ie. A shared picture marked for friend and family view will NOT be available to friends with professional view access)

Will people join niche social networks? Or are niche groups on larger social networks sufficient?

What is the future for applications? What tools exist for application management? What are the wants and needs of people regarding application management? Do applications need social networks?

Will the larger social networks expand beyond their current services and release new products targeting specific customers (ie. Facebook Corporate Edition, LinkedIn HR Solutions, Etc.)? What is the future of corporate social networking and file & knowledge management? Will the established social networks enter corporate social networking and file & knowledge management?

What is the lifecycle of a social network? Why have successful social networks failed? What activities cause users to delete profiles?

The Ultimate Question: Will one social network become the “one-stop-shop?”

Interesting Statistics:

According to Compete.com over the past year the number of visits per month for MySpace is down 27% (buts still over 830M visits) while Facebook is up 36% (with almost 361M visits), LinkedIn is up 749% (with only 20M visits), and Twitter is up 8373% (with almost 15M visits).