Transparency and Social Media – What you should know

By now, most of us have heard the stories of employees ranting about their bosses or colleagues on Facebook, forgetting these folks were part of their Friends list and privy to everything written on their “Wall.” But there’s even more to consider.

Given the extent of our Twitter “tweets,” Facebook and FriendsFeed updates, and similar broadcasts across the net, our personal dialogues (and who we really are) are becoming more and more transparent. Search engine (SEO) ties between social media outlets such as Twitter with search results on sites such as Yahoo, Google, and the like — which are providing real-time results — increase this transparency further.

And now, Google just released Social Search, which takes it even further by analyzing a person’s network of friends’ feeds.

Let’s not forget that our updates, tweets, blog posts, forum and other comments, etc., are also archival. Have you ever searched your name and found a forum post you made a few years ago? Yep, that’s what I’m talking about. And you think deleting your Facebook updates will help? No such luck. Facebook just updated their privacy policy dictating why deleted content will live on. It’s an uncomfortable thought.

To put it bluntly, if you have something to say online, especially using social media, you might want to think carefully about the contents of your monologue.

Your words may not be written in stone, but they may be available to everyone, anyone, anytime.

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The Basics of a Successful Facebook Application

I’ve been thinking about Facebook applications for a while because they intrigue me. How do they make money? What makes them attractive? And most importantly, What makes them so addictive?

Having a degree and interest in psychology, I am curious about what makes apps “sticky,” why users get interested and remain interested, and what fosters interaction between players and their Friends. In my research of various, successful Facebook applications (particularly games or game-like activities), I have discovered that several simple social psychological theories apply. Like with all science, results should be measured and proven statistically because our “guesses” regarding human behavior are often not correct. I have not been privy to such results, but I do believe any developer or strategist would find my suggestions useful and relevant.

Below are what I would consider and strongly suggest as key application features.

Key Features

  • Stickiness – employ both psychological and statistical proven tactics that attain and maintain user visits and on-site and application duration, many of which are summarized below.
  • Analytics / Tracking Statistics – Statistics that track user total duration within your application and specified areas. Track avenues for successful subscriptions and participation by user Friends; ads clicked; demographics, etc. Some Facebook application are SiteCatalyst, FB Insights, Kontagent, and Adnomics.
  • Interaction (user-centric and via other users and Friends) – Your application should provide user-centric interaction with application objects and games, as well as interaction with other users and social media friends. New Friends can be made via non-Friends who are currently using the application. Users can interact with their current Friends, as well as in ways that encourage these Friends’ participation with your app. Encourage further interaction via online forums, trading, and other activities which build a feeling of “common interest” and belonging to a community. Also consider giving “gifts” or similar interactions among Friends, which will reinforce the “art of reciprocity,” and stimulate stickiness and further interaction among prospective users.
  • Fun – The user must have fun! You can achieve this via strong interaction within your app and with other users, varied customization options, and games. You can apply “game theory” where applicable, since there are particular methods that make games more “addicting” and enjoyable. Simple additions, such as animations and sounds (i.e., “cuteness”) can increase the “fun factor.”
  • Competition – Encourage competition between users to create sense of urgency and participation among new and existing players.
  • Reward System – Your app must be a rewarding experience, both in the sense of being intrinsically rewarding and also externally rewarding, such as via a “token system,” which rewards behaviors (e.g., using, playing, which encourages stickiness). It should also allow for further extrinsic rewards (e.g., shopping, climbing levels, etc.).
  • Ease of Use – Your app must be user-friendly from the user’s first experience on forward, so it won’t frighten off or frustrate newcomers. Instructions and guidance may be necessary on first use and available on further use. All instructions/help must be clear and simple. User application goals and usage must be clear.
  • Flexibility and Scalability – There should be some flexibility and scalability in the program so the user doesn’t get bored. An example of this might be additional levels with additional rewards. The app must be scaleable so that users don’t reach a “wall” and run out of activities (and e.g., rewards). You might also encourage user participation by increasing options, such as user-generated content.
  • Customization – Part of the “fun” that users can experience is through customization. Examples are: creating an avatar; naming an avatar; changing their avatar; customizing an environment; or adding favorite games to dashboard.
  • Profitability – Consider income revenues via banner advertising, branded advertising (e.g., objects in an environment are of a specific brand such as a London Fog coat, TGIF Restaurant, etc.), cash purchases for items such as tokens or content, affiliate partnerships (ads or purchases with affiliates equals rewards for user), and user purchases to access special venues.
  • Quality – Since users will get easily turned off by bugs that prevent or make usage frustrating, you need to well test your app and make sure it’s free of critical bugs. Many applications have had a very short life due to problems that frustrated users. People will rate and talk about your application. Word spreads fast. If there are problems, users will find out and often avoid your application because of it. Due your diligence: QA your product.

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