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How to get 100,000 users in 1 month

How to get 100,000 users in 1 month

Not all freelancers are content to provide services to their clients until the day they willfully leap into the grave. You’ve all heard Leo talk about multiple income streams. The most popular strategy these days? Make the next killer app, widget or plug-in. So, how do you turn your tiny startup idea into a full-fledged, well funded, revenue-generating business? Widget company, RockYou, discovered an answer early this summer, as did many other now-successful entrepreneurs. The answer was Facebook.

Alrighty then, you have made a decision and you’re ready to muscle down and “face” (snicker) the challenges head on. You’re gonna make an app! But, how do you get it to catch on?

Rule #1: Create an application that people will want to use multiple times each and every day.

This may sound almost ignorant in its simplicity, but it’s amazing how often people ignore this concept. Hundreds of early applications were released (and are still being released) with a simple, silly idea that manages to capture your attention for about 3 minutes, but that you’ll never care to use again. It turns out that 3 minutes is long enough to convince some users to ‘invite’ their friends to use the app, and thus many of these applications have flourished. Facebook has recently decided to remove control of the ‘invite friends’ functionality from apps, and have also started to rank applications based on how much users actually use them, as opposed to how many people installed (and probably immediately forgot) them. This is great news for everyone that adheres to Rule #1.

Rule #2: Make an application that incorporates a user’s friends.

I cannot stress this one enough. There’s a reason why the top ranked application is called Top Friends. If your idea doesn’t directly relate to the user’s friends, it needs to allow friends to see what the user has recently done on the app via a box on the profile or some other mechanism. Almost always something that people want to do daily (rule #1 !!) on Facebook somehow involves their friends. This is why they log into Facebook to begin with! Applications can then spread virally through notifications based on user action within the application, because these actions invariably involve user’s friends. People don’t care if their friends changed their religious views on their profile nearly as much as they care that they’ve been tagged in a photo that their friends have uploaded. You’re bound to be a lot more interested in photos with you in them than without. There is nothing greater than one’s self. Always keep that in mind! Develop your application so that a user’s friends want to try it.

Rule #3: Don’t require friend interaction.

“Oh, isn’t that the opposite of Rule #2?? How delightfully clever!” Wrong. I do not mean that the app should not incorporate a user’s friends. I mean that the app should not require that friends participate for it to be successful. Imagine an app that requires a user to receive some event from a friend to be useful. This app, let’s call it the ‘invitation to my party’ app. “This sounds like a Great Idea! We’ll create an app that lets people post their parties they’re gonna have, and their friends can read about it!”

Unfortunately it’s not so simple. The problem with this idea (and many others like it) is that it requires everyone that cares to have the app. So, if the app requires that the user’s friends do something for it to be a useful app (like check out party times and date), it wont grow or even be useful until a certain number of users have the app. If it requires that your friends use it along with you for it to work, and they don’t have it, then why would you?

Rule #4: Promote your application in a variety of ways.

Let’s push this ‘viral’ analogy to the extreme. Common sense tells us that a virus that spreads through the consumption of an infected person’s toenail clippings isn’t going to get a lot of traction beyond perhaps some fringe fetish community. The fastest spreading epidemics are invariably the ones that can be spread in a variety of ways. Applying the same ideas to your application will achieve the same results. The more ways you can get your application out there, the better chance you have of creating a household name on Facebook. Spreading through friends is obviously the best target, but there are other avenues that will result in user adoption as well; these include blogging, discussion boards, even (gasp) advertising…on Facebook!

Rule #5: Improve it constantly.

This is pretty basic stuff for any web application – “Release Early, Release Often” – but is especially applicable within Facebook’s fast-paced user patterns. The truth is, there’s a lot of functionality already provided by Facebook – so much that most casual users have a hard enough time even keeping up with it themselves. A successful app changes and matures with user feedback. There’s a section in the app about page where users can write bugs and suggestions about your app. Use it. Check it daily. Facebook is constantly changing its API, its FBML, and the features it provides for its developers. Staying on top of these changes and additions can mean the difference between a working facebook app and a broken one. If your app catches on, don’t just let it stagnate – iterate!

Now Get to It.

Unfortunately, just following these rules will not guarantee a successful Facebook app. The most successful apps, like successful anythings, are the ones that are built on a useful or interesting idea. Without that, you’re toast. Make sure you’ve got one, and go with it. Facebook’s already fought half the battle; they’ve brought the user base to you! By giving any developer access to the social graph, Facebook has opened up a world of opportunity for anyone that knows a little about web technologies. There may be a lot of competition, but you can be sure that following the rules above will help you create an app that stands out from the crowd.