Above: Over 1000 developers attending Facebook’s F8 Conference, picture above the developer showcase, photo from Brian Solis use with attribution by creative commons
Facebook’s Developer Conference F8
I attended Facebook’s F8 developer conference in SF last week, and met with many of the application developers on the floor, or at their booths. First of all, for those that had booths, it was expected they were demonstrating success within Facebook (who allowed them to showcase). The event itself was a real production, from food, drinks, sessions, panels, the night ended with a private conference from Thievery Corporation, a popular down tempo artist. I also recommend you read my take on what Facebook Connect means for corporate websites.
[“Applications are the Microsites of Social Networks”-Social Media Employee]
Opportunities for Brands
Corporations want to reach communities and customers where they currently exist, and many realize that they are gathering in social networks. Brands have several options, but among them include using widgets (mini-applications) to reach them, there are two main ways: 1) Build their own application (or work with a developer 2) Sponsor, advertise, or latch on to existing successful ones.
Overview of Widget and Application Developers at Facebook’s F8 Event
I talked to as many vendors as possible, to understand what’s new, and report back to readers at corporations (who I write for)
Focusing on improving applications like Funwall (the top application with an estimated 1.6 million active users), Topfriends and Superpoke. In addition to deploying on Facebook, they are also on MySpace. Slide says they have a strong sales force, and goes direct to brands. Suggests that advertising on slide apps are greater than going with Facebook themselves. Why? Facebook is a utility, when most are interacting with an application.
Example: Brands like Estee Lauder has been working with Slide to advertise across superpoke.
Example: 10 million vitamin water ‘top friends’ drink on the first eight days. It’s not an ad, it’s an integrated part of the top friends experience. People sent them ‘virtual drinks’. Coke.
Adding more applications and helping more developers to monetize. Rockyou is now more like an ad networks, although Slide and RockYou were compared as competitors in previous months, their business models appear to be diverging. They’ve an active sales force that goes to brands to sell ads across their network,. As well as working with agencies.
Revenue model: Rockyou is doing a lot of ads and cost per install (CPI)
Example: Tropic thunder is an application that used, Superwall, and there was a tab added for top videos that promoted the movie.
Viral application developer mainly focused on Facebook (as the name suggests). Have about a dozen employees. Their current clients include apparel companies such as Adidas and consumer companies such as Pedigree and other Fortune 500 brands. Partnered on projects with RockYou, such as Supewall and Likeness. Price point for deals, Minimum for 30-50k range. They do guarantee the app is up and running, do not guarantee visitor numbers.
Example: Adidas, they designed the app, includes education in hourse, then they do a product spec. then they make the app and manages it for an ongoing basis. Its on fan page
This application let’s users review products of six major types: books, music, movies, restaurants, video games, beers. They’ve recently received 5 million in A round funding. Planning to monetize through advertising and affiliate marketing.
Example: Recently did a campaign with Sony, and promoted a movie (that was an book adaptation) they then used cross-movie promotion on books by that author.
WMS Widget Management system for creation workflow and ad management. This website let’s website owners (non-technical) to create a widget that can be embedded on Facebook. They are opensocial compatible. How they monetize? They have an ad on each of the widgets for tiered CPC, brands can pay to remove the logo of iWidget
Example: A brand that has interesting content on their site (that is frequetnyly update) can quickly and easily use iWidgets to reach the newsfeeds on MySpace, Facebook, iGoogle and Netvibes. Coming soon is Bebo and Hi5.
Wants to reach brand, media, companies. Can help increase exposure of brands on social networking platforms, motto: “Apps are the Microsites of Social Network”.
Example: BMW joyrides application, that lets users create and configure a car, and select friends and where they want to go. They worked with the agency to devlope, although core competency of social media is to leverage their network 95,000 installs. Also working NBC, American Gladiators
Claim to fame: a Social Marketing Company. They aim to build ads, build widgets, and advise.. these are really ‘interactive ads’. Current client base includes EA, Spore, Bank of America.
Example: Microsoft office did a campaign called ‘office poke’ that sent Microsoft branded pokes to each other with business humor. There were millions of pokes were sent. 700.000 installs and continues. Even though the campaign is over the application is downloaded and spread over successful.
While not a Faecbook developer, I was able to spend time with the founders, as an outlook plugin, that makes outlook a socially aware utility. Recently, they announced a partnership with Linkedin so their social graph is displayed on Xobni, an outlook application. How they can make money? They are evaluating the different ways to monetize such as premium models.
Although startups exhibit great passion…
It’s really great meeting folks at startups, you can often see the fire in their eyes, hear the passion in their voice as they share their dreams. On the flip side, it’s also very hard when you see that they’ve commodity technology, are entering an already crowded market, or have rough marketing skills. I can see the pattern of companies that come and go, after attending so many STIRR events, startup events, and seeing the many early (seed) startups at the Techcrunch party two nights ago.
…Most startups will fail
Many of the early stage startups don’t make it, which is the natural selection process that we know as the market. The ones that are standing on their own (often A, B round stage, sometimes C) are mature enough to have a communications person, or hire a PR firm and eventually brief analysts. This means two things: 1) They’ve traction with their products, 2) They want to reach Fortune 5000, and are getting ready. I care the most about these later stage startups, as they are the ones that I may
Facebook embracing successful apps, punishing others
Mark declared in his keynote that providng a safe and successful experience for users is key, as a result, they are creating methods to filter applications that provide respectful user experiences that are non-invasive and protect users’ identiy first. Others will be penalized. Expect developers to clean up their act.
Developers struggle telling their story to brands
Applications/Widgets are very complicated story to tell to corporations, many corporate folks don’t “get it” and would rather rely on tried and true forms of web marketing like microsites or traditional advertising. More than one widget vendor told me they are having a hard time explaining their story to brands. There’s a lot of truth with this as when I give presentations to Forrester clients about social computing, I often have to explain what a widget is.
Business models rapidly changing
Unless you’re directly in the space it’s very difficult to keep track of who’s doing what, with low barriers to entry (400,000 developers currently exist) there are many entrants. As a result, this petri dish is constantly flexing and remorphing, business models, revenues streams continue to change.
Funding fuels more innovation –but doesn’t guarantee success
In Mark’s keynote, he said there was $200 million total of funding to developers from a variety of investors. This large influx of capital is allowing for many startups that may not have had the chance to launch products. A year from now, it will be interesting to see a string of dead applications that were once funded –but not adopted by users.
Many Developers Pan-Platform focused
While Facebook was the first to offer an open platform for developers, there’s been many containers that have opened up, as such, developers are seeking to widen their network by expanding to new communities.
How Dell’s Regeneration Campaign allowed customers to build their own ads What ‘Facebook Connect’ Means for Corporate Websites Many Forms of Widget Monetization Forrester Report: Google’s OpenSocial: Good News For Marketing Widgets But No Silver Bullet Forrester Report: The Best and Worst of Social Network Marketing, 2008