Facebook Spam Pitches

There’s a new form of social media spamming happening in the name of PR social media relevance. It is the art of the Facebook “tag”.

If you’re fortunate enough, you’ve been hit with this spam a dozen times in the last week. It is shadiness at it’s best and I will not hesitate to out PR individuals or firms, regardless of how much “clout” they have in the social space, if they do this to me again. It will not be automatic, although it might be. You’ve been warned.

The spam is a nifty little trick where you publish an event, group or picture of a product, service or event. Pretty typical Facebook activity, really.

Spamming PR people then use Facebook’s “tag” feature, something that is more in context for photos where you can tag someone that is in the photo and they receive a notification that they’ve been tagged. People like me are tagged in Facebook content where we have no context with the expectation that we will be notified of the content (event, whatever) and will click through and maybe cover their product.

So. Not. Cool.

Facebook, can you please put some granular privacy controls including “Friend groups” and “Group privacy” to allow us to control who can tag us, or rather who can NOT tag us?

Also, it would be fantastic if we could flag inappropriate conten t with cause. I would flag such spam content (which isn’t necessarily spammy, to be clear, just how it is delivered to us is) with the explanation that the content was delivered as a spam PR pitch.

PR firms, shape up. You are not relevant just because you connect with us on Facebook. Give us some credit.

Facebook Shows New Life and Value

A few months ago, we started to see a shift in how Facebook could potentially be used in a different way. Newsfeed commenting was heralded as a Friendfeed style approach. Initially buried in the original Facebook design, I sort of shrugged it off as just another me too approach that wouldn’t take.

Boy was I wrong.

In fact, accidentally Facebook became valuable to me again by keeping me engaged and connected to the hundreds of friends I have there.

Facebook used to be a fairly passive social community. By passive I mean, I found value in event RSVPs and occasional messaging. Certainly by all accounts, I was the exception as it seemed to be pretty active for other users as a wall post messaging system and an app platform. I block almost all apps universally as they annoy me, so I didn’t find the value. It was for these reasons that I had temporarily suspended my own account.

However, the other day I made a fairly innocuous status update, something I don’t do all that often and was surprised by the comments that that status update got. It was the first time for that for me. I was a Facebook Status Update Comment Virgin! And it was exciting! In fact, it made me want to do it again!

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End of the day, Facebook was getting boring for many users including myself. It was passive. It was blah. It certainly was a way to keep in contact with people, but showed little real value beyond that.

The new design has given some people heartburn, but even that heartburn seems to be dissipating into quiet reluctance at worst and enjoyment by others as people realize that little stuff like feed commenting is now more exposed than ever. Facebook, for me, has once again become useful.

What are your thoughts?

What's a Social App Developer to do?

To Mike Lazerow, CEO of new-age ad agency BuddyMedia, Facebook is the future. Big brands trying to reach the world’s 500,000,000 social network members are ringing his phone off the hook, because his firm has the skills to create branded apps — what he calls ‘the new ad unit.’ But what might they bode for us ‘pureplay’ app developers?

For most, not good. First of all, BuddyMedia, Context Optional, and a few others are blazing this trail because traditional ads — display and links — don’t work, which is why (as we all know) there’s beaucoup excess inventory and CPMs are in the crapper. Second, consider this: branded apps are all about engaging users, and those 250,000 active users playing Rundezvous (the game BuddyMedia built on behalf of New Balance) are, uh, not on your app.

Third, what they’re doing contributes more to the overall signal-to-noise problem than you might expect. Not so much that they’re adding to the 32,000+ Facebook apps anywhere near what 400,000+ registered developers are piling on each day, but because each branded app media program includes buying engagement — Lazerow averages $1/user to get them to show up. (Oh, you hadn’t planned on spending $100k to seed your app?)

Finally, it stands to reason that these guys will get better at what they do. Since Rundezvous players earn ‘AceBucks’ redeemable for actual (not virtual) running shoes, a whopping 57% of users came back at least nine times. BuddyMedia developed a Facebook version of InStyle magazine’s Hollywood Hair Makeover — an app that lets you swap your face with a celebrity’s, so you can see how you’d look in their hairstyle — which had negligible traffic on InStyle’s website.

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At O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Expo in New York this week, Lazerow provided Makeover’s latest Facebook stats:

➢ 185,000 installs in 6 weeks

➢ average time on app: almost 7 minutes

➢ 47% of total user base has returned to the app more than 25 times

➢ the average user tried 3 hairstyles

Some pretty decent numbers. And, unlike traditional ad campaigns, this one hints at something that just could be perennial. (Women were even printing out the results and taking them to their hairdressers.) Dang, if there were a second-order viral component to it (more than than just telling your friends), it could kill.

So what’s a social app developer to do?

Well, it still starts with building a great app with true viral attributes, getting it up, testing, tweaking — nothing’s changed there. But if it’s revenue you’re after (duh), time for some new creative thinking. We’re working several angles for our startup, CHALLENJ, a social gaming utility (under construction). Here are two — maybe one fits what you’ve got.

1. Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. If you’ve got a themed game, why not pull a BuddyMedia? Get your own advertiser, and turn it into a branded app. (Try to think of it as a sponsorship . . . rather than selling out.) This, of course, would be easier if you’ve already launched and are putting up some respectable numbers.

2. Market your engine. Less applicable to most maybe, but what we’re working on is something has some underlying functionality that’s not only useful for us, but would be useful to BuddyMedia and their ilk. Without going into detail, it’s analogous to, say, a polling app, or better yet, the functionality of social-debate platform CreateDebate.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. At the Social Gaming Summit in San Francisco this past June, Acclaim Games‘ Chief Creative Officer Dave Perry cited 29 business models for games.

There is still success to be had — and money to be made — if you’re creative. Time is not on our side, however. With apps that enable non-programmers to build apps now emerging — lolapps recently raised $4.5M to do just that — it’s only going to get noisier out there.