The Art of Gifting within Facebook Applications

Most Facebook applications provide a way to send invitations to your friends in an effort to gain new users. Generally this means users have to click on an “Invite” link/button, choose which friends they want to invite and then send the invitation, however, there are other ways to get your existing users to invite their friends to use your applications. We’re going to explore these alternative methods in a series of posts starting with Gifting.

Applications like Bumper Sticker, Pieces of Flair and (Lil) Green Patch are using gifts (or sharing) as a way to gain exposure for their applications and get new users. Bret on Social Games talks about how gifts can replace invitations:

A gift is basically an invite that the receiver wants, and one that motivates him to install that app.

Bret brings up a great aspect of gifting: it motivates the user to install your application. When someone sends an invitation to one of their friends to use an application, it might not always be clear as to why they should use that application. Receiving an invitation in the form of a gift, however, gives that friend several reasons to install your application: to view the gift, to reciprocate the gift and to send similar gifts to their other friends.

Using Product Planner we can analyze these gifting flows to incorporate them into our own applications:

Bumper Sticker

Bumper Sticker allows you to send bumper stickers to your friends that are placed on their wall and, if they choose to do so, on their profile. These bumper stickers are meant to be a representation of your (or your friend’s) personality or simply to be entertaining.

Pieces of Flair

Pieces of Flair allows you to send “flair” (buttons) to your friends that can then be displayed on their walls and profiles. Pieces of Flair also motivates its current users to send flair to their friends by earning “credits” for each piece of flair that is sent. These credits, in turn, can be used to get more pieces of flair.

(Lil) Green Patch

(Lil) Green Patch allows you to send plants to your friends to be “grown in their garden”. (Lil) Green Patch motivates the environmentalist in you by donating money from its sponsors to save 1 square foot of forest for every 10 friends that receive a plant.

Growing Gifts

Hatching Eggs

Both of these applications allow you to send a gift to your friend (either a plant or some kind of insect/animal) that will mature over a period of days. With both of these applications you need a certain number of “seeds” or “treats” in order to send different types of plants or animals. You can gain seeds/treats by visiting the application daily, by sending plants/animals to your friends, etc. These applications do a good job of motivating users to visit their applications and use them to send plants/animals to their friends. As you can see from the embeded flows above, the process of sending plants/animals is a bit long and could probably benefit from being simplified and streamlined.

Drinks for Friends

Flowers for Friends

Two interesting things with these applications: 1. The more drinks or flowers you send to your friends, they more types of drinks and flowers become available to you for sending, so you are motivated to send them to your friends because you will be rewarded, and 2. When your friend accepts the drink or flower you sent them you are notified and asked if you want to send more drinks or flowers to your friends, so the applications use notifications to remind you to continue using it.

Collect Hearts

The interesting thing about this application is that when your friend views the notification that you have sent them a heart, the action asked of them is to send one back to you. Not only this, but when they click on the notification link, a heart is automatically sent back to you from your friend–reciprocity is built into the flow.

As you can see, gifting can be a powerful method for acquiring new users and for keeping your existing users engaged with your applications. You can find more flows like these in the “share” category on Product Planner.

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