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The Art of Using Notifications within Facebook Applications

The previous posts in this series looked at Gifting and Challenges and how they can be used to acquire new users. This is the third and final post in this series and we’ll be taking a look at how to use Notifications in your Facebook Applications.

Notifications can help remind your users to re-engage with your applications, however, as you’ll see below, one type of notification has the unique advantage of exposing your application to new users even if they aren’t currently using your application.

There are two types of notifications that can be sent, which are described in detail in the Facebook Developers Wiki

  • Application-to-user
    These notifications are sent from your application to users of your application. They do not require the user to currently be using your application (to have an active session) in order to receive the notification. There is a (current) limit of 7 application-to-user notifications per user per week.
  • User-to-user
    These notifications are sent from someone currently using your application to another user (or users). In other words, someone using your application does something to initiate a notification to be sent. It is interesting to note that these notifications can be sent to users who are not friends with the person using your application as well as to users who do not currently use your application.

Let’s take a look at how each of these notification types are being used in Facebook applications.


Application-to-user notifications mainly allow you to let your users know when things have changed in your application (e.g. updates, additions, new characters, goods, levels, etc.). The following are some examples of application-to-user notifications:

It should be noted that while 4 of the 6 application-to-user notifications above are used to notify users of changes/updates to an application, Word Challenge and Who Has the Biggest Brain?, both from Playfish, are taking advantage of these application-to-user notifications to encourage their users to join the “pro” versions of their applications.

Another company that uses application-to-user notifications in a slightly different way is Global, the creators of the RPG games Blood Lust, Elven Blood, City of Blood and Skies of Blood.

The notifications above are essentially a part of the games themselves. Not only do they notify the user that a new “episode” has been added, but it is almost a call to action, in a way, for the user to come back to the application and engage in game play.


User-to-user notifications are much more flexible than application-to-user notifications and they can be used in a myriad of ways.

These first examples show user-to-user notifications that are used to notify users when their friends have installed an application for the first time:

These notifications are a great way to reach new users because there is a possibility that friends will see the notification and try the application out for themselves.

These next examples show user-to-user notifications that are used to notify users of their friends activity within the application:

User-to-user notifications are also used with Challenges and Gifting, as seen in the following examples:

We talked more in-depth about both Challenges and Gifting in the previous posts, but these notifications are an essential part of both of these flows. You can see more Challenge, Gifting and Notifications flows in the Product Planner Gallery.

Along these same lines, user-to-user notifications are used to display high-scores, achievements and to notify other users when their friends have beaten their scores:

In some games, notifications are used to alert you when someone has done something to you such as attacked you. These are examples of notification that are sent to someone that the user is not friends with:

While notifications are a much less direct way to gain new users compare to Gifting and Challenges, they are nonetheless a very effective means of interacting, not only with your current users, but also with an entirely new group of potential users.

This concludes our series on using Gifting, Challenges and Notifications in your Facebook applications. You can look forward to future posts that will continue to take a close look at how Facebook application flows work. In the meantime be sure to check out the growing list of flows in the Product Planner Gallery.

  1. I want to know what is ‘notification.user’ that appears in the notifications in facebook


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