“Who uses Facebook apps?” was a question posed to me over the weekend while out for a night on the town in Chicago. Unfortunately, this has become an increasingly common question among many of my friends. While Facebook application use was ubiquitous when the platform launched almost three years ago, anecdotal evidence would suggest that overall use of applications has decreased among existing Facebook users.
Who’s Using The Apps?
While speaking on a panel at a conference yesterday, organized by Sprout, I asked Julie Nielsen of appssavvy what the largest demographics of Facebook application users were. While she said there was a broad range, most people skewed older (over 25), and a major demographic being targeted by the company was the stay-at-home mothers, the same demographic that a 2007 AOL report once claimed are the most likely to click on ads:
What did we learn? A lot. We learned that most people do not click on ads, and those that do are by no means representative of Web users at large.
Ninety-nine percent of Web users do not click on ads on a monthly basis. Of the 1% that do, most only click once a month. Less than two tenths of one percent click more often. That tiny percentage makes up the vast majority of banner ad clicks.
Who are these “heavy clickers”? They are predominantly female, indexing at a rate almost double the male population. They are older. They are predominantly Midwesterners, with some concentrations in Mid-Atlantic States and in New England. What kinds of content do they like to view when they are on the Web? Not surprisingly, they look at sweepstakes far more than any other kind of content. Yes, these are the same people that tend to open direct mail and love to talk to telemarketers.
Look, there’s no doubt that there are millions of users playing games on Facebook, but the greater issue here is that there are now countless places to use applications. The iPhone would be one primary product that I would argue detracts from Facebook’s ability to drive application use. The real users of Facebook applications that reside on the Facebook platform will be those users who are consistently viewing it on their device.
People Unsure Of What Is Being Exposed
One detractor to Facebook applications is that there is a disclosure page before you install the application stating that some of your personal information will be exposed to the developer. As multiple people have told me, this scares them off and then end up not installing the application. However, as one friend told me, drawing up a long terms of service agreement would probably be more effective as nobody ever reads them anyways.
Part Of A Greater Shift Off Platform
As Mark Zuckerberg highlighted over a year ago, the overall shift is toward off-site activity. Facebook Connect is part of Facebook’s strategy to continue connecting users as they navigate around the web. Zynga has recognized this shift and decided to launch Farmville on its own standalone site, and now there are many other developers that have done the same thing.
There are also plenty of companies who are using Facebook Connect as their only service for enabling users to log in. With the company rapidly approaching 450 million users, betting that a new user visiting your site has a Facebook account as well is a pretty good bet. However for the developers whose livelihood depends on the continued success of the Facebook Platform, there’s a greater question as to whether or not it’s time to make the jump.
Pretty much any leading app developer that I know of is testing out off site performance. As Facebook has cut down on the virality of applications, it only makes sense that more activity takes place off-platform. There’s always a way to optimize for installs, but in this case, developers could just as easily optimize for off-platform traffic.