i won't crow about this too much screw that i'm crowing already, but i should note that it's the students who deserve all the credit for this amazing story.
as reported on TechCrunch yesterday, not just 1 but 2 Facebook apps (KissMe, Send Hotness) put together by students in the Stanford Facebook class i'm co-teaching with Prof. BJ Fogg have registered over 1M+ app installs and more than 100K+ active users... all of this in less than a month. wow. while the apps themselves are fairly straightforward & target lightweight (& light-hearted ;) communication, the results are still impressive.
now some folks may complain these are useless, spammy apps (they might be), a complete waste of time (i doubt it), & unlikely to monetize (maybe not a fortune, but bringing in a few $K per week in ad revenue). however, even if it's only a short-term experiment in internet marketing on social networks, i can't think of any other platform / environment except perhaps YouTube where you can acquire 1M users in less than 30 days. it's been simply astonishing, exceeding even our wildest dreams of what the class could achieve.
and just to be clear: altho viral marketing / customer acquisition has been a keen area of interest, we wanted to provide the class with goals that go beyond just a focus on distribution -- we've also emphasized user engagement & metrics as class fundamentals. while the eye-popping numbers offer pressworthy soundbites & sizzle, it's really the latter two points that provide the steak.
overall, the basic objectives we asked each team to go after were:
1) build an app focused on user acquisition, then
2) build / modify an app to drive user engagement, and
3) use web analytics & metrics to guide product development & mktg
re: #1, in addition to KissMe & Send Hotness, several other apps were also successful in acquiring significant # of users -- in all, ~10 apps built by our class have achieved over 10-100K installs & 1-10K active users in just a month. not bad for a student project, eh?
re: #2, now that we've explored acquisition, the class is focused on user engagement; perhaps for only a small audience of hundreds of users but with an emphasis on page views / session length / frequency of visits. it's still early, but looks like we're going to have a few winners in those categories as well.
finally re: #3, we've been modestly successful in having most of the student teams integrate Google Analytics for basic web analytics & metrics tracking, and a few teams have also built their own metrics & tracking features to do more in-depth analysis. while this is still a work in progress -- in fact, we've been working with both Google & Facebook to improve on the metrics integration -- we've been able to enough basic info to help improve both user acquisition & user engagement objectives.
while the jury may still be out on whether Facebook is a mature platform with long-term monetization prospects, it's certainly been an amazing "petri dish" for our class to learn & understand how social platforms and applications work... and to implement several notable examples of how Facebook apps can become an overnight sensation. we're still pinching (poking?) ourselves to make sure we're not dreaming when we look at the #s... holy cow: "what a country"! ;)
it's also been an incredible opportunity to give our students a compressed example of the startup process / entrepreneurship in a box. they had to choose & form teams, come up with ideas for their app(s), design wireframes & mockups, develop metrics dashboards, brainstorm marketing strategies, and launch their apps "in the wild". now they're dealing with users, figuring out how to improve their app, deepen user engagement, and trying to generate some revenue. a few even have some potential investors / acquirers sniffing around... or at least recruiters from companies looking for new talent. i can't imagine a more interesting way to learn & get hands-on experience (well, ok they could just jump in and do a startup, but we're pretty close!)
i should also mention we've had terrific support from the community / industry to help the class succeed. Facebook, Google, RockYou, Slide, and several other companies have provided terrific guidance and support, and have come in to speak, teach, and guide students. We've had world-class software developers like Blake Commagere, Jia Shen, and R. Tyler Ballance; experienced product managers like my friends Yee Lee, Brian Phillips, Dan Olsen, & Leonard Speiser; metrics gurus Avinash Kaushik & Brett Crosby; hosting support from Joyent & Amazon; VCs who've studied Facebook like Jeremy Liew and Lee Lorenzen; and generous press & blog coverage from TechCrunch, VentureBeat, GigaOm, Inside Facebook, Reuters, Fortune, and many others. i'm amazed at how many people have chipped in to make the class a terrific place to learn -- thanks to everyone above and to those i've overlooked for such an amazing experience.
and a few special kudos to Prof. BJ Fogg & the teaching team (Dan Ackerman, Rob Fan, Greg Schwartz) along with team coaches Yee & Jia for making my first formal teaching experience an awesome one.
as i quipped when we we first got started with the class:
we don't want people to read case studies...
we want people to build case studies.
congrats to our students for delivering on my bluster ;)