Marketing In Code, Part 1: Using Facebook Connect For iPhone To Increase App Visibility/Discoverability

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On June 3, 2009

iPhone app pricing precludes traditional advertising. Some math illustrates why:

The average price for a paid app in the top-100 the US app store is, as of this moment, $2.82. After Apple’s commission the per-unit payout is $1.94.

Advertising is normally sold in cost-per-thousand exposures (CPM; M is the Roman numeral for 1000) and cost-per-click (CPC). For this discussion, we’re interested in CPM: at a low $1CPM, the revenue from a single average-priced unit could 1940 impressions; an industry-standard .2% click-through rate would generate 4 clicks.

Will one in four clickers buy? No. And, of course, none of this includes profit or margin to cover any other expenses.

Traditional, undifferentiated advertising and marketing is — pun intended — a tough sell for iPhone app developer. To succeed, we need to be wily, find angles that disproportionately reward us and work to our strengths.

I’ll come back to working to our strengths in a minute. First, though, take a step back and look at root-principles:

Marketing consists of exposing consumers to messages whose content compels them to buy. This pre-supposes an audience. Most iPhone app publishers don’t have access to an audience, and as the math above illustrates, the margins don’t support buying access to one.

So, back to our strengths: we’re programmers. Write code to give you access to an audience. Write code that gives you free access to an audience. Write code that gives you free access to an audience that doesn’t devolve into spam. Write code that connects your apps’ users’ usage to Facebook using Facebook Connect for iPhone.

Using, Facebook Connect for iPhone, apps can be authorized to update a user’s status and post feed stories — e.g., “Dan is watering his iPhone Flower Garden flowers.”

I learned about Streaks, an app inspired by Jerry Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain” productivity mantra, from a Giles Bowket post on getting enough sleep. Having Streaks maintain a public-record by updating my status after each night of good sleep would put the pressure on me to keep at it, and my friends would learn about the app as a side-effect. What’s more, Facebook Connect for iPhone supports friend-lists: I could challenge my friends to a sleep-off.

Let’s do some more math and try to build impressions for an audience using Facebook:

How much reach does a typical Facebook user have? Reach will be a function of the number of active Facebook friends. Let’s call it 150. 150 is Dunbar’s Number, a measure employed by Anthropologists employ that describes the maximum number of people an individual can maintain stable social relationships with. Dunbar’s Number has been defensibly applied to social networks before (e.g., to propose a business model for Twitter) and it seems fair to use it here.

One status update or feed story to 13 average Facebook users users generates the same exposure as spending the entire post-commission revenue for one app priced at the average of the top-100 paid apps.

So let’s start there. Step one is to use Facebook to get access to an audience. Step two, optimize the marketing message, will come later. But first: code. In part-2 of this series I’ll provide a tutorial to integrate Facebook into iPhone applications. Stay tuned!

Update: Marketing In Code, Part 2: Setting A User’s Status In Facebook From An iPhone App — A Tutorial is up.

  • You took the thoughts right out of my head. I look forward to the second part of your series.

  • jono

    You messed up the calculation of clicks. You used 2% CTR not 0.2%.
    1940 * 0.2% = 3.9 Clicks

    So that would mean the conversion ratio would need to be 1 / 3.9 = 25.7%
    Will 1 in 4 buy? To put it simply: No.

  • Dan Grigsby

    @jono – ack! You’re right. Updated accordingly.

  • Thanks for this, I was actually just writing some sharing code into an app and was just implemented some code. I look forward to the second part of the series, should be helpful to alot of people.

  • Great post – I look forward to seeing your implementation. I am in the process of converting my website and my iPhone app to fb connect for the exact same reasons – no advertisement budget 🙂