Facebook-for-Profit Apps Echo with Sound of Silence

Remember all those hyped e-commerce apps for Facebook? We do, but it seems no one else does. Will these take off or continue to falter? Read what our Facebook afficianado says about social networking and selling.
Is there really a place for shopping and affiliate linking on Facebook? This week we take a look at how and why so many hyped e-commerce applications are so unpopular with Facebook users.

Last May, Facebook announced it would team up with some 65 developer partners to integrate commercial Web sites within the social networking platform using Facebook applications, or apps, for short. Apps are small programs that members can install and display on their profile pages. These snippets of code are popular because they add more functionality to Facebook pages and usually allow members to interact in some way with their Facebook friends. Currently, there are more than 20,000 Facebook apps users can choose from.

Facebook Application Stats
Application Total Users Active Users
SHOP COMpanion 200 0
Kaboodle 1,200 12
Garage Sale 1,000 200
Cozybug 100 0
eBay Marketplace 3,750 75
StyleFeeder 755,500 7,555
Amazon Giver 1,450 29
Amazon Grapevine 900 18
Hatchlings 140,412 25,274
Top Friends 27,992,600 1,959,480

[Adonomics Statistics as tracked on April 1, 2008]

With over 68 million active users and ranked as the fifth most-trafficked Web site in the world by comScore, it comes as no surprise that players in the e-commerce world are trying to capitalize on the Facebook phenomenon. Over the past year we've seen Facebook applications launched by Amazon, Shop.com, Kaboodle, eBay and many other online marketplaces, despite the fact that very few are met with much enthusiasm from Facebook members. The overwhelming majority of Facebook users are just not adding these applications to their profiles and using them on a daily basis.

In September of last year, I talked about the launch of SHOP COMpanion, an application that lets you pull a wish list from Shop.com into your profile. When I tried it nearly six months ago, I had problems getting the app to load, and a visit to the Facebook SHOP COMpanion page shows that the only discussion forum post made so far was the "bug report" post I made. This application currently has zero daily active users. (To clarify, this means that when I checked the application homepage, no Facebook members had used the application within the past 24 hours.) Adonomics, a Facebook analytics and developer service, shows that this Facebook application is currently installed by 200 users, tracked since Aug. 6, 2007.

Online shopping community Kaboodle also has a Facebook app that lets you compare your style and share your wish lists with friends on Facebook. Currently the discussion board for this app has a total of five threads on its Facebook page and 32 fans of which 12 are daily active users. Garage Sale is another Facebook application that we looked at back in August 2007. This platform can be used by online sellers to list items for sale on social networking sites. When it first launched it certainly looked promising, however, it too has fizzled out — it has 10 active daily users and a total of 1,000 installs. I also wrote about the newly launched Cozy Bug Facebook application around the same time, and while the application description boasted a local "zero-shipping fee" way to sell on Facebook, it now also boasts zero daily active users.

eBay and Amazon Facebook Apps Faltering, Too
EBay also has its own Facebook application, eBay Marketplace. This app lets you see what your friends are buying, selling, or watching on the auction site. You can also use it to push stuff to your friends' watch lists. The discussion forum posts start to taper off at the end of 2007, but it seems that everyone so often, someone does add the application and visits the forum to post a bug report. Adonomics shows this app has been installed 3,750 times since Aug. 21, 2007, but right now, eBay Marketplace has only 75 daily active users.

Stylefeeder on Facebook fares a lot better than most shopping-oriented applications. This one is a bit like a personal shopper that lets you track and share the items you are currently shopping for, plus create a wish list to let your Facebook friends know exactly what you want. Adonomics shows this application has been installed a total of 755,500 times since June 26, 2007. Currently the app has over 200 fans and 7,555 daily active users.

Just recently, Amazon joined the fray, rolling out two new Facebook applications: Amazon Giver and Amazon Grapevine. Giver lets you see and purchase what your friends want through their Amazon Wish Lists, and with Grapevine installed you can see recent public activity on Amazon. Currently, Amazon Giver users have posted 20 messages in the discussion forums and current statistics show that the app has a total of 1,450 installations since March 20, 2008. It currently has only 29 daily active users. Amazon Grapevine shows six discussion board posts, 18 daily active users, and according to Adonomics, 900 total users.


Facebook App
Facebook's for fun, not profits.
(Click for larger image.)

On a regular basis I list items online, sometimes eBay and more frequently Kijiji. I also have affiliate links plugged into various blogs and other Web spaces. I'm also an avid daily Facebook user, and am constantly adding apps to my profile pages.

For example, back in February I found a new application called "Easter Egg Hunt", which was recently renamed to Hatchlings. Less than two-months-old, this application was launched by a single developer and it already has more than 25,000 daily active users. One of the highest-ranking Facebook applications is Top Friends, a fun app that lets you add your BFFs (Best Friends Forever) to your profile. Since June 25, 2007 there were 27,992,600 total installs and 1,959,480 daily active users on Top Friends.

Making Connections, Not Cash
Hatchlings, Stylefeeder, Top friends, and all the other top-ranked applications on Facebook all have one thing in common — they are entertaining applications to use. Nowhere in the top rankings do we see any e-commerce applications pulling in tens of thousands of daily users. In social networking spaces such as Facebook, people recommend the fun and interesting to their friends, but pass on trying to sell directly to them or making affiliate dollars off of them. Despite the many professional and well designed e-commerce applications the industry rolls out to Facebook users, most people engaged in the faceosphere are there to connect with people — not products.

Vangie Beal is a seasoned eBay seller, frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com and managing editor of Webopedia.com.

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