Recently, Facebook announced that it has more than 750 million users worldwide. With such a staggering number of users, it’s hard to imagine that Facebook had only a little over 100 million users in 2008. Therefore, a study of the machinery that propelled Facebook to become the world’s no.1 social networking site can give good insights for mobile app developers.
The network effect exists only when the value of a network increases as the number of people using it increases. For the network effect to hold, getting big quick is important. Facebook got big fast by allowing the platform to be used free and constantly encouraging its users to invite their friends to join their platform through game invites. More users increased the activities exponentially and kept all other users constantly excited and attracted. Imagine Facebook with only a handful of users. It would not be as fun to use as there would be fewer videos and photos as well as fewer people commenting on posts. Another point: having a network effect in place increases switching costs and thwarts competition from getting established in the first place.
Positive feedback or positive user experience is a must to “win love” from users. This criteria focuses the app developers right back on fundamentals. At its base, an app must operate smoothly. Then, an app must look and feel good. And, finally, an app must be user friendly.
In other words, the app must have high switching costs. Facebook locks in its users through the network effect as well as by playing on each user’s fear of losing contact with friends, as well as the set of accumulated memories (funny or heartwarming posts, comments, and photos stored in Facebook, for example).
Users should feel that the app becomes more and more valuable over time. Essentially, users should discover more and more of the applications in their daily lives. Initially, Facebook was a platform where users could interact and have fun, but now, it has evolved into a personal assistant where a user can organize events and be reminded of events to attend.