Saturday, March 15, 2014

OK Facebook You Win

My first post on Facebook was in 2007. I have used it off and on for nearly 7 years – that’s scary. But my use has been purely as a consumer. I have looked on sort of in disbelief at the figures of revenue it achieves. The ads have appeared all over the place but I honestly can say I have never knowingly clicked on one. They are a unsightly blight on an already busy site.

My use of Facebook has also changed over the years. It hooked me and a lot of people with the early apps – throwing virtual poo at each other was the worst one I remember. Then it was connecting properly with friends, seeing what they were up to on a regular basis. But now I would say at least 50% of my newsfeed is full of articles and pictures shared that has nothing to do with my friends. It’s a bit dull actually and twitter is a much more rich source of “real” information in my mind.

Then there is news of Facebook’s demise. Apparently teenagers don’t use it anymore. I was having lunch with my kids and 4 of their friends the other day – I asked them. They all still use it. And my 12 year old signed up the other day for the first time (a year too early legally but why is there that 13 year old age limit?)

And have you seen their share price? Perhaps news of their demise is a bit premature.

Recently though, I have started using Facebook from a business angle for the first time on 2 new startup ideas (well one is an old one)

The first is a football iphone app called FBDB. Apart from setting up a Facebook page and trying to build up an audience, I wanted to see if I could get some downloads through Facebook.

First of all I spent a small amount on buying some likes. These are notoriously poor in terms of results and I am skeptical on their use but you need a certain amount of likes to get access to Facebook stats it appears. I did so and quickly got a hundred likes to get me through this. I am still skeptical.

Getting downloads for an independent app is very difficult – getting your name out there is a lot harder amongst all the noise and tens of thousands of other apps. So I decided to spend some money on some targeted mobile ads. Reading up about app ad networks (Chartboost, Revmob) a lot state the industry price to pay for your app to get installed is about $2. Almost instantly using Facebook, I saw the cost per download to be around 25p – and as I have an in-app purchase then the net cost was about 15p. This has continued for the last month and I am very happy with these results. Admittedly I am targeting my ad at the right type of audience but this is still impressive.

So far so good.

I have also taken back control of FriendsReunited recently. 2 weeks ago I got access to the Facebook account. It has lay dormant for the past 6 months. After a few hours of analyzing their audience and stats I started testing it out.

The account has some 20K likes. I didn’t think this was very good. I started adding one post a day, something to do from your youth that is retro and fun – old TV programme, toy or game etc. And something that happened on that day in the year. The response surprised me – each posting got thousands of views, and dozens of  likes, comments and shares. Some obviously work better than others – mention your first car and you get hundreds of comments and likes.

This engagement is costing me nothing and is not time consuming– but it is a natural source of reach and traffic – something I never had access to when I first started in 2000. And I can boost each posting hugely by spending small amounts of money and instantly testing their results.

I still have to test its real value to the website but initial suggestions are good. Similar tests so far on twitter have been disappointing.

I have to admit I am sold on using Facebook as a marketing tool. I was na├»ve in terms of its power and now realize you have to embrace it rather than reject it. It’s audience is too vast to ignore.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Friends Again

A couple of years ago I was invited to take a look at the new version of FriendsReunited – a pivot from it’s original form of finding old school friends into more of a picture memory board. I wrote about it here - The current owners of the site are DCT Thompson and what nice people they are.

It was a brave and tough thing to do with the site. Since then I must admit I haven’t used the site, or the sister service that I created back in 2002, GenesReunited. Since selling both websites back in 2005 it has felt a bit like a separation and having spent so much of my life involved with them, I needed time apart.

But over the past 8 years I also have had many ideas along the FR/GR line – some I have even dabbled with at trying, but only really half heartedly.

Then  a few months ago I was invited in again into the offices of DC Thompson in Shoreditch. A new CEO was on board and had decided to concentrate the business on family history. FriendsReunited was being either put out to pasture or was to be “reincubated”. I was being asked if I fancied being involved in that reincubation.

My initial reaction – no chance.  But then over the following weeks a few ideas started to take shape in my head. I tested them out of friends and family. I met up with my old business partner at FriendsReunited, Jason, and he too was interested.

We started formulating them into a proper site and plan. We were then invited to present them to DCT Thompsom. They liked them – everything fitted so nicely into the old site and even their genealogy sites.

So we have now completed a joint venture for me and Jason to take back control of FriendsReunited. The first job was to put FR back to it’s old format – a way to find old school friends – that is already live. 

The next step is to write the new service – details of this will emerge in the coming weeks. And we are doing it all old school (no pun intended) – the way Jason and I used to work – cheaply and quickly. People keep telling me you can’t do things the way we did back in 2000, so I suppose I am trying to prove it can still be done that way.

I must admit I am really excited by this new service – it’s something of a cross between Friends and Genes and it’s something I am dying to get my hands on and use. Hopefully others will too. It’s nothing unique, has been done in part before, and is very simple to implement and use. We want to do it more boldly and grander in a way that really engages people. In fact we want to create a new lifestyle past time in the way that genealogy has become.

This all feels like it has all come together at the right time. I didn’t want to see FriendsReunited disappear and slowly fade away – let’s give it one more go.