7 Things Developers Should Know About Facebook's New Dashboards

-Dashboard Links-This evening Facebook provided the latest details about the soon to be released applications and games Dashboards. Application news items, which are supposed to be a partial replacement for application notifications, are limited to two per application and are displayed within and “appear as a text field next to each application in the dashboard.” We’ll highlight some of the most important new features and changes in this article.

Facebook Has Suggested Apps

In what appears to be an awkward typo, the current image of the games dashboard displays “Sponsored” where the company will supposedly be placing “Suggestions”. According to Facebook, the Suggestions area is “where Facebook will highlight applications we think users might like, based on the applications they and their friends are using.”

I’m not quite sure why it says “Sponsored”, however my guess is that this is a sign of the new Facebook ads layout which were being tested by the company as early as last April. My guess is that the image was probably copied from an internal version of the updated Facebook design.

App News Stories As A Last Ditch Re-Engagement Tool

According to Facebook, the application and games dashboards display “only the two most recent news items on a dashboard for a given application, both personal and global. It also displays the image sent with the most recent global or personal news item, or the application logo, if no image was sent most recently.” If your story doesn’t show up here and isn’t bookmarked, you are just about out of luck for re-engaging the users.

It’s not game over though. Facebook has clarified how non-bookmarked applications can re-engage users: the recently used applications page. In the top of the page where recent applications are displayed there will also be, “a link to a page where users can see all of the applications they have interacted with, whether or not they have been bookmarked.” This appears to be the solution we previously alluded to back in November.

Popular Applications Rise To The Top

One other thing which Facebook is mentioning under the new Dashboard is that a user doesn’t have to be using your application in order for a news story to be displayed. Through the “Friends’ Recent Activity”, applications which aren’t bookmarked or recently use have the opportunity to gain the attention of new users. This results in the viral growth of popular applications via organic promotions.

The more popular your application becomes, the more likely it will be displayed in this area.

There Are Two Types Of News Stories

The news stories displayed on the dashboard page can be published two ways: globally or for individual users. To publish stories globally you can use the Dashboard.addGlobalNews API call and to publish for individuals you can use Dashboard.addNews or Dashboard.multiAddNews depending on the number of individuals you’d like to target. Whether or not users view these stories will be relatively random.

While we aren’t quite sure what conversion rates of news stories will be, it’s one of the last resort methods for developers to get users to come back to their applications.

Games Receive Greater Priority

While an increasing percentage of Facebook’s applications are games, the majority of applications still fall into other categories (although that could eventually change). The result is that if you don’t specify your application as a game, you’ll have to compete with “the rest of the applications”. I’ve repeated numerous times throughout the past couple years that if I was building applications, I’d be building games.

Social games are monetizing most effectively currently and it’s why we’re seeing many of the top developers transition to becoming game developers even if it wasn’t their original model. By calling out games, Facebook is highlighting the importance of entertaining experiences on the Facebook platform.

A New Directory Area

Also of significance is a new directory area on Dashboard pages which displays those applications currently displayed under the “Applications You May Like” section of the existing Application Directory. I’m not quite sure how effective this new application directory will be given that it only displays text links. The impact on application growth will most likely be negligible.

5 Opportunities To Re-Engage Users

So under the new system, what actions do you need to take to ensure users come back to your application? Here are the various phases of the application engagement funnel:

  1. Collect Email – When a user installs an application you’ll have the option of collecting their email. Whether or not you should prompt them to disclose their email immediately should be determined through A/B Testing. Ultimately this will become one of the most important methods for re-engaging users.
  2. Bookmark Users – Whether or not you get the user’s email, you should encourage a user to bookmark your application as soon as the user installs it. As they interact with your app you should continue to promote the bookmark application. Bookmarked applications get a clear benefit over other apps so this step is the most critical.
  3. Recently Used App News Items – If the user didn’t bookmark your application and you don’t have their email, you need to take drastic action. By posting news items, there’s a chance they will be visible under the recently used applications area of the Dashboard. As we mentioned above, you aren’t one of the three most recently used applications they will be pushed onto another page.
  4. Counters – If the user did bookmark your application you are fortunate. You can now post counter updates to notify the user that there are recent activities within your application that they should take note of. As soon as they click on the counter they will be brought to your application.
  5. Fan updates – The last model for engaging users is through targeted updates, if they became a fan of your Facebook Page. You should have a place throughout your application which encourages users to become a fan. This provides yet another way of engaging users.

It’s important to note that these are not the only ways to get users to engage with your application. The remaining methods are based on user-to-user communication about your application. The two primary user-to-user methods are: stream stories and a new inbox tool for applications.

Conclusion

Facebook is preparing to roll out the new Dashboards “in the coming weeks”. The next few weeks mark the big changes that Facebook previously announced back in October. It has been a couple months but the changes are now being rolled out. While many developers are on edge as they have to adapt to the new model, it appears as though Facebook has appeased developers for the most part. We’ll have to wait and see what the final impact is. Do you think these changes will be good or bad for apps? Are you prepared for the impending changes?

-Facebook Dashboard Image-

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