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Community Next: "Community Is Your Most Valuable Asset"

Posted by eBay Developers Program on October 16, 2007 at 12:28 PM in eBay Developers , General | Permalink

Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Delyn_post In early October Trisha Okubo, Choon Chong and Sunny Li from eBay's Platform & Innovation team attended Community Next, a Silicon Valley event about social network platforms. It turned out to be a hands-on lesson in how to create a viral community application. The eBay team's participation was important because it helped us improve our understanding of developing successful applications for the emerging world of social networking sites - a world that some of our buyers and sellers have already started exploring (for example, see my earlier Chatter Blog post about the eBay Marketplace for Facebook application).

Choon entered the conference's Iron Coder competition
, where he was tasked to build a Facebook application and recruit as many users as possible — all within 24 hours. Read on as Trisha and Sunny re-cap their learnings from the event and top tips for building a truly viral app (Gesundheit!)

- Delyn


So, does Choon have the stuff to win the $5000 IronCoder contest?  Take a look at his entry and decide for yourself. Aptly named ForeignPoke, it allows you to do stuff to your friends on Facebook in the language of your choice. So — you can smack your friends in German, kiss them in French, or bite them in Italian.

At the 24 hour mark, ForeignPoke, was far from first place (with 25 users to the winner's 147)—and the $5,000 prize. (It seems that the friends we contacted to add the application don't check e-mail on Friday night.) But now, less than two weeks later, ForeignPoke has grown on its own to over 2,000 users, and an ardent fan even volunteered to translate the actions into his native Swedish!

What can we learn from ForeignPoke about how to create a viral application? Three simple rules:

(1) Start with share-worthy content. The foundation of a viral application is content, and if it's content that people don't want to share, you're out of the game before you even started playing. At the heart of ForeignPoke is the messages, which allow you to poke your friends in languages as diverse as Chinese, Hebrew, and even "Yoda." Poke you I must, as he would say.

(2) Make it easy for people to share. Aim to eliminate roadblocks—and any friction that makes it harder for people to share information with one another. ForeignPoke makes it super simple to poke friends—all you have to do is choose a message, select a language, and decide which friend(s) to poke. Automatically generated "news feed" announcements that describe the poking taking place (e.g. "Choon just poked Trisha in Pirate!") further simplify the information sharing process.

(3) Create incentives for people to share. Incentives can take many forms—and don't need to be monetary. Points can represent rewards, and people will collect them for bragging rights—or to move to higher levels within the application. As ForeignPoke was built literally overnight, it's currently limited to the core poking functionality (if you're wondering what I'm talking about, read the Wikipedia entry on poking on Facebook). But the most natural extension of the application is the introduction of points and levels. The more you poke others, the more points you collect. And while collecting points could be an end in and of itself, we could reward the most active users by, for example, unlocking new languages or actions.

Remember that ForeignPoke was built in a few short hours as part of an exercise during the CommunityNext event. But we'll use the lessons we learned to build applications that help our own Community succeed on social networking sites.

- Trisha and Sunny

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