Your Online Identity is as Permanent as a Tattoo

The digital age is here and technology is increasingly finding new ways to improve, measure, and interact with our lives.  Can you remember what it was like to organize an event without Facebook?  Can you remember what it was like to mail real photos to your grandmother in the mail instead of online?  It gets harder and harder everyday.

The digital world is keeping track of us.  Facebook has admitted to tracking your browser history even when you are not logged into Facebook.  Google indexes every tweet, every public Facebook post and every photo it can find of you.  Yahoo!, AOL, and your ISP are all joining in.

Have you ever thought about what it take to delete that awkward photo of you taken at a party one night which a friend put on Facebook?  How about that not so nice tweet you accidentally said your mind in about your boss?  What we post online is as permanent as a tattoo.  Check out the TED Talk below for more:

Social Game Developers Use Tutorials to Get Crucial Early Retention – Mixpanel – Analytics for startups

This post was originally written by Tim Trefren on InsideSocialGames.

Because a range of our customers are social game developers, we can get a high-level look at trends they’re seeing in their Facebook applications. One of the big trends we’re seeing is that games are using tutorials to generate strong retention among new users. A related trend is that this initial retention is critical to the health of your game, in the weeks following launch. Here’s a closer look.

Impressive Results From Tutorials

One thing we’re seeing succeed is the tutorial-based signup process. A well-crafted tutorial removes all the ambiguity out of getting started and helps teach a new user how to play the game.

If you’re not familiar with this technique, the FarmVille signup process is a good example. FarmVille explicitly teaches you how to harvest, plow, and plant seeds with a 3-step tutorial.

Now that you’re familiar with the concept, let’s take a look at the data I’ve compiled from a number of games.

By The Numbers

The most impressive finding of this analysis is that individual steps in a tutorial convert at over 90% on average. Meaning, once a user has started a tutorial, they have a greater than 90% chance of continuing at each step.

This doesn’t include the first step, however – as you might expect, it’s harder to get users to start a tutorial than it is to get them to complete additional steps.

First step conversion rate: 71.4%
Additional step conversion rate: 95.06%
Overall completion rate: 37.9%

Many companies are now utilizing the tutorial technique, and it clearly deserves its popularity. Conversion rates of 95% are practically unheard of, but tutorials appear to be delivering these results.

An Interesting Trend in Visitor Retention

Another thing I noticed was a strong trend in retention behavior. There are some remarkable similarities in the *pattern* of visitor retention across games, despite the differences in the actual numbers.

Before I go any further, here’s a quick overview of the concept: Visitor retention is the percentage of visitors who come back and interact with an application after their first visit.

Visitors are chunked into groups—also known as ‘cohorts’—and then analyzed based on the the behavior of the group as a whole. The most common method is to group by visit date. For example, one group might consist of all the visitors who were first seen in the week starting May 3rd.

Once you have grouped your visitors, you can track them over the following weeks and see how many from each cohort return to the site.

Now let’s look at some actual retention numbers for a variety of different games. To compile this data, I first took a sample of the different social games using our service. Then I looked at the average week-over-week retention for each game.

Here’s a graph of the average weekly retention rates for the different games:

You can see that on the surface, the retention numbers are pretty different – some of these games have long-term retention rates close to 50%, while others rapidly approach 0%.

However, the interesting thing to note is that while the absolute retention rates are different, the pattern of retention is very similar across games. They all have a massive dropoff after the first week, with relatively flat retention in the following weeks. If you take a closer look, the ‘flat’ parts of the graph run nearly parallel, meaning they have very similar weekly conversion rates.

We can take a closer look by calculating the “conversion rate” – (e.g. week 3 divided by week 2, etc) between adjacent weeks. Here’s a graph with this transformation:

See a pattern? At the first point on the x-axis (Week 0-1), we can see that the initial conversion rate ranged from 1.76% on the low end to 62.83% on the high end. The interesting part comes later, though – no matter what the initial conversion rate between weeks 0 and 1, the following weeks convert at close to 80% across all of the games.

Basically, this means that once you’ve had a user for at least a week, they have an 80% chance of coming back each following week.

This suggests that your initial retention rate is critical, because once you’ve retained users for a week you are likely to keep them for quite a while. This behavior also raises another question: why do almost all of the games in our sample exhibit this behavior? Is it possible that this is just how social games work – retained users have an 80 – 95% chance of returning each week? If so, this could mean that the only thing you have control over is the initial retention rate. Time to write and polish your tutorials.

Fascinating case study of how to improve those critical early retention rates!

The Rise of Social Gaming

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Yesterday, I posted an infographic illustrating the relationship between Facebook and Zynga. Today I found a glorious graphic that illustrates just how hot social gaming has become. Zynga has more than double the revenue generation of the second place developer, Playfish. I didn’t know that virtual pigs and tractors were so popular and people are willing to pay for virtual stuff. Now THAT is fascinating human behavior!

Community Based Traffic Reporting

Traffic congestion is a pain in the you-know-what.  You are already late for work and then you run into a traffic jam only to sit and stare at the beater in front of you.  You didn’t even have time to grab a cup-o-joe before you left and was banking on the stale coffee at work.  Instead, you feel your blood pressure rising as you watch the drivers around you happily sippping their mochas while sitting in the same traffic you are. 

There MUST be a better way! And there is.  Enter Waze, “real-time maps and traffic information based on the wisdom of the crowd.” 

“The wisdom of the crowd?” you ask.  Yes, it seems that those other drivers sipping their mochas are also carrying smart-phones that run the free Waze app. These happy sippers have already reported to the Waze server traffic congestion on the freeway between your house and work. 

If you had it too, you would have known that there is a major traffic jam and Waze would have routed you to work a different, more convenient route given live traffic updates.   Did I mention it is free and works with Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile, and Symbian?

Here is what Waze can do for you:

1) Report slowing and congestion that typically doesn’t make it to your local news’ traffic reports.

2) Are you Speedy Gonzales?  Using Waze, drivers can alert other drivers to speed traps.

3) Automatic routing around congestion, accidents, etc. Waze will calculate a route that gets you where you need to go.

4) much, much more

To check out some more information on Waze, visit their YouTube channel for tutorials, webinars, and demos.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been driving around with Waze on my Motorola Droid.   My impression:  Waze has huge potential, but it has yet to go mainstream.  While I love the features, the automatic, dynamic routing, the cute little bubble icon on wheels, and munching roads like I was pac-man, I have yet to reap the full benefits of the service because I am one of a very few people in my area that use it.  Santa Barbara is a pretty small town, but clearly this service will shine in metropoltian areas like Los Angeles and New York once the community builds.

What fascinates me most about this wonderful service is that it finally gets close to solving one of the biggest pet peaves in regards to traffic reports, congestion.  It seems the traffice reporters only tend to report accidents, not slowing or minor hazards.   While roads look clear according to their reports, the reality is they are not.   Hence a Waze user can warn others faster than it can make it to the traffic reporter. 

Sounds like Twitter you say?  Yes, it does, social media traffic reporting is the wave of the future.  Just like Twitter, Waze has the potential to build an enormous community, save us time and help us all save the environment by not idling our cars stuck in a traffic jam.   That last point, saving the environment is a huge one…  bigger than community based traffic. 

This is huge people, let’s get together and make it even bigger!

 

 

The Drainer: The Overzealous, Not So Positive Facebook User

Facebook is a great way to connect with friends and your peers.  We all know that and we all use it in very different ways.

Recently I was reminded of a particular type of Facebook user that I termed The Drainer.  This user has the following characteristics:

1) Fires off status updates in such rapid succession that your feed is full of their updates.
2) Always comments or likes almost every one of your status updates, links, etc.
3) Their comments are expressing an opinion that criticizes you for your actions (feels like being scolded).
4) They often miss the point of your update which proves they are out of the loop.
5) They often sound like your mother when they offer advice.

These are the people that kill a great conversation.  For Instance, you make a status update about how great a party it was, but that you were feeling a little hung over.  All of your friends are commenting on the fun time they had and then the Drainer hits, leaving a smart-ass comment about controlling your drinking and how stupid it is that you are hung over.  That just kills the conversation right there.

While it is possible to block them, blocking seems extreme since they do, on occasion, contribute some meaningful status updates.  Telling them nicely offline to keep their opinion to themselves might be possible but the drainer might take it the wrong way.  I decided to just ignore them and continue interacting with my "friends."

This really boils down to Facebook etiquette: 

1) I only comment on status updates that I can add value to or offer support of. 
2) If I can't find anything cool to say, I will simply "like" it. 
3) I keep my comments positive and will only criticize if I can offer them a reasonable and meaningful solution.
4) Respect your 'friends' privacy… always commenting/liking on everything is like calling them every ten minutes to tell something, which is a great way to be unfriended.
5) Think of every comment as a broadcast to the entire world, saying negative things only makes YOU look bad to the world.

Has anyone else experienced the Drainer?   Any further etiquette rules to share?