How social video apps leverage Facebook Open Graph to rapidly gain new users
Two new mobile video apps — Viddy and Socialcam — have shot into the top 25 most popular Facebook apps by monthly active users this week. Their developers have both raised funding from prominent investors, with valuations likely influenced by Facebook’s recent $1-billion-acquisition of Instagram.
But as these and other Open Graph-enabled video applications are gaining between 1 million and 5 million monthly active users a day seemingly without advertising, pundits and investors should be aware of the mechanics in place that lead Facebook apps to grow faster than ever. Developers might also want to look to these apps as examples, but the true test will come in the next few weeks when we can see whether these apps can maintain regular engagement among a sizable percentage of new users.
The following video apps are within the top 40 most popular Facebook apps by monthly active users, according to our AppData tracking service. We’ll look at how these apps use Open Graph to maximize impressions and gain new users. We’ll also address some of the privacy controls they’ve put in place to allow users to limit what they share.
Dailymotion‘s web integration is the No. 9 Facebook app with 27.3 million MAU. When users visit Dailymotion.com, there is an option to log in with Facebook, but it is not required. When users click on a Dailymotion link from Facebook, however, they are immediately directed to an auth dialog asking for Timeline publishing permissions. After users accept by clicking “go to app,” they can watch the video. Social sharing is automatically enabled but the site offers a “remove from Timeline” button.
So far the app doesn’t share stories about any other activity besides watching videos. Uploading a video or subscribing to a channel, for instance, doesn’t generate a Facebook story. The app also doesn’t share stories when users watch videos directly from a Dailymotion user’s channel. This is good because these videos autoplay and might otherwise lead some unwanted links to be shared with friends.
Unlinking a Facebook account from a Dailymotion account is relatively difficult to do from Dailymotion’s website, but users can always remove the app from their Facebook app settings.
Viddy, currently No. 11 with 24.8 million MAU, is an iOS app that allows users to add Instagram-like filters to short videos. Unlike Instagram, it has a full website where users can browse and play videos, follow other users (like Mark Zuckerberg and Snoop Dogg) and mark videos as favorites. These actions all generate Timeline stories, creating aggregations like the one below.
Although the app has been at the top of the iPhone charts, it’s unclear what proportion of the app’s active Facebook users have downloaded the mobile app versus logged into the website. When users click on a Viddy video from Facebook.com, they are presented with an auth dialog. People can watch Viddy videos without logging in if they go to the site directly. After accepting Timeline permissions by clicking “Okay, watch video,” users are taken to the Viddy site where they have the option to turn broadcasting on or off, as well as remove posting permissions for particular actions so users can decide to share videos that they like or comment on, but not those that they simply watch.
Viddy currently lacks an “undo” or “remove from Timeline” button to let users hide their activity directly from the app. Providing this option seems to be an emerging best practice and will help the app avoid potential backlash that could result if users don’t realize how the app is sharing their activity.
The iPhone app lacks any notifications that users are sharing their activity, and the only way to disable sharing — even temporarily — is to go to “settings,” followed by “configure services,” and then “Facebook.” From there users can unlink their accounts, turn off publishing or de-authorize specific permissions.
Socialcam is No. 24 with 17.7 million MAU. It is similar to Viddy in that it allows users to add filters and share videos from their smartphones, though it also seems to include a number of YouTube videos. Unlike Viddy, Socialcam has an Android version. The app also has a website from which users can view videos and follow other users (including Britney Spears and MC Hammer), which raises the same question as Viddy: how many active Facebook users have downloaded the mobile app versus logged in from the web.
When users click on any Socialcam video link, they get an auth dialog, whether they came from Facebook or directly. This makes it seem as though users have to allow Timeline permissions in order to watch a video, but if a user clicks “cancel,” they will be able to view the clip without logging in and sharing their activity.
If users do accept permissions by clicking “Okay, watch video,” social sharing is enabled, and activity will be posted back to Facebook after users get about halfway through a video. Socialcam also offers a remove from Timeline option, and the ability to separately de-authorize publishing permission for viewing activity and other actions, including liking and commenting.
We’ve noticed Socialcam using Facebook requests as a way to bring users back to the app, but it does not seem as though these requests come from any particular friend. Clicking on the request simply redirects users to a canvas version of the app on Facebook.com. If Socialcam is indeed sending requests that are not initiated by friends, we expect Facebook to disable this feature.
Metacafe, which is No. 36 with 13.2 million MAU, seems to offer users the clearest explanation of what is being shared when they visit the site and how to disable it. This web integration prompts users with an auth dialog when they click over from the social network. After clicking “log in with Facebook,” users face a second step where they can choose which actions to share back to their Timelines.
When users play their first video, even though watch activity is “on,” Metacafe doesn’t publish a story until users explicitly click “Add it.” From that point on, activity will be shared on Facebook until users turn activity “off” or “undo” an individual story. For now, the app does not seem to share any other actions besides “watch.”