Turning A Facebook App Into A Viral Hit

Last month, I wrote about Jia Shen’s approach to designing killer Facebook applications. He’s the co-founder of RockYou, the makers of SuperWall (2 million daily active users).

Today, I want to take Jia’s approach, and season it with some of my own thinking to see how we might redesign an existing Facebook app called “Nordsrtom Fashion Status” to be more viral (here’s the app’s Facebook page).

This app was created by the folks at Zeus Jones — a marketing start-up that I’ve been closely following because of their unique take:

“We believe that actions speak louder than words and are dedicated to solving business problems by helping clients use their marketing to do things for their customers instead of just saying things to them.”

Back to Facebook and the Nordstrom Fashion Status app. Which I’m going to dissect by suggesting changes, and then explaining why those changes will help increase the apps viral success. First, here’s the Nordstrom app right now:

Nordstrom-Fashion-status.jpg

Users can update their mood/status, and also list what clothing their wearing. There are two other tabbed sections on the app, letting you see what brands your friends wear the most, and what’s most popular across the US.

Overall my idea is to transform it from Fashion Status, to Nordstrom Fashion Sense…

Nordstrom-Fashion-Sense.jpg

First change: Make the app more social, by transforming it into an outfit recommendation tool. Let users detail what outfit their wearing, but also allow them to create their outfit ideas to share with friends — so they can become each other’s “fashion consultants.”

Why?: To make any app go viral on Facebook, there has to be a social component which incentives users to share and even encourage their friends to sign up. As Jai at RockYou pointed out, this is driven by social messaging. When I post something on SuperWall, all of my friends get notifications — which is in essence free advertising of the app. That’s what drives viral growth: notifications and news feed posts.

Second change It should be less about people’s moods, since Facebook already has a status function, and more about their fashion sense. Allow them to vote on the outfits friends create with a simple “hot or not” approach. And then provide rankings to see which friends have the hottest fashion sense. Another added dimension, would be if users were awarded points for their top outfits — and could use those points to redeem something in-store.

Why?: Competitive elements — being able to vote on each other’s content and get a score or ranking of where you stand — encourages active participation. Because it provides users with a challenge, and a consequence to their decisions. Simply put, it makes the experience more meaningful. That’s the success behind sites like HotOrNot.com.

Third and fourth changes: Remove the “US” tab — we want to keep this relevant to people’s friends and close networks. And then loose the heavy-handed links back to Nordstrom.com — users will search for the brands if they like the outfits.

Why?: These two much smaller changes help to make each element in the application support the core purpose of the app — focus on users’ immediate social networks, and make it more about expressing fashion sense, than showcasing Nordstrom on your Facebook page.

Thanks the quick and dirty viral redesign. What do you think? Next week I’m going to write up a cheat sheet for Facebook app design. Stay tuned…