Facebook App Strategies for 2008

Having had some experience these past few months learning about and launching Facebook applications, and discussing the issue with people who have worked with me on these projects, here is my take:
1.  There are a lot of stupid but incredibly popular apps out there.  For the time being, FB profilers, as part of that whole ‘herd instinct’ dynamic, love to be poked, take ridiculous quizzes, identify themselves as cartoon animals and basically   pass the time online mindlessly.  It’s what people want.  Suppliers are giving people what they want.
2.  There is this huge part of the facebook app developer community who do it for the love of the game, to get some exposure, and to enjoy the thrills and chills of self-expression.  They are not in it for the money, or to monetize anything. They are college kids who have some free time on their hands, and who are less into the idea of making more serious or utilitarian apps.  As a result, there is incredible 'noise’ and an explosion of inventory, and that makes it increasingly difficult to build an app with the idea of it having an incremental impact on a business model.
3.  All in, developing FB apps that are well-designed, are FB-friendly, and that set up all the mini-feeds, etc., correctly, cost at least $5000, give or take a couple grand depending on your experience and the team you have working on the project.  Your first ones can be a lot more, as you discover that people who you have free-lanced  are:  1. on learning curves, and that they are learning on your nickel, and 2. the FB rules and 'best practices’ are always changing, so developing a FB app is often more like a journey than a destination.
4.  For an app that is not seasonal (e.g., Trim a Tree or Carve a Pumpkin) or event-driven (Give Owen Wilson a Hug) that does not take off virally (so we’re talking about a huge percentage of new apps), attracting and getting people to download your app to their profile through ad programs like Cubix costs about .75-1.00 a user.    In addition, launching a press release through PRWeb (about $300-400 total cost) has had a very good ROI for us.   Our TopNetPix FB app has been holding steady with about 1250 users for now close to a month, with virtually no tweaking and no additional what I call customer acquisition costs.  While not moving up virally, it is holding it’s own, which is a positive - people using it obviously feel it’s worth keeping in their profiles.
Will more serious FB apps, like TopNetPix and our recently launched Cool 100, start to become more important in the overall mix as more and more FB users start to see their profile page as more of a homepage or portal to launch to other places on the Internet?  We’ll see.