Facebook is one of the best at turning new users into active users. With 1/6th of the world a Facebook user, Facebook has set a high bar for activation and its team is rapidly spreading the gospel of growth (here are some notes on Facebook’s overall growth strategy from the Growth Hacker’s Conference).
Every good activation strategy optimizes the new user experience (“NUX”) to reach the “magic moment” as fast as possible. The “magic moment” is a point in the NUX when a user surpasses a metric and is far more likely to be retained. This metric varies from product to product. For Facebook, the magic moment is seven friends in ten days for a new user.
In the following paragraphs, I will break out Facebook’s on-boarding and activation strategy to see how they motivate new users to reach the magic moment as fast as possible.
The signup Facebook landing page is straight forward and contains a naked long signup form. Most inbound marketers and product gurus would probably revolt if this was their landing page. The form feels long. There is no compelling call-to-action and the design is uninspiring.
Despite the landing page’s rough appearance, Facebook has an advantage that other startups do not have: a household name. Most likely, the majority of Facebook’s new users are converting through a user-to-user action and not through the above landing page. Any visitor that stumbles onto this landing page has already been primed by Facebook’s billion active user base.
The focus of this landing page is the login form via top-right of the page. When a visitor lands on this page, the cursor moves to the email submission field in the login form. This cursor movement denotes that this landing page is designed to convert users not visitors to a action (to log in not to signup).
If a visitor does convert into a new user from this landing page, they will enter a robust on-boarding flow. After a visitor fills out the naked form, the next ask in the funnel is to search your address book to find email addresses that matches a Facebook user’s email address.
In a clever UX move, Facebook passes the email address from the previous step and places the address in the relevant email hosting service. For example, I signed up with GMail thus, Facebook placed my email in the GMail address book search. All it takes is one click to search. The call-to-action to search uses the phrase “Find Friends” which is mentally in-line with the purpose of the page.
As a tidbit, take a look at the use of the phrase “Save and Continue” as the progress button. In the far right, the normal Facebook avatar appears as if you were an active user. This word choice and the avatar sends a sense of ownership in the NUX.
If the search fails, an infographic appears that explains how to manually upload a file of emails.
Since the GMail account I was using to register did not have any contacts, Facebook did not pull in a list of suggested friends in the following step of the flow. If I did have an address book full of contacts, Facebook would immediately suggest possible friends to ask to be their friend.
Rather than displaying “No friends on Facebook” (because that just sounds lame and lonely), Facebook moves on to the next step to recommend friends based upon more targeted data.
Based upon a new user’s networks and general demographic information, Facebook suggests possible friends in the following flow. In example below, I submitted Princeton as my school network and received the following friend results.
As opposed to shooting from the hip with the cheap data from the landing page, Facebook gathers more information from a new user who does not have an address book to produce relevant suggestions. The most pressing goal in activation is to form connections on Facebook as fast as possible. Irrelavant or zero friend suggestions sends negative feedback to a new user. A new user will probably think in their mind, “None of my friends are on here. Why should I be on here then?”.
After adding a profile photo (which is very important for retention), the on-boarding process places a new user in Facebook’s core product with some growth tweaks. Facebook alters the experience to drive home to the magic moment: seven friends in ten days.
The step-by-step guide proceeding the on-boarding flow walks a new user through the privacy settings on posting and adding friends. On the top right bar next to the user’s avatar, a “Find Friends” call-to-action is added. The inherently distracting chat screen and mini-facebook are minimized.
By selecting “Home”, Facebook’s ad bar is removed and replaced with a “People You May Know” suggestion box. The UI has a larger than normal call-to-action and user photo when compared to a retained Facebook user’s friend suggestions UI. It is more important for a new user to add friends now, rather than later.
Facebook also uses feature call outs to educate a new user. These features also have a retention focus. For example, Facebook called out a Princeton Facebook group and auto opted me into the group. I identified Princeton as my university in on-boarding. I guess Facebook has not strayed far away from the importance of college connections in activation.
The “Find Friends” button in the top bar links to an in-product email address book search that is similar to the one found in the on-boarding process.
Facebook expands the number of channels a new user can search for existing friend on Facebook, even including Skype as an option to search. In this flow, the right side bar is removed and replaced with motivational text to reduce distractions.
When a new user returns to Facebook, the newsfeed is re-structured with friend suggestions, probably until that magic number is reached. At this point in the screenshot below, “Becca” (my new user) is several weeks old with three friends in non-concentric networks. Notice the additional motivational text of using my existing friend network to form connections. Facebook is using social recollection to encourage you to connect by narrowing the possibilities.
Timeline also includes a “People You May Know” box at the top.
Despite the number of scenarios, the on-boarding and activation flow have a single focus: get you to form connections on Facebook as fast as possible. Once those connections are formed on Facebook, Facebook uses email notifications and social exhaust from your friend network to pull you back into the service. Their strategy is thoughtful and very detailed. This is what it takes to get to a billion users in less than a decade.