Facebook recently deployed an applications programs interface allowing users to create widgets or share applications within their network.
One application in particular caught my interest as it allows you to turn your virtual self into a zombie and “infect” other people by biting them (through email invitation of course). Your zombie gains points as you infect more and more people. In the 3 days that I have had the application up and running, I have infected 6 people who have infected others as well.
After accumulating a certain number of zombie points by infecting others, your virtual self reaches the next level after which you are able upgrade to another type of zombie. In all, nearly 400,000 Facebook users currently subscribe to the zombie application.
The way I see it, this is a perfect opportunity for viral marketing – no pun intended. While there are characteristics of the zombie application that are interesting to me, there doesn’t seem to be any obvious marketing incentive behind the application. But wouldn’t it be cool if there were?
For example, the application could be used to promote the upcoming Resident Evil movie which is the third installment in a series of zombie horror films based on the popular video game. The individual who has infected the most people within their social network could be awarded with a sneak preview of the film.
Because many users of Facebook and similar social networking sites such as MySpace belong to the â€œYâ€ generation, this type of promotion would likely resonate with that audience due to their affinity towards video games and movies. A high level of transparency would be necessary though, because social community members tend not to do well with formal marketing messages veiled as interesting content.
Social networks and the rapidly expanding array of add-on applications are being used daily by increasing numbers of users. In fact, Facebook had nearly 15,000,000 users in July 2007. Even though the content on Facebook is for the most part, not crawlable by search engines, the opportunity for online marketers to leverage communities of interest towards out-of-network Facebook destinations is significant.
If you’re a Facebook user, I’d be curious to know what some of the more popular and productive applications you’ve used?