A Tale Of Two FBs

The first FB in my life is FeedBurner. I started using the service in early 2004 right around the time it launched.

The second FB in my life is Facebook. I started using the service about a year ago.

I’ve learned a ton using FeedBurner. I am trying to learn a ton using Facebook.

When I started using FeedBurner, I put the "chicklet" on my sidebar and started watching how many people were subscribing to my blog. It’s still there, down on the lower left. It says 33,461 people are subscribed to my blog. I used to watch that number and then I realized it was basically meaningless.

One day FeedBurner started reporting a new number called reach. Reach is the number of subscribers who actually view my feed in any given day. The reach number for my feed yesterday was 2,889. So less than 10% of the number of people who subscribe to my feed actually viewed it yesterday. That percentage has gone down as the number of subs has gone up. At one point, my daily reach was 50% of my subs. Then it was 25%. Now its less than 10%.

I am sure my monthly reach is much larger, but I also bet it’s not more than ~60% of my sub number. I can’t figure out how to calculate monthly reach with FeedBurner so I’ll leave it at a guess.

So how does this relate to Facebook? Well it seems that many entrepreneurs I meet are obsessed with their user numbers. Like many of them, I have installed the appsaholic app on Facebook. Appsaholic tells you what the most popular apps are on Facebook, which ones are gaining users most quickly, and gives you graphs and let’s you compare apps. Think of it as the Alexa or FeedBurner of Facebook apps.

But Appsaholic needs more data to be truly useful. Like FeedBurner did, Appsaholic needs to get beyond the "subscriber/user" number and get into what is actually getting used.

I have installed about 20 Facebook apps so far and have deleted about six, and currently have 14 on my profile. The only two I use everyday are Appsaholic and Twitter. There are three others, iMeem, last.fm, and Flickr that are keepers. I use them on occasion. The rest are likely to go away at some point but there’s no reason for me to remove them.

It’s the same with my 33,461 subs to my feed. A large number of them put my feed into a reader at some point but never read it. There’s no reason to remove it and so it gets counted every day by FeedBurner.

The bottom line is the subs number in feeds and the users number in FB apps is useful at the very start of a new blog or Facebook app. But after a short while it becomes meaningless. I hope that Appsaholic will start offering a page counting mechanism to Facebook app developers and start counting usage. Then we’ll have some interesting numbers to look at.

#VC & Technology