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What is Zynga’s approach to user acquisition and growth?

This is a cross-post of my answer to a question posted on Quora:

Zynga: Why does Zynga lead its competitors by an 80 million plus monthly active users margin?

My Answer:

Zynga’s approach is to leverage its scale, organic retention, virality, metrics, and infrastructure.

Zynga spends more than most gaming companies to acquire users (its acquisition costs are currently estimated at an average $120/user).  Once a user is acquired, Zynga makes a significant effort to retain the user in the product (through  in-product retention tactics and game mechanics) and in its portfolio of games (through cross-game promotions).

It also  embraces virality as an acquisition tool to acquire “free” users through through its current users in-game (for example, when Facebook created its real-time streaming feature, Zynga was one of the first to design a communications platform around it to ensure that game play status updates would appear).

An added advantage is its custom infrastructure to leverage data.  Zynga built many of its own systems including its own ad bidding system for Facebook to maximize ROI on paid social ads.  Zynga also built its own analytics and data systems to capture and leverage over 1 pentabyte of data daily on its games.



What Was Draw Something’s User Acquisition Strategy?

This is a cross-post of my answer to a question posted on Quora:

Draw Something: How did Draw Something seed initial users?

My Answer:

OMGPOP’s approach to user acquisition for Draw Something was to build a great, simple product with virality and word-of mouth incorporated into the heart of the game, and then use marketing to get its first high ranking in the app store.  Their CEO, Dan Porter, likened their first paid acquisition effort to starting a fire: “it was just enough to light the match.  The huge fire came after that.  We spent a little money the first weekend to climb to number 6. We never spent a penny afterwards.”
Only 5% of Draw Something’s users came from paid advertising– and that advertising only appeared on other apps.  (I’m sure they did cross-promote via Facebook as well, as Steve said, but Mr. Porter must not have considered that advertising.)  Dan Porter confirmed this with a quote: “The only place to advertise an app is in another app,” Porter said, “Nowhere else matters.”  OMGPOP also only used minimal PR (though not by choice—the media wasn’t interested in their announcements).

A chart of Draw Something’s first month, courtesy Business Insider:

Cyworld To Shut Down Its US Service

I guess I saw this one coming.  On November 5th, I received the following email notice:

Thank you to all members with Cyworld.

Due to Cyworld shuts down US service, US Cyworld will no longer be able to service.
We sincerely apologize for shutting down the service with unavoidable reason.
Before US cyworld close the service, you will continue to access to US cyworld contents but not
purchase items. Also, you will not use your acorns.
If you have unused acorns, you will be given a full refund for paid acorns only.

Refunds and data backup service is in progress, using the acorn will no longer be able to purchase for miniroom items, skins, etc.

@ Schedule for closing US Cyworld service

Due to Data Back-up and closing service issues, the service will be unavailable.

* Shop service will be unavailable since Nov 03, 2009
o Club service, Profile photo/data upload serivce will be unavailable since Nov 23, 2009

While I loved the oh-so-cute  “minime” (avatar) and “miniroom” (avatar’s house) that users could design for their pages (I couldn’t help but share mine, below)– the only reason why I signed up for Cyworld was so that I could connect with my Korean friends (plus I was curious.) Unfortunately, because Cyworld actually chose to separate these two networks geographically (can you imagine facebook doing this?)- it eliminated the whole point of using the site.

I found out today from a fellow blogger that you can sign up for the Korean Cyworld site– and (get this) they have recently eliminated the requirement that you send in a copy of your passport for approval before you get to sign on…

My takeaway:  Network effects in social media are not to be ignored.  Unless you have something compelling to offer, are focusing on a market niche or are first-to-market, don’t assume you can start a platform at zero and take on an already saturated market.  Use all the network connections you can.  Think: would you build a new line of fax machines using machine language incapable of working with any other models– including your own? No way.

Your thoughts?


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