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Taking Credits and applications to mobile could be Facebook’s key to generating revenue outside its desktop version, but it will need to keep it simple.
Facebook’s mantra and reason for pushing its Open Graph protocol is the idea of making sharing “frictionless”, with deep integrations via simple tools such as the Like button. However, outside the social gaming community, there are few case studies of how Facebook can be used as a commerce platform, either via Facebook commerce apps or by using Credits for virtual goods.
In terms of frictionless sharing, Facebook has made good on its mantra and is enjoying astonishing rates of growth in content sharing, with more than 2bn posts Liked and commented on per day, according to the social network.
Being on mobile is unlikely to transform real-world Facebook commerce, like ASOS’s Facebook stories, but it could be an interesting platform for Credits as a means to buy virtual goods or for micropayments for content.
So far, Credits have mainly been used within gaming and voting apps, but the principles could be applied to other forms of digital content. Today EMI announced it had created a social app for artist Professor Green, which allows users to buy or earn points in exchange for virtual goods. While this is again a social gaming play, EMI recognised the potential for music and virtual currencies such as Credits in the future (nma.co.uk 11 October 2011).
The king of frictionless buying, and for whom Facebook’s mobile announcements have the potential to cause some concern, is Apple. Starting with iTunes, the company has created a trusted ecosystem that enables purchasing in a few easy clicks. Outside Apple, SMS voting and competition entry is also something customers are comfortable with.
If Facebook can provide an experience that sits somewhere between the two, it could add the momentum it needs for Credits, beyond the minority of social gamers.