Thoughts on Facebook Slingshot

(cross posted to Medium to see what happens)

Yesterday Facebook put out their latest app about temporal photos and video with the launch of Slingshot. At it’s core, it’s a photo and video messaging tool that lets you very easily create content to share with friends. However there are a few interesting things that are notable about a new app from Facebook.

nofacebookFacebook is not required. Upon signing up for Slingshot you are greeted with a prompt to enter your mobile number, confirmed with a code, then on to create a new username. Noticeably missing from this process is an easy signup with Facebook button that would connect you to your FB graph. You can easily create an account with just your phone + username. Privacy aside for the moment, this is a shift in how I have seen most FB products create a first time experience for users.

Permissions walkthroughs. Intelligent walkthroughs that ask permissions along the way. The holy grail for most apps these days is to ask for ALL THE PERMISSIONS up front from a user, giving the app immense powers should they decide to tuck it away into a deep folder in their phone. Things like push notifications, syncing contacts, location services — all make the apps better but its hard to get someone to say “yes” before explaining the value exchanged. Slingshot does this by showing you the benefits, and hoping you will concede to the system level permissions (at least on iOS).

Forced participation. Slingshot makes you “pay-to-play” by requiring you to “sling” (slingshot?) a photo or video to a friend to get started, and subsequently sling another to see someones response. Unlike the world of text messaging where you can read the message before responding, this flips the model on its head and makes you create a message before responding to the original message. In trying this out with a few friends who signed up last night, I found myself slinging pictures of my dog to unlock the pictures a friend had sent me. This continued as their responses were unreadable until I Slingshotted back. I could see how this perpetual engagement model creates a virtuous cycle of participation.

Juking the stats

“…you juke the stats and majors become colonels…”

In slingin’ with my friend Adam, we both wondered if this was the ultimate Dark Pattern. However I wonder if this is a new pattern on the journey that should actually be called forced engagement, or simply juking the stats. As described, you need to create a photo or video and send (sorry sling) back to a friend to unlock that persons content. As startups are constantly measured by either sales or engagement, this is a metric that will make Slingshot look to upend the rules of engagement of web audiences. Having everyone who uses the app be at 100% participation is a new model for any social stream or mobile app — something I have not seen successfully done before.

To further bring this to light, imagine if folks in other industries did the same thing;

I am excited to follow the progress of Slingshot as I think its a unique approach to gain adoption and engagement from users. I can’t help but put on my sales hat and think about monetization opportunities for Slingshot and wanted to brainstorm them here.

Monetization ideas for Slingshot

Scrooge

Promoted Slings — ok this is the low hanging fruit, but you know someone has already approached Facebook about doing these. I could imagine a a brand needing to come up with a story of “slings” that are unlocked only when users interact with them. If someone makes it through the entire funnel (thinking 3 tops) then a brand could show they engaged a user 3 times telling them a photo or video story.

Slingbacks — Not interested in creating content and becoming a part of the 1%? Watch these promoted Slingbacks instead! CPM based ads that unlock friends content without you having to create content. Friends get notified that you opted out of playing “the game” and got to see their content anyways.

Stickers/add-ons/in app purchases — this is the obvious choice so I am putting it last. This would be the ability to add some “flare” to your slings by purchasing digital content, either from brands directly or just a monetization path for Facebook.

In conclusion I have a few messages waiting for me to reply back, but I am not sure if I am willing to get back on the content train — most of the payoff has not been worth it yet as my friends are just experimenting (sorry Matt I may never know what you sent me!)

2014-06-18 09.22.27

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