Social Media Scamming

There is a long-overdue discussion (a few follow-on posts) that got kicked off by Michael Arrington this weekend on the topic of incentive advertising ecosystem that is supporting the hyper-growth social gaming industry.  I have not studied the details of the issue.  Nor do I click on the types of ads that he's talking about.  However, as a social media user, I am absolutely certain that there is not enough value created through this type of advertising models to justify the enormous revenues we are hearing that surround this industry. I am very happy that Mike has decided to tackle the issue.

The debate has reminded me of a very widely-known secret in the Turkish internet and mobile industries.  If you speak to anyone who was a player in the ring-tone/logo download mania we had a few years ago, they will confide in you that it was a common practice to get people to sign up for (usually) worthless services and charge them through subscription fees buried in thick fine print (and sometimes not even hidden, simply omitted).

The GSM operators turned a somewhat blind eye to this for a while, but recently, with government and customer pressure, they now seem to be doing an effective job at policing their ecosystem.

Clay Shirky describes social media as "anything worth spamming".  I guess we will go on seeing many versions of the type of scams that Arrington is pointing out, or the versions in Turkey I mentioned.  What is critical is those of us with a clear vantage into these issues need to bring them up with more rigor.

Facebook and the Turkish Developer Community


As of today, there are 11,818,880 users on Facebook who live in Turkey and are over the age of 18.  This figure is according to the self-service ad module on Facebook.  I certainly concede there are many duplicate accounts in this figure, but I think it would be safe to assume that there are over 8m unique Turkish users of Facebook.  In fact, comScore estimates 5.5m average daily visitors for the month of August 2009.

This is enormous traffic.  To put this in perspective, MSN Turkey estimated the Turkish internet user population at 12-14m in August 2006.  As far as the Turkish market is concerned, Facebook is now nearly as big as the entire internet was just three years ago.

As an venture capital investor focused on the Turkish market, this makes me extremely excited.  It should surprise no one that almost everyday, I receive a business plan for a Facebook app-driven venture that plans to capitalize on the strong engagement Facebook enjoys in Turkey.

Or should it?

The previous paragraph is a lie.  I am amazed at the way Turkish internet developers are ignoring this enormous potential.  When you look at the most popular apps on Facebook, there is not a single Turkish app.  The same is true for app developers.

Two weeks ago, a Turkish app named Senin İçin jumped to the top of fastest growing apps list, with an MAU of 681K.  This week, they are nowhere to be seen, having only grown to 815K.  Very notable, though, is the presence of another app, also named Senin İçin! (BTW; I thought FB would filter out apps with the same/similar names.)

I think Facebook represents a phenomenal opportunity for Turkish developers.  Facebook's growth in Turkey has proven that viral growth works here, with the right incentives and hooks.  Zynga is showing everyone that you can attain revenues thru FB apps.  I would bet that at least 5% of Zynga's reported $100m+ revenues are coming from Turkey.  How many Turkish internet companies can boast of similar revenue traction?

I will be keenly watching to see if the Turkish developer community wakes up to this opportunity.

Image credit:  Taylanbey