Comparing Facebook App Invites and SMS Sharing

With the onset of Graph 2.0, Facebook killed the functionality that allowed a developer to query a list of a user’s friends once the user authenticated with their Facebook account. It was one of the primary uses of Facebook for developers and this new restriction severely impedes the viral component of many apps.

Facebook responded during F8 and unveiled a new feature called App Invites which allowed developers to launch an invite flow for a list of friends. However, because it kept the list of friends inside a Facebook-controlled view, developers were essentially forced to fall back on this feature – they had no other mechanism to tap into a friend’s list for sharing or invite. The biggest problem with the feature is that it takes all of the control away from the developer implementing the feature. Facebook controls everything about it, from the presentation of the friends list to the invite message that is sent.

Dating app invites

Coffee Meets Bagel included App Invites in their invite flow soon after Facebook announced it. They have a feature that allows the user to earn in-app currency by inviting friends. Between all of the invite options, Facebook App Invites was by far the most popular, with the most number of users selecting that option.

Facebook App Invites vs SMS Sharing

Coffee Meets Bagel used Branch links to help track and attribute the performance of each channel. With their permission, we’ve pulled and analyzed the data from the invite options. I chose to compare App Invites to SMS because they both send a direct message to the contacts that you select, so I thought it made for the best comparison. Here are the conversions from share button click to new user installing during the two months that the feature was live:


  Share Click to New User Conversion   

SMS 21%
  Facebook App Invites   19%

Facebook App Invites yield nearly the same conversion rates as the SMS channel. This comparable performance is surprising because Facebook App invites actually involve more steps for the existing and new user as part of the flow.

Here are the steps from original user share to new user install:

  1. Click invite
  2. Select friends
  3. Review invite and optionally add message
  4. New user receives notification
  5. User clicks notification
  6. User sees invite
  7. User sees app store page
  8. User installs app
Facebook ‘Invite Friends’

The positive aspect of this feature is that Facebook does an incredible job on the friend selection page. They recommend folks at the top of the page who are most likely the people you will invite – from what I can tell, the folks with whom you’ve had the most interactions on the platform in recent history. It’s better than any of the previous styles of invites for this reason specifically.

Facebook app invites friends screen

App Install Notifications

What’s more, after installing the app, Facebook sends an additional notification to the user to let them know that the app has finished downloading. This reminder helps reduce the percentage of users who install but forget to open. You’d be surprised at how often that happens!

Facebook app invites notification

SMS Sharing Remains the Industry Standard

Overall, despite some major advantages compared to the SMS channel, App Invites performs slightly worse. It’s most likely a result of the additional steps that are introduced in the overall flow from invite to new user. That being said, it’s a good tool to keep in the arsenal.

Check out our technical guide to App Invites or use the button below to get started with Branch.

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