Build Branded Facebook Apps

When the Facebook Platform was launched in 2006, it immediately became a hot property as thousands of eager developers rushed to launch the next great Facebook application. A few brands made the early leap as well, with some successes and a few total failures.

It quickly became clear that if brands were to succeed on Platform, their applications would have to provide value, and not use Facebook as just another medium to push advertising messaging.

Over the past two years, some brands have failed, and moved on, some have succeeded in establishing a strong presence on Facebook. Many brands are still in test mode or taking that first leap. For those brands, these recommendations will increase their chances of developing a successful Facebook application.

Applications should focus on one simple idea and execute it well. Don't try to pack every campaign asset into the application canvas page. Don't link multiple interactive and content hooks, no matter how clever you think.



2. Start with the familiar
Don't reinvent the wheel. Build on social concepts that people are familiar with. Introducing a new idea requires a much longer learning curve. For example, Red Bull's take on the classic Rock-Paper-Scissors game was a runaway success.

3. Provide value
Your brand must add value (i.e. utility, entertainment or convenience) to a user's Facebook experience. A greeting card company might want to consider developing an app to tracks friends' birthdays rather than digital cards.

4. Make it social (duh)
Apps that simply push content or ads at people or gets them to sign up for some service will not work, period. To be social (read shared) your app must entice users to use the Stream to share things they've created with your app. On the flip side, Facebook is a part of many users' daily lives so don't annoy users with excessive notifications, messages, and invitations.

5. First Step, Homework
Dig into the Facebook directory to see what apps are most successful, then try to understand why. Look for apps based on ideas that relate to your brand as a jumping off point. For example, an alcohol brand might want to consider developing an app that allows friends to send a drink to a friend. However, don't just copy it, add your own spin to make it different enough to feel fresh. Failing that, sponsor an existing app with a significant user base.

6. Budget is to your advantage
Most Facebook apps are created by independent developers on shoestring budgets. As a result, most are poorly designed, buggy, and pretty unsophisticated. Users appreciate the production value of a well-designed and developed application and that will reflect positively on your brand.

7. Packaging your app
Leverage all available tools on Facebook. Before launching an application allocate resources to develop a public profile Facebook page for your brand. This is a good place to house content and assets from the campaign or from brand archives, as well as post custom content sections to drive traffic. The profile page should build a fan base that the brand can engage time and again long after the life span of a specific application.

8. Promote. Promote, Promote
With several hundred thousand apps on Facebook, marketers must allocate dollars to catch the attention of Facebook users. Contact Facebook when you are interested in developing an application and get the company on board. Facebook reps can help you determine the best way to cut through the clutter when launching your app.

9. Find an agency that's been there, done that
Your AOR is not likely to have a clue about building Facebook applications. Find a shop that has experience building Facebook applications then listen to thei recommendations. Or have your agency outsource the application build to an experienced developer.

10. Maintain your application
Facebook is constantly changing to meet users' needs. This means its API (developer toolkit) is constantly changing. A single change to the API can dramatically affect how your application works. Choose a partner that can keep up with these changes, and be prepared to listen to, budget for, and follow recommendations in an ever evolving media environment.

Editor's note: If you'd like to contribute to this newsletter, see our editorial guidelines first and then contact Nina Lentini.

1 comment about "Build Branded Facebook Apps ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Michael Burke from appssavvy, May 29, 2009 at 12:07 p.m.

    Thank Charles - All great info in the How-to.

    I think before you get to "how", you need to ask "why?" It's my belief that regardless of the execution, if you are building an app for the wrong reasons (such as " i read an article in mediapost and want an app too"), it will fail.

    Questions like "is my goal to build an app or is it engage an audience?" "what will i get out of it?", "can i partner with an existing app or social community before i build anything?" are all important questions. if after this exercise the brand still points to build a custom application - then you've clearly lined up the 10 steps.

    if not, we should encourage them to rethink their "why" and search for alternative solutions - otherwise there won't be a positive outcome. and, no matter what your ad offering is these days, we should all root for positive results.

Next story loading loading..