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Are Facebook Apps right for you?

Are Facebook Apps right for you?

If there are two words sure to get any forward-thinking businessperson going, they’re “Apps” and “Facebook”. Put those two together and you have a marketing avenue of exploration that shows too much promise not to get involved in.

Obviously, advertising and content publishers are keen to get on board with the concept of Facebook apps, as they offer greater engagement, more time with the brand in question and build on the success of one of the biggest brands in the world. Facebook app development, as it’s reasonably young and easy to use, is also a relatively cheap way of building dialogue with Facebook users.

Is a Facebook App Right for Your Business?

Despite the immense potential offered by Facebook’s app platform, there are pitfalls to consider before shelling out for your shiny new app. Facebook offers less flexibility than a standalone site, and you’re locked into Facebook’s way of doing things.

A Facebook app should not, in most cases, be considered a cost-effective alternative to a standard website. If, instead, you set out thinking of your app as an extension of your pre-existing site – for a specific campaign, promotion, or alternative outlet with which to engage your audience – you are on to a winner.

Balancing the Value of Data Colleciton

Despite offering good potential for adding to your email list via opt-in email entry mechanisms, prioritising data collection over usability would be a serious oversight in Facebook app development.

An app featuring countless entry fields for personal information is very off-putting. Name, email and an additional field for the answer to a question is generally enough to keep your audience engaged and allow for a bonus email address. So, now you have weighed up if a Facebook app is right for you, lets take a look at some of the different types of apps available.

Pragmatic Apps

Firstly, and probably most common is the kind of app that allows your users to see some kind of list of services or products. These kind of apps are, while more pragmatic, lacking the reactive trend-building nature of other varieties. On the one hand they offer direct exposure for the business, but on the other they are unlikely to be the kind of apps that users get excited about. These are fairly cheap and are easily built around existing templates.

True Value Apps

The second kind of app is the true value app. This kind of app offers value to users without direct exposure to the company, services or products. These apps – of which one variety is the ever-popular game app, such as FarmVille or Mafia Wars – are the kind that are least likely to be uninstalled. These are long-term apps with an intrinsic use. However, the down side of these is that the development costs can be higher than most, requiring both imagination and quality.

Viral Apps

The third and final variety is the viral application. The key focus of this is to scoop up as many Facebook users as possible to generate interest in your product or service. These are generally for time-sensitive campaigns or competitions, often film releases or the launch of a new company, product or service. The price of these kinds of apps is usually inflated, as the time constraints are key, although the format is often one that requires less effort to build than a true value app.

Fitting the App to the Purpose

With this information in mind, you need to consider the app’s suitability to the purpose. The considerations you need to make about the functionality, design and positioning of your app are all-important in this regard. For example, does a viral app offer the kind of ROI you want, given its relatively short life span? Would commissioning a mobile game create the right brand image for your company? What kind of conversion can you expect from the additional engagement gained from a true value app?

Questions like these will help you define the purpose of the app before you even start thinking about the logistics or obstacles you might have with development.

Developing the Right App

One of the most productive and efficient ways of creating an app concept is to ask the people who’ll be using it. Or, better yet, get them to create a blueprint (or even final product). Going to your customer base for ideas is about as close as you can get to a guaranteed winning idea. Either way, developing a self-indulgent app is unlikely to garner much interest from your audience.

During the development process, every change, addition or decision about the concept you make should come with the question: “Does this improve clarity of purpose?” It’s great to add value to your app where possible, but not at the cost of confusing the purpose of your app.

It’s also worth noting that Facebook apps are somewhat limited in design and functionality. Building an app from the ground up, as opposed to working on existing templates may help you define your app and target it more precisely to your audience, particularly if your business is a niche one.

Common Problems

One of the biggest problems seen with Facebook apps is simple poor performance. While there are many potential reasons for this, it’s often as a result of an enthusiastic company with a pragmatic app pretending to be a true value or viral app.

Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you’re producing a gem or something unique when you’re not. Build your app from the user’s perspective. It’s also worth remembering that a Facebook app is still just a tool, and it has its drawbacks as well as its benefits. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to create the ‘Jesus’ app that does it all.

Finally, once you have your idea, the most important point is to keep it undiluted. An app is often simply an advert for your product or service, albeit one that garners greater engagement. Remember, building a suite of tools across multiple marketing platforms is almost always more effective than trying to create a single, catch-all effort.

Mark Mitchell

Mark Mitchell

Mark is the managing director of MySocialAgency. He is a big traveller, major geek and massive music head. Mark likes to blog about social media strategy, SEO process and life hacking.

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