Developing Facebook Apps for Brands: Why Light and Simple is Best.

Facebook applications can be a great way to increase a company’s fans’ tie to their social presence, while simultaneously delivering valuable user and customer data. For a large number of brands, apps can be essential to their healthy Facebook presence in order to add value to their growing fan base through online sales, personalisation mechanisms, incentives and competitions and more.

For the majority of brands though, producing their own apps is not essential, nor should they be. If you are perhaps thinking of a Facebook app for your brand I am not trying to convince you otherwise. If your current, or future Apps work by definition because they have a function and output for the user that supports the brand, aids user discovery and interest – and adds value to them as a consumer, then it’s going to be a good investment of your time. Ultimately for the organisation, data is collected, the app and brand messages are shared and the successful app can go a long way to establishing or strengthening social media and online brand traction.

In this short article I wish to show why, if a Facebook application or a range of applications are chosen as part of a social strategy – to be effective it should be as light, simple, quick, accessible and user-friendly to achieve its goals.

Complex and immersive brand experiences really, in the norm, do not belong on Facebook because the world’s no.1 social platform for business and personal usage – lends itself to, and has already established a user experience based on speed, lots of content to scan at once, a user’s nature of browsing over content immersion, and simple actions and user experience actions driven by speedy and simple calls to action.

Mobile First.

Of course now, mobile needs to always be part of the mix to ensure that the main points mentioned above stay true. In a recent report 600 million of Facebook’s 1 billion users are classed as mobile.

With native apps and a mobile version, Facebook as a content source and content creation mechanism for the user is working well for mobile. But within apps is where bad user experiences have the potential to be hugely exaggerated due to more obstructive and slower data capture, navigation and reading of content if designers and developers to not make their Facebook apps fit for mobile. To ignore mobile for apps is an online crime that should be avoided first and foremost.

The view that “less is more” when it comes to the Facebook app experience is supported by Paul Adams, global head of brand design at Facebook who said recently, and whose quote was inspiration for this article:

“Almost every app built for a brand on Facebook has practically no usage…heavy, ‘immersive ‘experiences are not how people engage and interact with brands. Heavyweight experiences will fail because they don’t map to real life.”

This powerful statement would be enough to make anyone thinking of investing in a Facebook app for their brand, or evaluating any current apps, take a step back and consider the user experience  combined with the brand benefit before proceeding with a plan of action for a Facebook app.

Whilst agreeing with Paul Adams and his quote, a key word here is “almost”. Not all apps built for a brand are heavy and immersive in their user experience. Many are light, simple, ‘fit for Facebook’ and add value.

The following branded facebook examples are worth checking out for this reason:

1. Cadbury’s Crème Egg: “Cling to Your Fling”.

Cadbury Creme Egg

In this Facebook app Cadbury’s use a campaign supportive app to allow users through a simple photo upload to enter a competition to win a personal mug.

The app is simple, fun, shareable and ties in perfectly with the 2013 Easter campaign for Creme eggs. Nothing more than a photo upload and a share is all that is required.

Okay, some effort is involved in taking a photo with your creme egg first, but after that it’s plain sailing and this app has great viral potential and is well linked to a supporting online and offline brand campaign.

2. American Airlines: “Spin to Connect”

This Facebook app is a great example of a simple app that takes no more than a click to play a fruit machine style game to win an in demand product to enhance the American Airlines real life experience by offering free In Flight WiFi.

Simple functionality, ease of sharing and a value add top to the user makes this app work work really well.

3.       Adidas Originals: “Create a Cover”

adidas Originals pimp your cover

This app again uses simple point -click  functionality to enable users to personalise their own Facebook timeline picture through their app.

This clever campaign is covered in 3 simple steps and its power lies in the visibility of the outcome through a range of branded timeline pictures being noticed by a fan’s friends. An experience that looks slick yet is simple and quick to engage with is what makes this app a great user experience that benefits both brand visibility and the user’s online identity.

4.       Boojum: “Free Burrito Day.”

Boojum is an Irish owned Burrito Bar with 2 main outlets across Ireland that I and Mammoth have worked with for the last 2 years and I’m showing this example to illustrate how the action of a simple like can harness so much power.

With 2 restaurants in Ireland; one in Belfast, one in Dublin, and Boojum wanted to promote and deliver a FREE BURRITO DAY to one city in the Summer of 2011 to reward fans and customers. The idea we came up with was simple. Whichever respective Facebook page delivered the greatest number of likes during the competition duration would result in a FREE BURRITO DAY for all in the city. The app was set up to record, visualise and encourage shares and likes and that’s simply all that was required. The results were great and you can View the Case Study Here. 

So these examples are a handful amongst thousands of great or good examples, where a brand is able to successfully engage and interact with their audiences in a way that gives the brand valuable data and of course more likes – but importantly the apps are quick, simple, shareable and accessible. Many brands have now woken up to the fact that users on Facebook, in the main, do not want or have time to participate heavily with your brand, but if you manage to attract the few that will take a look at what you can offer then be sure of one thing – the app needs to be clear, concise, add value and most importantly, be simple.

finish app

Need a new ‘To Do List’ app for 2013? Maybe Start with Finish…

I’m a fan of to -do list apps, I have 3 or 4 installed and I’ve experimented with them all over the last couple of years, but I am now a monogamous user of my preferred app (so far), the fantastic iOS app ‘Clear’. It is the simplest of to do list apps, with a delightful gesture based UI and sounds; it doesn’t have a calendar or a reminder system and that’s maybe why I like it. It doesn’t bug me. Although that has the added risk of me forgetting about my to do lists sometimes. That kind of defeats the purpose right? So anyway, this week, I decided to try Finish from reading largely positive things about it online.

It’s premise; Finish what’s most important first.

The main point to Finish is that the things you must do fall into three broad categories: Urgent, less urgent, and not urgent. It is based on you preferring to organise items by “when” rather than “what”, which would be my preferred set up historically in terms of home, work, fitness etc…

Importantly, Finish lets you decide how soon those time frames should fall too, which could be very useful if you don’t mind mixing up to do’s based on priority.

After that, it’s really straight forward. Every new item you add is allocated to one of these three time-based categories automatically, based on the due date you give it. This is good, because you don’t have to remember what your Term Lengths are.

As time passes, items you’ve failed to mark as “done” will turn red, and items that started out as medium / long term will move up the list, until they become short-term. Then they too will turn red if you’ve not checked them off. I can start to see the benefits over clear already.

But – It’s not without flaws…

The main one is very annoying thanks to its presentation of tasks, you have to keep task titles very short in order for them to show up. When I added “Write blog article for website” as a task it told me “That’s a pretty long name!” What? No it isn’t!

For 69p it’s good value. It does have the time based and calendar functionality, which substantiates and warrants it’s ‘non – free’ status and I’m going to give it a go for a while. I’m not sure if it will pull me away from clear as it’s so lovely to use, and I know for other’s it’s niche time category format will be not for everyone. I think it’s suited to people with short to do lists, and generally short titles of things to do like “shopping” “gym” “pay phone bill”. But for those who wish to create detailed to do lists with very specific deadlines, or who love the simplicity of clear like me, it might not be for you.