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.

The Importance of a “Digital Centric” Approach to Your Brand

This post is a summary of a recent blog I wrote for Smart Insights on how a brand strategy must consider and ensure a “Digital Centric” approach to the brand creation and ongoing activities.

In 2013, more than any other year; website(s), search marketing, mobile content, social media, rich media, e-commerce, email marketing and their interaction, all have to be carefully considered in a brand building process.

Key Brand Factors

1. Customer

In a branding process it all starts with the customer; considering a number of factors from age to gender to disposable income, through to their estimated frequency of purchase.

The demographics will have a digital footprint, It is vital to determine what these customers will search for, what devices they will be using and when and which social networks, websites and apps they engage with, how often, and when.

Offline, a brand’s connection with customers will deliver an experience good or bad. For example in retail, a customer can call to get a location and opening hours, drive to the location, walk into a store or warehouse, access the checkout, purchase effectively and leave safely and securely.

Online branding should deliver the same experience that you wish to deliver for your customers; including accessibility. There is though a long way to go for this to be taken as the norm.

In a recent survey only 18% of brands surveyed admitted to being “seriously” committed to delivering the best possible online user experience (UX). More reading on this statistic via a recent Feb 2013 report is available via e-consultancy.

2. Identity

For some, this is their understanding of where branding starts and finishes. Of course, we know there is much more, but it is true that it is what instantly connects customers with brands. It can create interest, curiosity, affinity and connections.

A hugely important factor to consider when it comes to identity is naming. In Digital Marketing this impacts most on search.

Another key factor is how the brand stands out in a multi – platform crowded experience. Our bookmarks, web apps on our browser, image results for search and also our mobile app icons and more, should make everyone think about how the identity performs and connects with the audience.

Facebook is a great example of how it’s distinctive “Blue F” and like “thumbs up” icon works well alongside or in isolation to the Facebook logo making it perfect for a multi – platform approach.

fACEBOOK THUMBS UP Facebook logo Facebook

 3. Competitors

From searching online, to sampling apps, to experiencing website UX and subscribing to their emails, competitor analysis is more open and accessible than ever before.

More than ever before, insight can be gained to learn what they offer, how they communicate, what experiences they have and where they focus customer and product attention.

All brands have to be aware that they are being watched, Prices are being matched, tweets are being scanned, and websites are being trawled through so as brands can  begin to gain a competitive advantage.

4. Messaging

Key messages to support the product, service or customer value are essentially what add weight to an identity and enable consumers to “get it” in a few seconds.

Tesco’s key ‘brand driver’ is simple; “Every Little Helps”. This means different things to different people, but Tesco strive through digital, to make shopping easier, more helpful, and personalised and more rewarding through its content, features, rewards, mobile apps, personalised offers and multi – channel shopping experiences.

“Every Little Helps”, suits perfectly.tescoonline

Sky’s key message is “Believe in Better”. Sky do, over all the home entertainment and connectivity providers, have best in class solutions and the user experience it always seems is largely ahead than their competitors. Sky online products just feel right. I believe their products and user interface is “better” and I also have noticed  their belief in being better has led to them being first for key innovations such as their “Sky Go” app.

5. Location

When developing a brand project, location is a key factor. With online, location becomes important because the business is not in total control of its audience and their location.

A key element to online branding with regards to location is the fact that if a business is selling online across various countries then it MUST invest in a commitment to at least consider the impact of language, culture – centric online advertising and importantly also be able to deliver on shipping timelines which customers expect.

Location, as part of brand awareness and engagement has also become much more of a factor with the use of smartphones. Location based apps to help customers on the go find a business, buy using their mobile, share etc are adding value to the brand. A great example of a brand investing successfully in digital brand strategies per location is Starbucks.  Read More about Starbucks’ digitally aligned strategy here

6. Product

In branding processes, products are considered in terms of their key messaging and top level display in line with the brand image and positioning of the company. If a brand is positioned as having unique or ‘competitor busting’ attributes then what digital media allows is the opportunity to show this like never before with features such as:

  • Video content
  • Interactive personalisation
  • Sharing facilities
  • Augmented reality
  • Real time configuration

A great personalised online brand product experience comes courtesy of Nike. Nike ID  This fits Nike’s highly personalised and user -connected brand experience which offers personal and complementary products such as Nike + and Nike Fuel.

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7. People

How people in an organisation understand and deliver the brand are central to making the brand work. Online, people still remain an important element to the brand on a number of levels. Customers may see, hear and read about key members of the team; customers may wish to check the history or find out more about a person they met to ‘suss them out’ further.

People are responsible for the online brand delivery because a digital brand communication strategy is nothing without content. Businesses must ask these people related questions:

  • Do I have the resource to communicate online?
  • Does my online content style match my messaging and tone of voice?
  • What channels do I use to enable efficient customer service?
  • I have a team of content writers online how do I ensure consistency?
  • Will my staff’s personal and business related online activity strengthen or harm my brand?

In Conclusion…

Branding and brands simply are not successful in 2013 without ensuring digital is central to how they are communicated, advertised, consumed and shared. By taking into account the key factors mentioned in this article and ensuring there is a strategy that considers the right digital mix in support of the brand position, businesses can strengthen their online position in the marketplace and thrive in the digital world.

View the full article on Online branding: a digital-centric approach to developing brands here.