Last year when Facebook opened there platform there was a sudden influx of brands looking to gain access to a new channel for branded exposure. The demand was significant and just in the past couple weeks we have seen an increasing number of applications come out from companies like Context Optional and Buddy Media. How do these new applications differ from websites of the past and how what new opportunities do they provide?
What are the Opportunities?
Facebook and all the other social platforms have provided brands with a new way of engaging with their customer. As social media has provided a channel for direct engagement, social platforms have provided brands with a central location for a large number of users. Companies (brands) in turn get direct and targeted exposure to their end consumer and it builds brand awareness.
The one problem with these new channels? Monitoring ROI is extremely challenging. While you can get users to download an application or most users on social networks are not in a state where a direct purchase will be made. As such these new branded applications are much better at building awareness and building “engagement”.
What Types of Things Are Being Built?
There is a wide array of applications that are being built. Some also work and some don’t which makes many of these applications a crap shoot without some sort of expertise and the purchase of individual installations. Some of them are being hailed as great successes though and the two primary companies I know that are doing a good job are Buddy Media and Context Optional.
Today Buddy Media announced the release of the Bacardi Mojito application. Yesterday Context Optional announced the release of a few applications as well including Today I’m Toasting by Miller. The place where I see the most room for growth is on new platforms like the iPhone. For instance, Audi released an extremely successful application on the iPhone which was one of the most downloaded applications for at least a week.
Today the application is the 5th most popular free application according to Apple. You can’t find a single branded application among the top applications on Facebook or any other platform. While this has to do a lot with the timing of this application, I would suggest that this Audi application probably ranks among the most downloaded applications all together.
What Does the Future Hold?
There is clearly an increasing demand for branded applications but the biggest question is if these brands feel that the investment is worth the return. Most likely a large number will have successes but as some brands generate a less than satisfactory result we will see those advertising dollars go to other channels. Fortunately we are still extremely early in this process and trying to figure out how all of this will pan out.
The reality is that brands need to try experimenting in this space and hopefully over time social networks and other non-traditional channels can prove that they are worth serious advertising dollars.