Custom Facebook apps give businesses the ability to run promotions, integrate with newsletter services, generate leads and increase likes on their Facebook Page. Apps can act as micro-sites within a Facebook business Page, making their reach and power endless.
There are a lot of key components that go into building a successful Facebook app including design, functionability, and user engagement. We reached out to four industry experts who have been building Facebook apps since they first became popular in 2010 and asked them to give us their advice for building engaging Facebook apps. Their best practices are for general app building and apply to any business owner who is looking to create apps for a Facebook Page.
Here's what some of the top professionals had to say:
Best Practice #1: Build the Buzz
How many of you have built a Facebook application first and started marketing it second? In the past this was exactly what we did. These days, Social Media 180 begins by building the buzz around upcoming promotions before the actual launch.
Here's what we do:
1. Create a basic email capture application to pre-register fans for any upcoming promotion. Then we let fans know they'll be the first to know about an upcoming giveaway. This allows us to start creating status updates to drive traffic to the pre-registration application and capture email addresses on day one.
2. Use the captured email addresses to connect a third-party database to the clients in Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Include an auto-response outlining all the publicly available details about the upcoming promotion. Using proper messaging and a pre-registration page, two weeks is plenty of time to make sure your entire fan base has seen your status updates while you work on completing your app. Once you're ready to launch, you have access to a larger percentage of your Facebook audience than you would with a normal post on the day your app is released.
Best Practice #2: Strategize
A user-driven strategy is the key to building a successful Facebook app. Prior to building your app and announcing your new app to your fans, take some time to think about your audience and what they seek out in your brand.
Here are three things we do:
1. Do user tests. If you're not sure what your audience likes, you can do some user tests with different Facebook posts. Design the experience or intended result from there. Different markets require different approaches. For example, a restaurant app would be great for a voucher or contest, while a hotel app would be great for a room offer or photo contest app. The more in-tune you are with your audience the better response you'll get.
2. Think sharing. Share, don't sell, your brand and your message. Your fans and guests will appreciate the authentic social aspect and will want to share your app with their friends more readily. In addition, always make sure you're using a "Smart URL" to share your app on your Timeline so your fans can access it from their desktop or mobile device. Also include an image because images are viral inducing.
3. Pay attention to user experience. We understand that graphic design is not every person's forte, but there's nothing that turns a fan off more than an unattractive app. Stay committed to great brand/graphical aesthetics and UI design. If you don't have the design skill set yourself, seek out someone who does, the investment will be worth it for your business.
Best Practice #3: Consider Permissions and Mobile Capabilities
Provided by: Nick Vassos
Company: Juice Boxd
When examining the most successful campaigns that we've been able to develop for our clients, two main factors have stood out: the number of permissions requested and the ability to access the application from a mobile phone.
Two things to keep in mind:
1. Limit permissions. People have become hesitant to enter contests or use applications because of the daunting number of permissions that many businesses request. It's important that the client identifies the "must have" permissions and remove anything extra. (For some additional information on Facebook permissions and what marketers need to know, check out this guest post by Jim for Social Media Examiner: Facebook Permissions.)
2. Make it mobile! When it comes to mobile access, we know that more than 50 percent of people access Facebook from a mobile device. ShortStack provides the smartlink [Smart URL] to bridge the gap between your Facebook app and mobile devices and really increase adoption by the audience.
Best Practice #4: Keep it Simple!
The point of an app is to get users engaging and talking about your business or product. The easier it is for them to do so, the better. Whether your app is a contest, a gallery of photos or products, or a video you would like users to share, keep usability in mind.
Here are two things to remember:
1. Keep everything clear. How can you make it as easy as possible for your users to understand and interact the way you want them to? Are your Submit and Share buttons large and easy to see? Are there clear calls to action? Is the entry form easy to see and find or do users have to scroll through four screens to get to it.
2. Limit text. Less text is better! This is part of the usability factor. Users aren't clicking on your app to read a novel. They want to see what to do, do it, and move on. Try to keep descriptions, instructions, etc. as short and sweet as you can. Use visual elements to steer them along.