At Friend2Friend, an analysis of our clients’ branded Apps and Facebook Pages through 2012 has seen a significant increase in mobile activity. An average of 11% of all traffic to our branded mobile-enabled Facebook Apps now come from smartphones, a trend that has grown by 450% since January of 2012. In addition, we have seen a tremendous growth in mobile likes for our clients on Facebook, with 350% more likes coming from mobile since January 2012.
This trend is something Facebook as been quite clear about. In October of this year, Facebook announced they had 604 million monthly active mobile users (MAUs) — an increase of 61% year over year. This compared to a 26% YoY for MAUs overall. In October of this year, Nielsen reported that mobile users now spend 30% of all their online time on social media sites, and estimates there is now an audience of over 170M unique social mobile audiences in the United States.
Best Practices for Branded Facebook Apps
So it’s clear. Mobile experiences are going to become an inescapable part of life and business on Facebook. Here are the best practices brands should follow when creating a branded Facebook App experience:
Many branded Apps on Facebook – far too many – don’t generate stories that share a user’s experiences with their friends. Whether it’s an Open Graph action, a post published by a user, or even just a simple “Share” button, most branded Apps simply don’t have a way to reach a fan’s friends. It’s like inviting fans to a massive party, but not letting them tell their friends about it. Start changing this by adding a standard Facebook “Share” to all points of the App experience. Always be on the lookout to offer fans the chance to share and showcase with their friends’ whatever the main App activity may be — whether it’s entries, answers, comments, videos, or photos.
Facebook Apps must be at least viewable on mobile devices. “Viewable” might mean, at worst, that your fans have to “pinch and zoom” on a shrunken screen to engage in an App experience. It’s frustrating and uncomfortable to have to zoom and scroll around on a mobile screen to see buttons, read text, and create content. However, it’s better than giving your fans an error screen.
To avoid the frustrations of the “pinch and zoom” screen, we recommend the next step: optimization. Optimizing a branded App for a mobile experience means adjusting the layout for a smartphone screen, tailoring the App experience to your fans’ behavior on mobile, making the written content short and readable, and making the action buttons clear and obvious.
Comparing Optimized and Un-Optimized Mobile Apps
Comparing Successful and Failed Mobile App Experiences
Brands must always promote their Apps, otherwise fans will never see them. As of this writing, Facebook still does not feature Apps as tiles on Facebook mobile, so the only way fans will visit Apps are as App-generated stories, Facebook ads, or links posted by the Facebook Page.
When posting links as a branded Facebook Page, getting the right link is critical. Pages must post links understands the source of the click, be it mobile or desktop, and diverts the user to the right version of the App. Too often, brands just copy and post the Facebook App URL which doesn’t redirect fans to the right version because native Facebook App URLs are not mobile-friendly. Fans are then led to an error screen or back to the original Facebook Page. With the right URL, the App can be shared through all mediums — email, posts, tweets, blog articles, and more.
Examples of Mobile Optimized Experiences
In response to the growth of social mobile, we have optimized our clients’ most recent Apps. We share the mobile-aware bit.ly URL with our clients, and encourage them to use it in their marketing outreach.
To see those apps, click the BIT.LY links below (ideally on your smartphone!):
Build a Bear “Bear Me” – http://bit.ly/bear-me
Polartec “Made Possible 2012″ – http://bit.ly/TFH59l
Outside Magazine “So There I Was” – http://bit.ly/SrC9BJ
HarperCollins “Epic Firsts Campaign” – http://bit.ly/QSbn6Q
Universal Pictures “This Is 40″ Social Gallery – http://bit.ly/Pi3NFO
Outside “Gear Wish List” – http://bit.ly/QxbqHX
New Belgium Brewing “Glass That Gives” – http://bit.ly/QKuuB8
New Belgium Brewing “Ranger Map” – http://bit.ly/QIv5TO
A Review of Top Ten Product Brands on Facebook
We also reviewed the mobile-friendliness of the most popular Facebook Pages for non-high tech consumer products as listed by FanPageList.com:
We looked the mobile experiences for their branded Facebook Apps and it became apparent that too many weren’t fully functional on mobile. We “liked” each brand on Facebook, visited each branded App experience and – when we could- shared it through the App to our Facebook News Feed. Finally, we read those shared stories on mobile Facebook on our News Feed as our Facebook friends would on their own News Feeds.
These are the steps we followed to test to test the mobile App experience:
- Visit the brand’s fan page, as a fan on Facebook/desktop, e.g. http://www.facebook.com/walmart
- Click on one of the app tiles, for example “Just Dance 4” on Walmart
- Participate and look for a “share” opportunity.
- The Share should result in an appearance in your mobile News Feed, one that your friends will see on their mobile News Feed too.
- Click on that link on your mobile phone.
This will have one of four results:
- The link will resolve to a nice mobile experience that your mobile friend can participate in (see Polartec “You Pick the Winner” and “This is 40″ movie ticketing images above), or
- The link will resolve to an un-optimized mobile experience that requires that you “pinch and zoom” to see and participate in the experience (see Converse below), or
- The link will reload the brand’s Facebook page on mobile; this is a ‘graceful’ fail. It’s what you get when the App has been marked officially as “not mobile compatible.” But while it is graceful, it still means that no mobile fans can participate, or
- The link will fail completely (see CocaCola below)
It’s important to note: Sharing the native Facebook URL for a branded Facebook App is enough to understand if the experience “works” for mobile Facebook users. That URL is not intelligent about moving the user to a proper mobile experience, if there is one. The only true test is to use the branded App experience itself and test its App-generated stories.
Top Brand Mobile App Review: the results
1. Coca-Cola: FAIL
Coca-Cola had 50M Facebook fans and, like all the brands featured on this list, had a few branded Apps on their page in addition to standard tiles such as Photos, Events, and Likes.
Coca-Cola’s “Sharing Happiness,” “Home” and “Page Creator” Apps also were not mobile-friendly. This was especially unfortunate for the “Sharing Happiness” App, which featured virtual gifts that became inaccessible on mobile.
2. Disney: FAIL
Disney had 38M Facebook fans and recently featured the Sony Magical Moments App, a sweepstakes where fans entered videos for a chance to win prizes. We tested the sweepstakes, which is now over, and found that App-generated stories led to another error message.
The Disney Get Tickets App on the Finding Nemo page (14M Facebook fans) was also mobile-unfriendy, cutting off its mobile fans from a chance to buy movie tickets. The Finding Nemo Social Player App was a little better, but not by much; it just shrunk down the desktop App and provided a “pinch-and-zoom” mobile experience, not ideal for a mobile user.
3. MTV: FAIL
MTV had over 32M Facebook fans and three branded Apps on its Facebook page: Movies Exclusive, MTV Unplugged, and MTV Art Breaks.
The Movies Exclusive App created stories that led to another pinch-and-zoom experience, not ideal for the small screen but a little better than an error screen.
The MTV Unplugged App, created stories that led to smilar suboptimal mobile experiences – and some features simply weren’t available on mobile.
4. Converse: FAIL
Converse had over 33M Facebook fans and three branded Apps: Rubber Tracks, Fan Machine and Warrior Remix Contest.
The Rubber Tracks App allowed fans to comment on artists tracks recorded at the company’s Converse Rubber Tracks studio, and the “Warrior Remix Contest” App allowed fans to vote for their favorite tracks. Both Apps generated stories that were visible on Facebook mobile but mobile-unfriendly once a friend clicked through. Those stories led to pinch-and-zoom page, making the act of voting and commenting tricky and frustrating.
Converse’s Facebook Page did post links on its own Timeline, but those also were failures as they led to error pages on Facebook mobile, such as the following link for the Rock Your School App.
5. Starbucks: PASS
Starbucks had over 32M Facebook fans and did an excellent job at making their Facebook presence mobile-friendly. The brand didn’t showcase many in-depth, branded Facebook Apps other than a Pinterest link, an International App for fans to connect with country-specific Facebook Pages, and a Register to Vote App. When each App created a story, it always linked to mobile-friendly pages that allowed fans to easily engage on any device.
6. Red Bull: PASS
Red Bull had 32M Facebook fans and a variety of branded Apps: Redbull.tv, Athletes, Games+Apps, and RedBull Holy $#!T. App-generated stories clicked through to pages optimized for viewing videos and photos on mobile.
7. Oreo: FAIL
Oreo had over 27M Facebook fans and multiple branded Apps.
Their prominent 100th Birthday App offered no opportunities for fans to share the App experience with their friends. When participants entered, nothing was shared and no friends using the desktop version of Facebook, let alone Facebook mobile, would know. A link to the “Birthday of the Day” on their mobile News Feed went nowhere.
More of their prominent Apps, such as the Moments Gallery App and the Oreo Ambassador App, were promoted in August – with similar results that were not mobile-friendly.
8. Sony Playstation: FAIL
Sony Playstation had 24M Facebook fans. Their highly engaging All-Stars Battle Royale App allowed Facebook fans to comment and interact with the latest news, videos and images behind Playstation’s upcoming video game – if you were on desktop. Mobile Facebook fans would never see a story linking to the App, which is likely not even mobile-enabled.
9. Skittles: FAIL
Skittles had 23M Facebook fans and has been known for their fun, engaging marketing campaigns. However, their Experience the Rainbow App generated stories that didn’t link to a mobile-friendly version of the App, resulting in a lost opportunity to share Skittles’ content. Their Rainbow App, a collection of @Skittles tweets, could be shared but was mobile-unfriendly as all stories clicked on Facebook mobile led to an error page.
10. Angry Birds: PASS
Angry Birds, with over 21M Facebook fans, did an excellent job at reaching mobile fans. Their Apps mostly allowed fans to share their experiences — indeed, the “Send a Card” App is purely focused on sharing with friends, and all stories were visible on mobile and led to a mobile-friendly version of the App. However, their latest Halloween Photo Contest App generated stories that were mobile-unfriendly and merely clicked through back to the Facebook Page on Facebook mobile
We learned a great deal stepping through these Apps. We got the impression that a number of these brands haven’t invested enough time and effort into their Facebook Apps. Many offer no kinds of sharing at all, and few promote their apps at all. Missing out of investment in this area is missing out on a great opportunity to delight, entertain and engage fans while they are cruising their Facebook newsfeed.