Facebook to Marketers: Time to Make Your Apps More Social

Visualize a Billion Social Actions ... In Just One Hour

By Published on .

Mark Zuckerberg wants you to create a mobile social application.

Facebook's CEO may not have said that directly, but its f8 event last week marked one of the most important milestones in the progression of mobile social media. Pretty soon, most mobile apps will be social apps, and Zuckerberg just ensured that these apps will integrate with Facebook.

Before f8, Facebook reported that it had 750 million active users, including 250 million mobile users. Currently, it counts more than 800 million active users and upwards of 350 million mobile users. By the next update, perhaps when Facebook records its billionth active user, it's safe to expect that more than half of its members will be accessing Facebook from a mobile device.

That on its own – the idea of 500 million mobile social media users, on a single platform no less – is staggering enough. Yet consider how much activity will be generated through Facebook from those 500 million users. When Foursquare notched its billionth check-in, it came out with a snazzy video that tech bloggers and data visualization geeks shared ad infinitum. Facebook will soon be poised to generate a billion social actions every hour.

Before f8, Facebook had already made it easy for mobile app developers to add social experiences. With Facebook Connect, app developers could allow users to log in with their Facebook credentials and easily share content with their friends.

With the updates from f8, Facebook has changed the rules with the changes to its Open Graph, a term for how it connects all actions and pages from the web and mobile devices with social activities on its network. Applications using Facebook's Open Graph now can ask for permissions to persistently post to a user's Facebook profile, which has been rebranded as the Timeline. Better still, the actions themselves can be customized. Rather than simply "liking" a story or page, Nike + users can say they "ran" a certain distance, or FoodSpotting users can say they "spotted" a dish.

This is a killer combination. Persistent posting eases permission hurdles and gives the app a chance to generate a far wider audience. The customization allows the messaging to be on brand and align with a marketer's objectives. Delta may try to maximize activity around flying, while JetBlue could align an app with its campaign and try to own mindshare for "jetting." Facebook Connect had generated some interest before, but the Open Graph actions should excite any app developer.

There are a number of questions you need to answer now. What makes your brand social? If you have a mobile app, what actions should be socialized? If you didn't have a mobile app already, should you now, given the potential for persistent sharing through Facebook? If you focus more on apps, do you have a plan and the resources to properly promote it?

Not everyone needs a mobile app, and not every mobile app needs to be social, but Facebook just provided a lot more motivation for marketers to release mobile apps with social hooks. If you thought people's social activity streams were busy already, mobile's going to trigger billions and then trillions of new actions.

David Berkowitz is vice president of emerging media and innovation, 360i.
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