Mobile Marketing Social Media

Branded Facebook Apps: Misunderstood, but Definitely Not Dead

May 6, 2013

As marketers, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of the colorful commentary and bold headlines that fill the pages of our favorite industry news outlets. One such headline that first emerged when Facebook updated to its Timeline format was the following: “Branded Facebook apps* are dead.”

People in the marketing community have been quick to cite reasons why Facebook apps are on the decline, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not always about us. It’s actually about them – your brand’s target consumers. It’s their personal preferences and surrounding culture that truly matter, not the latest claims or myths propagated by industry insiders.

Building within the Facebook environment can prime your brand to reach a larger, more engaged audience. Facebook has more than 1 billion monthly active users that spend 6.75 hours per month on average browsing the site. With this kind of built-in reach, why wouldn’t marketers lust at the opportunity to build an experience where people already are?

Just consider the success of both The Walking Dead “Dead Yourself” app’s 2 million unique visitors and 360i client H&R Block’s “Dreamfund” app’s estimated 1 million dream submissions.

Perhaps marketers have been swayed by those who tout the “death” of Facebook branded apps. Here are three of the most common myths about Facebook apps, and why they are untrue.

    1. Since Facebook did away with true tabs* on pages, they’re now too hard for people to find. This was once true, when Facebook made the switch to Timeline, but it isn’t anymore. Not only has Facebook paid media evolved to seamlessly direct users to such apps, but tradition has it that Facebook will bring the tab design back for brand pages following the recent redesign for users. Additionally, direct linking to apps from posts has evolved to allow a more seamless user experience, thus allowing brands to abide by best practices when promoting an app
    2. Facebook iFrames don’t allow for enough creative freedom. Again, once true, but developers have now evolved beyond “boxy” template offerings to what are essentially full microsites within an iFrame. Grey Poupon’s “The Society” and The Walking Dead’s “Dead Yourself” Facebook apps are examples of strong creative design and usability
    3. Facebook apps don’t translate well on mobile devices. This has never been true; though it is a fact that designing for mobile is a more rigorous (and expensive) endeavor from a development standpoint – especially if you aim to deliver the exact same user experience on mobile and desktop. However, as developers adjust their capabilities to account for the ever-growing importance of mobile (as they should), the prices are adjusting as well.


Now that we’ve dispelled these myths, it’s hard to ignore the inherent sharability and higher potential for engagement that branded Facebook apps bring to the table. If the goal of your activation is to garner engagement and facilitate conversation, then building within Facebook may make sense for your brand. While community size may play into the app’s organic discoverability, the tool shouldn’t be discounted due to a small Facebook fan base – in fact, it could help drastically increase the number of fans in a brand’s Facebook community.

As branded content continues to skyrocket, it becomes increasingly critical for brands to be discoverable, relevant and seamless when it comes to targeting consumer activity. Given the massive reach that Facebook provides, it’s likely that no matter who your target audience is, they are on Facebook for a significant portion of their day.

*In this post we define a Facebook ‘App’ as anything custom a developer creates within the Facebook platform. A Facebook ‘Tab’ is the entry point to a simple app. You might have also heard the term Facebook ‘Canvas,’ which is a microsite-like experience that requires permission from a user to view.

Cover photo via Shinesquad