Q: How can a customized Facebook Timeline app help my business?
A: This question usually pops up after a business realizes that its catchall Facebook page is great for building excitement about the brand but has limits when it comes to specific promotions or tracking interest in ancillary products such as a new line. A Facebook Timeline app allows a business to create strategic one-off pages, then track market intelligence, referral traffic, customer engagement and conversion for that page. The app also enables companies to run promotions on a campaign basis (short-term) or an evergreen basis (ongoing).
Roland Smart--vice president of marketing for Involver, a Preferred Marketing Developer (PMD) technology provider that has consulted with Facebook's own marketing team--gave us his Timeline tips.
Go long. Think long-term when it comes to back-end technology, Smart says: "We advise our customers to consider how to make their campaign-based applications more evergreen."
For example, Facebook and USA Today built a custom application that allowed users to watch and rate Super Bowl commercials. After the big game, USA Today could re-skin the app for similar watch-and-rate experiences for the following football season; this way the media company is able to expand its reach and generate value between Super Bowls.
Focus, focus, focus. "Use your existing social channels to learn what unique brand opportunities exist before developing a custom app," Smart says. "For example, you might discover that your Facebook community wants to learn about new products, so you can use your app to solicit user-generated content that will influence product development. Always look for successful real-world behaviors that become amplified through social channels." In other words, if it already works outside Facebook, it should provide fantastic results within Facebook.
Buy value. Timeline apps aren't cheap. "Expect to pay between $50,000 and $150,000 for a PMD to build a one-off Timeline application," Smart says. But there are ways to significantly reduce the costs. "If you can't develop your Timeline app in-house, you can turn to visual authoring solutions that require only designers," he says. "If you don't have designers, try an interactive agency that can build it for you on top of a third-party technology platform."
Keep in mind that using a third party's existing platform and re-skinning the app with several cutting-edge campaigns over the course of years is where the value lies.