Facebook’s New Social Apps

November 15, 2011 by Heather McIlvaine

With social apps, you can reach more people on Facebook than ever before. (image: grasundsterne)

Frictionless sharing? Realtime serendipity? The words that Mark Zuckerberg used at f8 to describe the new Facebook may seem like lines straight out of a science fiction novel, but these funny-sounding phrases represent some pretty revolutionary ideas. In the previous SAP.info article, “Google+ vs. Facebook: Round 2”, you read up on frictionless sharing and the rationale behind it. Here, you’ll learn about its counterpart: realtime serendipity. By that, Facebook is referring to the new kind of social apps, built on the latest version of Open Graph, and the way people will interact with them.

If you read in your Ticker, for example, that “Karen is running in Central Park on Nike+” and “Joe is listening to California Sunrise on Spotify,” the hoped-for result is that you will also go for a run on Nike+, preferably while listening to that song on Spotify. These activities will then automatically appear on your Timeline and in your friends’ Tickers and News Feeds, and the ripple effect is set in motion.

It’s all going viral

Since Facebook’s Open Graph supports an unlimited combination of verbs and nouns, the possibilities for social apps are endless. The next time you take a look at your Ticker, you might find out that: “Joe is riding a Schwinn bike to work” or “Karen is reserving a table at Café Garbo.” It’s not hard to imagine that soon the “viral” phenomenon, which used to occur mostly around YouTube videos, will now also apply to restaurants, retail products, and the other minutiae that is shared via Facebook.

That’s why realtime serendipity, i.e. social apps, is the most important new feature on Facebook for businesses. In the previous article, we stated that businesses will have to do a lot more than accumulate Likes to stand out amidst the constant stream of updates. Social apps will enable companies to do that.

Let’s take Nike as an example. The company created an app, Nike+ GPS, that records your pace, distance, and route – it even cheers you on throughout your run. The most important aspect of the app, however, is that it enables you to post your accomplishments on Facebook. This means that every time you – and every other user of the app – finish a run, the Nike brand is broadcast on countless Tickers and News Feeds, regardless of whether those users are Fans of Nike or not. With social apps, companies are able to reach a much wider audience than they previously could on Facebook.

Next Page: New ranking algorithms for social apps

In the near future, there will no doubt be an explosion of social apps on the market, and Facebook, naturally, will give more weight to certain apps and updates than others. So how do you make sure your company’s social app is prominently displayed in the Tickers and News Feeds of your customers and potential customers? By paying attention to the three factors that determine an app’s Graphrank: co-efficient, interaction, and time decay.

The co-efficient factor refers to the relationship between two users. If Facebook determines that two users have many common interests, then the app activity from one user will be prominently displayed in the other user’s Ticker and News Feed. If two users have few common interests, app activity will be less prominently displayed. The second factor, interaction, is based on how often a user interacts with an app and how their friends react to it. If there is little interaction, then app activities will be shown less frequently. Finally, the time decay factor means that if an app is used only once, activity notices will appear less and less frequently and may even disappear altogether.

The takeaway

Businesses, your task is clear: you need to adapt your social media strategy to reap the benefits of frictionless sharing and realtime serendipity. Specifically, take advantage of the newest version of Facebook’s Open Graph and the unlimited possibilities for social apps. And finally, ensure that any social app you develop is useful for your customers. Only by creating an app that is truly relevant, will you be able to ensure the kind of continuous interaction that lands your brand in someone’s Top Stories.

The newest version of Open Graph is currently in beta. You can try it out here.

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