It feels like only yesterday when there was frenzy of blogging over Second Life. It seemed like an unstoppable hype machine. Bloggers, journalists, and marketers were painting a future with Second Life concerts, classrooms, and real-life brands selling virtual wares. Every adventurous brand willing to take a chance, from Coke to IBM to Toyota, hopped on the bandwagon. And then it all went silent.
Second Life today, post-hype-apocalypse, contains scattered groupings of people in a whole sea of empty space, containing a number of eerily abandoned brand islands. When recently digging through every press release I could find about a brand launching a new Facebook App, I started to wonder if this was the new brand wasteland. At the front of the Facebook list are a myriad of highly social applications with hundreds of thousands, even millions of active users. But to the back are all of the big names (Coke, Honda, Adidas, Verizon) with applications drawing in… 12 active users?
Are branded apps a lost cause or an untapped goldmine? And if not applications, how exactly are brands succeeding on Facebook?
What doesn’t seem to be working is just hopping on the bandwagon, applications for applications sake. Maybe the field is too crowded to penetrate. Maybe brands just aren’t approaching it right.
Why not follow Sony’s example and sponsor an already popular app? Possibly the only impressive case study I have run across in the realm of branded apps, Sony decided rebrand the popular Vampires application for the launch of the movie 30 Days of Night. The page trafficked over 11 million visits and the connected sweepstakes received six times the amount of projected entrants.
Jeremiah Owyang, a Forrester Analyst, gives insight into what made the program a success:
“Fishing where the fish are: Sony figured out where the already existing community was (remember to fish where the fish are) and rather than trying to rebuild something completely by scratch, they leveraged an existing successful application.
Rely on specialists for new arenas: In my many briefings with vendors and clients, specialized firms often provide something a general interactive firm or corporate web marketing team can’t. They have experience, know their area, and in this case, they knew to rely on someone that already knew Facebook.
Compliment the existing user experience: Sony didn’t beat the 3 million existing users with heavy advertising (and I’m sure RockYou wouldn’t have let them) over the head, instead offered value by giving away prizes, and tied in a movie that already existed.”
Another great thing about integrating with an already successful application is that often times you can find one that is actually built by your brand enthusiasts. Talk about fishing where the fish are!!
1. Don’t start a new version of something that is already popular.
2. Don’t overcomplicate the concept or interface.
3. Don’t extend a campaign without thinking about the social context.
4. Don’t separate your fans, reach them where they already exist.
Other Facebook Opportunities
Just because there are few App success stories, doesn’t mean that brands have not been successful on Facebook. To the contrary, there are a vast array of brands doing interesting things with Facebook sponsored groups. Brands that resonate with the young college crowd especially seem to be having success. Many of these groups pages act as brand mini-sites, a universe where users can flip through product, discuss their enthusiasm, download wallpapers and icons, and sign up for contests.
It seems that users have no problem interacting with brands on their own Facebook turf. it’s when brands start invading theirs that they have a problem.