Facebook Applications are marketing heaven but not a development cakewalk.

Facebook has more than 500 million active users. It is a good viral marketing for any company to advertise its products through Facebook.  50% of its active users log on to Facebook any given day.  Average user has 130 friends. People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook.  These big facts encourage any marketing company to mine the gold in the Biggest Social Networking Platform.

Facebook Applications and development Platform:

Facebook offers development platform that allows users to develop applications that interact and integrate with Facebook experience.  Every month, more than 70% of Facebook users engage with Platform applications. More than 550,000 active applications are currently on Facebook Platform. All this would give enough confidence to dive into Facebook application development.

So what else is the problem?

To keep up with race of the emerging social marketing and capture market, the social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google are releasing half-baked development APIs, just to be forerunners. Facebook has several APIS to build the Facebook Applications.  Some APIS are deprecated and other not fully developed.  Facebook would tout about its API and release a fully blown documentation. Developer since has read through all documentation would promise himself and the client to get the application done.

When the time comes to implementation the developer would realize that the documentation is what Facebook wants to do with their API but has not completely implemented or tested it.  The bugs about the implementation are buried deep down in their Bugzilla account. And developers wait endlessly for the bugs to get fixed.   And developers break promises and workaround the solution to complete the project or download their latest API code and fully go though new changes and see if the new API supports the features.

Based on a recent first hand development experience, some examples of facebook app issues include:

  1. Facebook and its application have issues with Safari browser since Safari doesn’t support storing users cookies by default.  And the solution by Facebook is left to developer’s discretion.
  2. Facebook currently does not support adding apps to the users Wall tab.  It has been mentioned in the development API that this feature is deprecated in early 2010.  But the Facebook has not made any official announcement about disabling App Wall tab feature and the product guide still shows the old features. Disconnect between Marketing and Development team is clearly evident.  It is hard to blame just the Facebook because there is a problem at large in software development world where the products have to be oversold to sustain and generate revenue.

Past marketing failures:

Some examples from the past are Google wave. It was so hyped in its initial stages and on August 4, 2010, however, Google announced that the product would no longer be developed as a standalone product due to lack of interest.  http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/update-on-google-wave.html If any company or agency spent time and money to leverage on Google Wave they should have been at a loss.

Take away for end users and app developers:

The situation is like throwing noodles onto the wall to test if spaghetti is cooked. We are the walls of various app features. In this transition era, we cannot be left behind and cannot stop venturing into these buzzy but untested features. It is always encouraging to invest marketing and branding time in most popular marketing platforms to date.  The only solutions I can think of are to keep in mind that any emerging feature will have an associated risk. As a marketing development firm, we have to be adaptable and distinguish between offering well-known features versus popular untested features.  There is a need for shared responsibility of associated risks among and need for adaptability and flexibility on design features and products when working with and promising to deliver solutions based on emerging technologies. Even with these gotchas, social networking is paving ways for new marketing revolutions and we have to keep up with it.


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profileWeb Developer working in advertising agency.

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