Keep focus on social features for app success, Facebook says

Companies will succeed with their Facebook applications if they can do three things: provide an app that is more fun to use with friends, eliminate surprises with the social interactions taking place, and make sure the app mimics real world social interactions, says the head of growth for Facebook Canada.

Take Facebook’s built-in photo app for example, Elmer Sotto told the audience at Toronto’s Oct. 12 Democamp presentation, it might not have as many features as other photo-sharing Web sites, but it has one killer feature – the ability to tag your friends. That adds context to the image that is important, he says.

Zynga Game Network Inc., a San Francisco-based company that makes popular Facebook games Farmville and Cityville, is another example of when a focus on social features can trump other aspects, Sotto says. “What Zynga discovered, is it’s not about how awesome the game is graphically… it’s all about one thing, which is the player, the gamer, the person.”

Since launching its developer platform in 2007, Facebook has attracted more than 1 million developers from more than 180 countries. More than two-thirds of Facebook users interact with the platform every month, and more than 250,000 Web sites also tie into the platform.

Last month, Facebook announced some major updates to its platform at its f8 developer’s conference. Sotto recapped these at Democamp, reminding developers they could now use Facebook’s open graph to share more user interactions than previously. Whereas before Facebook users could only “like” something, now more verbs can express their actions – for example a user could share they “listened” to a streaming song, or “cooked” a specific recipe.

“If any of you have been programming on our platform since 2007, my apologies,” Sotto said. “You are now able to tell a much fuller story about what people can do through your applications.”

San Jose-based startup Vidyard demonstrated its video management solution for business Web sites at Democamp, and showed off the product’s social integration. The player can add-in a call-to-action next to a video that helps convert a video watcher into a paying customer.

“Video now is an interactive element, it’s not just an overlay,” said Mike Litt, CEO of Vidyard.

The solution also allows businesses to push video to multiple channels with one upload, posting it to the Web site, YouTube channel, Facebook, and Twitter and then applying analytics to see what channel performed best.

Facebook focuses on making its platform easy for many developers to use, Sotto says, rather than providing one-on-one assistance. Facebook has a small team in Canada he says, so the focus is on making the API a one-stop resource that provides developers with everything they need to build successful apps. Facebook has recently improved the way distribution of apps occurs on its network.

“In the past, you’d have to be a really good Web marketer,” Sotto says. “Now your app interactions will be pushed out to the Timeline, the Ticker, and the Newsfeed.”

Toronto-based Upverter demonstrated another Web-based product that hinged on social interaction at Democamp. The company has designed an HTML 5-based electronics design canvas that can be used in a Web browser. Users share their different part schematics with a common library, and can also draw on parts in the shared library for their own diagrams.

Brian JacksonBrian Jackson is the Associate Editor at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.
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