Should you build a Facebook app?

Should you consider building a Facebook application?  Rob O’Regan lays out 5 tangible benefits of a Facebook fan page that you should read.  My favorite point in the article is the one about sponsorship revenue.

For consumer publications, there is a real opportunity to create large, profitable marketing programs for advertisers with a Facebook app. Facebook apps collect detailed information about users that can be used (carefully) to narrowly target an advertiser’s marketing, or your editorial.

Good apps leverage something people already want to do, like play games or share pictures, so they can be self-sustaining without a lot of paid promotion.  Scott Varland, CEO of social/mobile agency/app developer SocialBomb, says successful apps offer either value, utility or pleasure to users.

Of course, some marketers are already going down this road themselves, without media brands. Toy maker Fisher-Price commissioned Moments to Share, a Facebook app that lets users easily create a photo-sharing timeline of their children’s golden (pre-teen) years.   Fisher-Price populates the right rail of the page with age- and gender-appropriate toys that can be purchased direct from their online store.  They also get a great marketing lab to test their assumptions about the accuracy of their targeting.

Any one of dozens of family magazine brands could have commissioned the same application and sold it to Fisher-Price or Hasbro or Toys-R-Us.  If Fisher-Price gets tired of it, you could swap in another advertiser.

Developing a custom Facebook app can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $250,000, and in rare cases even more.  In addition, unless you already have a large following on Facebook, you’ll need to promote the application pretty heavily to get people to sign up for it and invite others.  You’ll probably need a detailed ROI model to sell an advertiser on a large Facebook program, but the revenue potential is pretty large as well.  If your app hits it big and goes viral, the business can get a lot more profitable.

When you add in promotional and potential technology costs, an app strategy could get into the mid six figures.  This certainly would be a big deal for a small publisher, but larger media companies could spread the cost of a Facebook app across a number of titles to get to scale quickly.

Smaller media companies can reduce risk by coming up with a less-ambitious app for $20k and to “test the waters” with their audience. Then, if the response is good, you might find a large advertiser willing to sponsor a more ambitious program.

For even lower risk, you can try out some free apps like the ones Rob O’Regan talks about in “How app add-ons can boost your brand’s Facebook presence“.

You almost certainly do not have Facebook app developers working for you.  Going to a specialist developer is the way to go.  Here are a few Facebook app developers that are out there.  If you know of a good app developer, feel free to tell us about them in the comments:

SocialCubix (

AvenueSocial (

SocialBomb ( We know and like these guys, and they do impressive work, but we haven’t done business with them ourselves.

This post originally appeared on eMedia Vitals


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