As Facebook and social media continue to form the digital lifestyle grid, companies are eager to develop applications on type to acquire and deepen intimacy with customers. However, most big brand attempts at social apps fail.
I recently had breakfast with my friend Stan Joosten, who works in digital marketing innovation at P&G. We contemplated the cause and solution…
Instead of approaching social app development like television production — which most still do — marketers and agencies should take a product development approach. This includes developing a concept with the expectation of iterating and testing in the beginning until you get the right product-to-market fit — as well as factoring in frequent releases for new features and bug-fixes, and periodic releases for entirely new versions.
Given the high expense of social apps, marketers should develop standards and templates so apps can be reapplied in many different contexts, across different markets, brands and campaigns. If done right, the expense of development and management can be amortized across different stakeholders and over time, making higher quality and more sophisticated apps more feasible.
Given the volatility of agency tenures and frequent rotations of brand managers, marketing investment most often is directed to shorter-term campaign tactics with quick, observable response. But unlike investments in television spots and campaigns, social apps must provide value for people on an ongoing basis. Despite immediate excitement around downloads and trials, repetitive usage and deepening engagement is much more important.
A better social app strategy requires the leadership of marketers with a longer-term view and cross-enterprise accountability — most certainly a CMO or head of digital, who seeks standardized performance and KPIs across the entire brand portfolio.
That’s why, despite the title of this post, apps really should be tactical components of an underlying, enterprise-wide platform strategy.