DIGIDAY:SOCIAL – Is the App the Future of Social?

“Possibly but not definitiely”

“No, absolutely not”

“I would say yes (for the foreseeable future)”

Apps are a hot commodity across the mobile market and are growing in the social space.  As brands expand their presentation of branded content in the mobile space, social media marketers have to decide whether to use an app or the web to let a customer access their content.

David Gill, Senior Director of Mobile Marketing at Nielsen (moderator)

Evan Neufeld, VP of Marketing at Ground Truth

Adam Broitman, Founder of Circ.us

Gabe Dorosz, VP of Interactive at Cramer-Krasselt

Clearly the panel is not in agreement.  Apps are a channel through which to deliver social media.  Neufeld feels that the appropriateness of using an app depends largely on the brand and category.  Broitman compares mobile apps and their interface to AOL in the early days of the World Wide Web.  He sees them as a sleek interface where consumers who are uncomfortable with directly access web pages can find content.  Dorosz sees mobile as the eventual leading access point for social media, and feels that apps currently offer the best avenue to that content.

An app is a shorter, quicker, more convenient way to do things on the internet, according to Dorosz.  This is why they are attractive on mobile devices.  Adoption will be heavily influenced by consumer adoption (based on their preference and comfort level) and carriers.  Broitman feels that apps will be obsolete once there is more comfort with interfacing with HTML5 mobile sites.  Dorosz notes that apps are still relatively new, so they are behind the web in terms of fragmentation.  Desktop internet usage is becoming more focused on portals like Google or Facebook.  The question is whether there will be a similar behavior on mobile (e.g., will Apple become a sort of portal in how it presents apps on its devices?)

Gill asked the panel what the difference is between a social media web strategy and a Facebook app strategy.  Dorosz believes that apps on the web become shorthand for a utility experience, and therefore become a source of utility themselves.  Neufeld sees the necessary steps of mobile social media development as being parallel to desktop social media development.  Dorosz notes that industry as a whole is still quantifying the value of acquiring fans, so the value of a Facebook app still hasn’t determined.

Broitman doubts the ROI of mobile apps, as they generally are not used repeatedly by a customer.  Neufeld reminds brands that they need to know WHY they are building an app and that they need to advertise it appropriately.  Dorosz and Neufeld described how some brands are viewing apps as a short-lived interactive campaign (e.g., games and movies) to leverage the brief spike in interest that they generate.  Dorosz sees brands eventually leveraging HTML5 to advertise interactively on existing apps rather than feeling the need to build their own just to get their presence on users’ devices.

When asked about what are the best metrics to measure success on an app, Dorosz suggests that you have to tether app activities to offline actions (e.g., driving customers to stores) rather than in isolation.  You need to determine how to measure message penetration to really understand the value of an app, but such a model is still being designed.  Broitman is excited about the promise of apps like passive check-in apps as to how they offer a connection to real world activities.  Gill’s metric focus is on trackability of actions and customers.

© 2009-2011 the freedmarketer. All rights reserved.