May 01

Building Online Communities with Social Applications

Yesterday I caught a tweet by Rohit Bhargava that caught my eye. It referenced a post by Jay Baer that mentions the lack of personnel often assigned to social media accounts. According to Baer,
“This is why one of the most common questions I hear at speaking engagements and in corporate conference rooms is ‘How can we do this well with limited resources?’ I’ve even heard on more than a handful of occasions the conversational shoulder shrug of ‘We can get software approved, but we can’t add headcount.’”

Scaling doesn’t have to be something you do with bigger headcount. In the same respect that advertisements scale the reach of sales, social web applications scale the reach of Community Managers. A web application built on the Facebook Platform can increase Fan counts significantly, simplify customer service or HR, or anything we program them to, really.

So at the risk of sounding preachy, I’ll just present three case studies of social apps I’ve seen built on Heroku that get what I’m talking about here:

1. ASICS “Support Your Marathoner” Campaign
ASICS sought to scatter supportive messages of hope across big screens throughout the NYC and LA Marathons. Instead of hiring a Community Manager to handle individual outreach, they plugged the application “Support your Marathoner” on their site and let runners solicit messages for them via their Facebook and Twitter friends. Thousands participated and the campaign was covered in magazines, blogs and TV shows. Give people a cool app, and they’ll do the marketing for you.

2. TF3 Battlezone: a Promotion for “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” DVD/Blu-Ray™”
There are 5.9 billion mobile subscribers in the world, and almost 1 billion users on Facebook. Instead of merely putting out ads that may or may not be seen by TV viewers, Paramount Home Pictures commissioned Project Zebra to create a mobile/Facebook app where Fans could choose to compete as a Battlebot or Decepticon and claim actual places around them for their team. The app was an instant hit with Transformers Fans, prompting Paramount Home Pictures to take it global.

3. Warner Bros. “Social Cinema”
We all like watching movies with our friends. However, the concept of a “friend” is changing as social networks expand our ability to connect with people around the world. So Warner Bros. commissioned Milyoni to build a “social cinema”, allowing Facebook Fans to watch Warner Bros. movies with their friends.

Customers will always want to engage via social media. They might not always want to connect with us specifically. Social applications allow our customers to engage with each other around our brand. Isn’t that what we all intend to accomplish in the first place?

Be Sociable, Share!