Facebook's new App Center should make branded mobile apps more discoverable and therefore more lucrative to build, according to industry players. The Menlo Park, CA-based digital giant last week unveiled a platform where its 900 million users can search for mobile and web apps while also seeing recommendations based on their social graphs.
"People will find apps based on pure relationships," said Julie Renwick, director of mobile for ad agency Ogilvy North America. "What's interesting is that your close circle of peers…you talk to them anyway via email, IM, etc. But now it's the second- and third-tier circle of peer influence that will come into the application recommendation. That will be a game shifter."
Renwick was one of a handful of speakers during a mobile panel at Internet Week on Monday afternoon. Some panelists lamented the current mobile app discovery landscape, mostly reliant on Apple's app store, they said. ClickZ chatted with a few of the speakers offstage.
"App discovery is broken," said Jennifer Garcia, CEO of digital games company Metamoki. "Facebook has a lot of data already. At this point, if anyone is in the position to fix app discovery, it's Facebook. Unless Apple wakes up and recognizes it's a problem."
Loren Appin, director of marketing for Pixable, said the data he's seen shows that Facebook already affects how many downloads occur in the Apple app store. For instance, he said, apps that integrate with the Facebook API get discovered at a higher clip than ones that do not because of the extra impressions rendered in users' news feeds. Appin said Viddy and Spotify were examples of successful API-integrated apps.
The social site's app center is "going to have a dramatic impact," he said. "All of the sudden everyone using Facebook is going to be more app-focused."
If that's the case, it would seem likely that brands would also become more app-focused. The mobile speakers suggested that branded apps should offer utility, like Nike's FuelBand, over traditional features, such as coupons.
Renwick from Ogilvy said app awareness among her agency's client list has been "growing and maturing." She said, "Brands are starting to recognize that more than 50 percent of U.S. citizens have a smart phone. So they know they need to reach their customers where they [are]."
App Center Has Monetization Potential
To be clear, Facebook won't sell products in its App Center. Instead it will likely promote apps that use the Facebook login, allowing the company to accrue even more consumer data and potentially offer advertisers better targeting.
But as Appin from Pixable pointed out, Facebook could monetize the App Center by offering developers featured spots for mobile and web. Just as is the case with buying Facebook ads for "likes" on the site, he suggested, brands may want to maximize their app real estate by promoting downloads.
"If you look at how Facebook pages and display [ad buys] can work together," Appin said, "you can see how brands with apps will be interested in promoting them via Facebook."
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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