Are Trekkies Having all the Fun in Social Apps?

Different forms of media engage consumers in different ways. Social media apps can’t engage the audience in the same way a Web site, mobile, or desktop application can.

Marketers, stop trying to force the utility of your Web site into a social application. It won’t work! Unlike a Web site, the goal of a social media app is to get people to share their action with friends, thus creating the viral effect marketers relish.

Social media apps must have a simple interface and an entertainment factor (or other value to the consumer) to start engagement, as well as an easy-to-share interface to create the desired consumer response. Let me explain with several examples:

Trek Me and Tweet in Klingon were created by Friend2Friend, as part of an integrated social media campaign across both Facebook and Twitter to create buzz for Atari’s February 2 release of “Star Trek Online,” a highly anticipated MMO game. The combined applications resulted in more than 20 million social impressions for the brand, and helped build the “Star Trek” Facebook fan base to 40,000 in advance of the game’s release.

In Trek Me, the Facebook application, “Star Trek” devotees can easily morph images of themselves or their friends into exotic and detailed backgrounds and characters developed for “Star Trek Online.” With a simple click, the picture is uploaded and edited; with a couple more clicks, the image is posted and shared with friends. “Star Trek Online” is entertaining and intuitive with an easy-to-share interface.

In addition, Atari includes an easy way to preorder the game to accelerate sales. This is an engaging application for Facebook users, where the branded element actually enhances the consumer’s experience and increases the social appeal.

Atari’s Tweet in Klingon is a social media application for use with Twitter. Twitter is all about tweeting a short message to your followers. So, Tweet in Klingon enables “Star Trek” fans to publish their messages in an easy-to-use text generator and then post it on Twitter – in Klingon.

Again, the interface is simple to use: type your tweet in English and click continue to progress to your Twitter login page, log in, and post. More than 60,000 tweets were sent in Klingon, each one from a branded microsite with information and visuals from the “Star Trek Online” game. The app provided entertainment and spread the “Star Trek Online” message to its target demographic at the same time.

Success factors for winning social media apps:

  • Make the social media application “go viral” by making it easy for everyone to participate. Rather than appealing to people with design skills with a promotion for best video or graphic, include all the tools to make it easy for everyone to participate, as in Trek Me, where the consumer can upload an existing Facebook picture or snap one from their Webcam and simply place it in the various backgrounds and characters included in the application. Similarly, the Klingon translator lets anyone tweet in Klingon, not just hardcore Trekkies who know the language.
  • The process should be simple, but the visuals should communicate quality. Whenever someone morphs themselves into a Cardassian or tweets in Klingon, they showcase the fantastic visuals which create the great visual experience they will get in “Star Trek Online.”
  • The brand theme must be consistent. While these apps enable “user generated content,” the users put their content into a controlled environment that is consistent with the brand. Both Trek Me and Tweet in Klingon appeal to people who are already big “Star Trek” fans, in part because the brand experience in these apps is consistent with what “Star Trek” fans already love. Tweet in Klingon was also monitored to remove profanity.
  • Design for sharing. By enabling the consumer to easily create something personal and giving them the interface to share, the outcome is natural – consumers share their creation with friends, increasing the chances that the app goes viral.

Let’s look at one more example. Vitamin Water used a Facebook app to crowdsource its next flavor. By having fans vote and collaborate in the FlavorCreator app posted on Vitamin Water’s Facebook fan page, it created excitement and engagement with the brand.

The FlavorCreator made it easy for fans to participate and share the experience while focusing the community on realistic flavors. Adding more allure, it sweetened the promotion with $5,000 cash to the winning flavor creator.

Appropriate interaction with the brand, entertaining, easy sharing, and motivation made for a winning social media application. Vitamin Water’s Facebook fan page now has more than 11,000 fans.

Branded applications are excellent tools for increasing fan engagement and loyalty while providing for the viral spread from advocates to their friends. Winning social media apps create an entertaining, unencumbered consumer experience appropriate to the brand, with a built-in interface to encourage sharing. So easy to say, but so difficult to execute.

When planning an application, make sure that it engages the audience appropriately for the media. Social apps are covered above. Desktop apps are an excellent way to engage the audience when content provides daily utility – like weather updates or music. Browser add-ons are a great way to extend your brand by providing consumers additional functionality within the browser experience.

Mobile is perfect for location-based information and for an Internet interface when the consumer is away from their computer. Keep this in mind and all your apps will be winners.

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