With 60+ million subscribers, Facebook is often cited by clients who are looking at how to integrate social media in their communications plans. So it was no great surprise when I was recently asked how a Facebook application could be used to promote a content rich website which it is hoped will will provoke some great online conversations. In this case I recommended an application created for TechCrunch as a great benchmark. For those who aren’t aware, TechCrunch is a very popular blog that profiles Internet products and companies. They have created a very simple Facebook application which basically works as a news feed. When downloaded, it appears on a user’s profile page like any regular application, showing the five latest stories from the blog. If the user clicks on a headline, the story expands, and if still of interest, one can click through to the story in its entirety on the blog itself.
I really like this application. It’s dead simple, serves its purpose, and the fact that a user has to click twice before getting through to the blog (headline then expanded headline), makes it non-intrusive as well. And as a communications tool, clearly, its viral potential is amazing. Not only can stories spread by regular Facebook interaction i.e. a user’s contact sees that a user has downloaded and application, checks it out, downloads it too if they like it and so on. In addition, by clicking on the Share+ button, a user has the option to send a link to an article to contacts directly, or have a story appear on his/her newsfeed refering to the article in question.
But as a note of caution, it must be said that this type of application would only work for organisations that have a high level of legitimacy in the eyes of the public, and produce good content that is interesting to a large number of people and is updated regularly. NGOs tend to fit this bill and often struggle to communicate effectively due to lack of funds, so one could well imagine some of them creating these sort of applications to promote their message, drive people to their sites/blogs, and get online conversations rolling.