Liveblogging Inside Social Apps: Social Apps for Marketers and Brands, Maximizing Audience Engagement

We’re at the San Francisco Design center, blogging Inside Network’s third annual Inside Social Apps conference. The final panel of the day focused on how marketers and brands can use social apps to maximize audience engagement.

Joining moderator Josh Constine, of Techcrunch, were Context Optional CEO Kevin Barenblat, Buddy Media Senior VP Carla Bourque, Facebook Page Product Manager Russ Heddleston, Starz Media VP of Digital Media David Katz, Hearsay Social CEO and Starbucks Board Director Clara Shih.

All of the panelists agreed that building mobile experiences and applications is becoming increasingly important for brand marketers. Shih, of Hearsay Social, and Barenblat, of Context Optional, said that developing application experiences that involve the user being physically present at a retail store have potential for both marketers and developers. Bourque, of Buddy Media, said her company’s mobile focus was primarily on enabling social commerce at scale and driving conversions.

While panelists agreed that building applications for mobile will be increasingly important, their take on building Open Graph applications was mixed. Shih, of Hearsay Social noted that for lifestyle brands, Open Graph represents a significant opportunity because of its ability to connect identity to brands and products. For small or local brands and companies, or those outside of the lifestyle space, Open Graph might not be a good fit. The consensus was that developers and marketers should focus on testing new ideas and generating success at a small scale in order to demonstrate impact, and build upon that.

When asked about the future of page tab applications, and whether they will become mobile compatible at some point in the future, Heddleston, of Facebook, did not make any definitive statement. He reinforced the importance of mobile in Facebook’s overall strategy and noted, “We haven’t yet come out with a separate solution for tab applications for mobile, it’s something we’re looking into, and something that would make sense.”

The panelists discussed some of the factors that go into deciding whether businesses should develop custom applications for their page or work with platform templates. The general consensus was that custom development might not be cost-efficient for some companies, but business objectives should ultimately drive the decision. Shih, of Hearsay Social, said that she’s seen a 50-50 split among larger clients — half begin with a template from Hearsay’s app gallery and half are completely custom experiences developed by another digital agency.

As far as brand integration within existing apps, such as popular social games, the panelists emphasized how distribution and engagement are key things brands should look for before spending money on placement. Katz, of Starz Media, said he especially looks for examples of what an app developer has done before and wants to know that a company has delivered results for similar brands in the past.