Over the last year Facebook applications, application providers, and application platforms have been on the rise. During this time, I’ve had clients that wanted to develop applications for their Facebook pages and needed help figuring out how to make that happen.
This is a pretty young space with a lot of different types of companies that overlap in providing services. Additionally, the services that they provide are rapidly growing and changing as platforms and design shops try to differentiate themselves from their competitors. For my own personal sanity, I have created three general buckets for these companies .
Interactive Campaign Service: An interactive campaign service allows you to sign into a website, create a marketing application within the confines of a template (often giving you the ability to “white label” the application), and deploy it to your Facebook page. These services are usually up to date with any changes to the Facebook platform. Offerpop and Wildfire are two companies that spring to mind when talking about this group.
Facebook Management Platform: Management platforms will offer more than applications; you will be able to manage our entire Facebook (and other) social media presences from it. This feature set usually includes posting, analytics, and even automated spam/keyword protection. (If you want to automatically delete posts that contain profanity for example). Additionally, some of these management platforms will allow you to choose from an array of applications that you can design and deploy from the management platform to multiple pages that you run. Like the interactive campaign services above these management platforms also stay up to date with any of the coding changes on Facebook. Buddymedia, Involver, and Context Optional are examples of companies in this space.
Custom Development: When your page application doesn’t fit within the confines of these platforms, or you want a very customized look and feel that you can’t get through platforms because you don’t have a design team, a custom development solution would probably work best. If you want to use the application more than once or deploy it every few months on different pages, you will probably want to agree on some level of support. If it’s not on a platform your app will run the risk of being impacted by Facebook changes to their platform. This is something you should plan for. Some platforms do custom development like Context Optional; additionally you can find specialty design shops like WiseAcre Design to do the work for you.
In each of these buckets there are dozens of other players – Vitrue, StepChange, and numerous others. The important thing is to decide which bucket you need before selecting a vendor. That is something that I will cover next.