10 alternatives to (increasingly pedestrian) branded Facebook apps

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Let’s start this post with two questions:

1. How many branded Facebook apps can you immediately remember and name?

2. How many branded apps have become indispensable enough that you call on them regularly?

*Hello tumbleweed*

I struggle to think of many (or any!) yet Facebook apps are getting produced and cranked out with more regularity than ever before. So, is the issue that the apps themselves aren’t serving a sustainable purpose, or is Facebook just so over-crowded that it is hard for these apps to stand out?

Personally, I think it’s a bit of both. Apps from brands have become a lazy way of ticking a box and as a result, they aren’t adding enough value to the communities they are housed in.

I also think brands aren’t considering other places to create apps as a way of engaging with their stakeholders which may actually suit them better and achieve more noticeable cut-through.

So, where else can useful branded apps live? Here are some suggestions…

1. Google Chrome Apps

Google Chrome has 310 million active users (more than Twitter) yet is often forgotten about as a platform where branded apps can be produced. The advantage of Google Chrome apps and extensions is that they are even more accessible than Facebook apps because they live within your browser window which is open around the clock.

Check out these nice examples from Red Bull and Lego.

2. Spotify Apps

Spotify recently introduced apps to its platform as a way of creating mini-worlds within the Spotify universe. We haven’t seen many brands take advantage of this big opportunity yet but expect the more savvy operators who want to be aligned with music to capitalise soon.

The Guardian (newspaper) is one media brand who has already dipped its tow in the Spotify app water.

It has also been rumoured that McDonald’s, Intel and Reebok have branded spotify apps on the way.

3. LinkedIn Apps 

LinkedIn is really starting to get it’s sh*t together following the acquisition of SlideShare and divorce from Twitter. LinkedIn’s app suite is also making it an increasingly useful platform but brands are seemingly reluctant to take advantage.

Check out the LinkedIn app directory to get a feel for what is currently available.

4. WordPress Apps / Plugins

This is another HUGE missed opportunity by the majority of brands who haven’t got their heads around the benefits of creating useful plugins for WordPress blogs. It doesn’t even need to be a plugin, Major League Baseball proved that with the release of branded blog themes which are easily integrated in existing blog templates.

5. Twitter Apps

Branded Twitter apps, really?!? Sure. There aren’t many examples of brands using the Twitter API in especially creative manners at the moment but who’d to say this won’t change in the near future.

6. Blogger Apps / Widgets

Poor Blogger, it really has become the un-cool blogging platform behind WordPress and Tumblr but it does have the ability to incorporate 3rd party plugins into its wide range of templates.

7. Proprietary Web Apps

Branded web apps still appear to be pioneered by start-ups and tech brands who have seen the value in creating properties that add value to the broader online eco-system.

8. Tumblr Apps

Tumblr is another platform which has an open API which can be used to integrate apps by 3rd parties. I haven’t seen many examples of brands doing this yet (if you have any, share them in the comments section!) but it is another opening not yet embraced with anywhere near the same enthusiasm as Facebook.

Perhaps bespoke Tumblr themes might be a way in for brands as has been the case for WordPress.

9. NetVibes Apps / Widgets

NetVibes has recently re-emerged as a platform of significance following the news that iGoogle will be shutting down next year. It already has a vast array of 3rd party apps available in its app directory and perhaps we’ll see some more emerge in the next 12 months.

10. Instagram Apps

Instagram’s surge in popularity has seen a bunch of apps surface, especially mobile extensions like Frametastic and InstaCollage. How long will it be until a clever brand creates its own free version of an app extension like these for Instagram that can give it a presence in this increasingly powerful pocket of the mobile web.

Sadly, I’m not a developer (one day maybe!) so what is realistically possible with each of these platforms may not be as simple as I’ve rambled on about here. But, there are definitely more opportunities for apps to thrive outside the big blue monster.

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