Corporate Facebook Apps

CNet ran this story yesterday on Pizza Hut’s new Facebook application. They generally panned the application, but I, for one, was glad to see a corporation trying to leverage this platform. Think about it. Pizza and college students go hand-in-hand. Facebook was originally designed for college students, so if a pizza company wants to target a key demographic, why not build a Facebook application? If it is simply an embedded version of their web page, as long as it makes it even easier for those college students to order pizza, they’ve accomplished their goal. Don’t get me wrong, if it has poor usability it will fail. But the fact that it simply allowed Facebook users to order pizza and did not include “additional social features … to enhance the experience” isn’t a problem, in my opinion. I do agree that the forced friend notification is bad, but an optional one could be good. Once again, if the target demographic is college students, the intent is to tell friends that “pizza is available at my place, head on over!” All in all, however, it is the goal of Pizza Hut to sell pizza. Let Facebook provide the social aspects, let Pizza Hut provide the pizza.

What really interests me, however, is the notion of Facebook as a platform for reaching desired demographics. Previously, companies tried to “build communities” via their Internet presence. This is problematic because the company’s primary goal is to sell product, not build community. It simply makes sense to leverage these web properties whose primary purpose is to build communities and augment them with apps/widgets/whatever that can fulfill the primary purpose of your company, like selling more pizza. As a result, if you have a demographic that is likely to leverage these online communities, you need to be thinking about your architecture and how you can easily support the new “channel” of online communities like Facebook.

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