Facebook Applications allow third-party programmers to create useful or entertaining little widgets that can be integrated into a person’s Facebook account. Google News has released a Facebook app that allows users to read news, post stories to their profile and share news with their friends.
Most Facebook apps are targeted at winning space on the user profile page. Visitors to a profile often pick up apps that they like and post them to their own profiles. The smartest way that most apps spread, though, is by prompting users to invite their friends at the time of installation.
Inviting friends to use the new app on one’s profile makes sense. Most apps require the user’s friends to interact by commenting, selecting values or posting photographs etc on the user’s profile. In order to interact with an app, the friends are often required to install the app themselves, which creates a great viral push for the app, and its associated brand.
Google News’ app takes a more docile approach. Once a user installs it, there’s a good chance he/she might never see it again. The problem is two-fold:
- The app is designed as a stand-alone page
Unlike most Facebook apps that go on the profile page, the Google News app is meant to be a stand-alone news page that features a user’s favourite news topics and top stories. This means that the app in itself cannot be placed on the profile page for everyone to look at. Only profile visitors who see the Google News icon snuck on the side in the list of apps might realise a user is subscribed to the app.
- Sharing the app is not automatically prompted
When a Facebook user installs Google News, the program does not automatically prompt the user to share the app with friends. In fact, the only prompt to share a story is located on the top right of each story in the “Share” link, which then gives the option to send the story to a friend or place it on the profile page.
Social networks just don’t seem to be Google’s fortÃ©. Orkut is nowhere near as successful as they’d like it to be. And now their official foray into Facebook has floundered at the very beginning. Perhaps a few more big acquisitions might solve that?