11 Must-Have Facebook Apps For Your Business

facebook handshake Since facebook launched its business pages earlier this year, there has been a proliferation of applications geared to the business user. In fact, the facebook applications directory lists more than 800 business applications at last glance. With so much free software just a click away, it’s hard to know the must-have, time-saving, money-making, productivity increasing apps for your facebook business presence.

So, to help you narrow down the selection and make sense of a difficult-to-navigate widget directory, we took some time to review our share of embedded facebook programs and have selected the ten apps (in no particular order) for your company page:

Static FBML

While facebook Pages are limited in terms of design customization, you can add the Static FBML application to any Page to integrate HTML directly on the page. This application, developed internally, allows you to renter HTML or FBML (Facebook Markup Language) within a box for enhanced Page customization and added functionality.

FlashPlay

Similarly, if you’re looking to add some more flash to your page, and by that I mean Flash movies, animations, scripts, etc., FlashPlay allows you to add any flash file to your company page, visible to everyone. You may also browse their library to find a selection of popular games, animations and applications to add with the click of your mouse.

XING

Far more than a directory of business contacts, XING enables its members to discover professional people, opportunities and privileges through its unique discovery capability and advanced contact management tools. The company recently had a successful IPO and has had a long-term impact on the social networking trend amongst professionals. By focusing on the target group “business people worldwide”, the company is able to offer tailored features, thereby making networking and contact management simpler.

MyOffice

Ideal for teams spread out across different offices, MyOffice helps you manage your project or business with a collaborative suite of tools. Schedule meetings with your team or group, organize an event, discuss ideas, share files, create to do lists, collaborate on docs and whiteboards, and assign tasks to increase productivity. MyOffice lets you quickly and easily collaborate with your colleagues, partners, or clients.

Tag Biz Pro Business Cards

picture-2.png

Business card applications are fairly common on Facebook these days. But Tag Biz Pro stands out from the pack with a realistic index card design and a bunch of networking features built in. The application allows you to

* create a Business Card and customize it
* attach your Business Card to Facebook messages
* browse other cards and read comments
* let others know what you are looking for

Anyone who is interested in doing business on Facebook should use tag biz pro. tag biz pro automates the relationship networking and referral process by placing a custom business keyword tag cloud on your Facebook profile and on the Facebook profiles of your friends that are participating in your business network. Pick your keywords, invite your friends and build your own business network with tag biz pro.

MyMoney

Manage your finances right from your Facebook profile, simply and securely! MyMoney is an online home banking application that interacts with a variety of financial institutions, so you can view your account balances, transfer money between accounts, review histories, and much more. Plus, MyMoney uses multiple layers of security, so that you, and only you, can access your account.

With MyMoney, you know instantly how much you have to spend on gifts, go shopping at the marketplace, and more! To get started, just click the “Add Application” button and search for your financial institution. Don’t see it listed? Enroll online for one that is, or send a note to request your bank or credit union to join! It’s that simple.

Huddles Workspaces

Although you can’t add it to your business profile yet, Huddles Workspaces allow you to store personal documents and share them with specific groups of friends. Up to 1Gb of free space, Huddle offers a collaborative approach to organizing and sharing files.

From the great minds at Techlightenment (the developers that brought us Bob Dylan’s Subtaranean Blues widget), Huddle also interfaces with people outside of Facebook, making it a truly utilitarian work collaboration application.

what.io
Another great application not yet available for business pages, what.io allows you to quickly save your IOUs. When installed, the IOUs are displayed as post-it notes on your profile. Print IOU certificates. Share with friends and don’t forget that road fin you loaned your buddy on your last road trip to Vegas. The service works easily with friends who are not yet on Facebook, via their email address.

PRX Builder

Based on the original Social Media Press Release Template from Todd Defren of SHIFT Communications, PRX Builder helps you easily create the next generation of press releases. Enhance your press release with new media elements such as links, multimedia, and social media service buttons for digg and del.icio.us. Automatically add Technorati tags and then distribute your release through PR Newswire. The service also optimizes your releases for higher visibility within Technorati and Google Blog Search. You can even moderate any comments your SMPR may receive. RSS and email subscription options make this an invaluable tool for companies looking to get the word out. And the best part is, the service is free.

Page Maps

Ideal for companies with a physical presence, Page Maps allows you to add a custom map to your business page or personal profile. Show your business locations or favorite spots around town. It displays a mini map requiring no additional clicks to see, and links to a larger map or directions.

Phonebook

How many times have you been asked for a contact by one of your co-workers. Phonebook allows you to share your rollodex in a secure environment. You can also attach emails and notes to contacts, back up your list and exchange/compare with your associates. Maybe now your staff won’t call you at 9:00 in the morning next time they can’t find a number and you’re away on vacation.

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March 10, 2008 at 9:16 am 1 comment

Hey EA – Welcome to the Widget Game

Pogo LogoIt wasn’t too long ago that video game publishers and developers looked down on online gaming. Considered too low-brow for the big production focused studios, online games were like the bastard step child nobody wanted to recognize as part of the family.

I know the shame of being the unwanted sibling only too well, having traveled to EA’s Cupertino headquarters in 1999 on acquisition talks representing Kasparov Chess Online, Kasparov Chess logoone of the largest online chess networks. Company chairman Garry Kasparov was, and still remains, the most recognized name in chess. A brand onto himself, Mr. Kasparov is as saavy a businessman as he is at chess. KCF offered players of all levels a free chess gaming platform from which to challenge, play and chat with one another, maintain a chess rating (the equivalent of crack for chess players) and read daily chess news. We also sold chess-related merchandise and subscription-based Master class downloads – rather revolutionary for the day. Back in those days, we called it the 4C’s – competition, community, content and commerce.

If only we would had been better futurists and called it “social gaming,” it would still be in business today. Those discussions with EA never went very far, but I’d like to believe that it helped them realize the potential. Several months later, EA acquired Pogo, the largest independent gaming network at the time. And, as all things must end, Kasparov’s 20+ year reign as world chess champion ended, and so did Kasparov Chess Online, unable to ride out the great bubble burst of 2000, as it’s now known as. EA went onto grow Pogo’s audience, while diversifying its revenue streams.  And Kasparov went onto challenge Putin in the Russian elections.  We all know how that will turn out.

So when EA/Pogo announced a new Facebook widget for Pogo members, I was intrigued. After all, Pogo was all about social gaming, even before the term became the winner of the Most Repeated Buzz Phrase at the recent 2008 Gamers Developer Conference (GDC), in San Fran. Had they started to spread their tentacles to harness Facebook’s social graph?

Pogo Gaming Widget for Facebook

Well, yes and no. While the widget allows Pogo subscribers (read: paid members) to display their profile information, avatar and point totals, receive Pogo-related news, and link back to Pogo for a few selected games, it falls short in leveraging Facebook’s viral strengths.

First, all users must be registered Pogo members. Not sure what the overlap is between Facebook and Pogo members, but since Pogo targets women over 35, while Facebook reaches a decidly different audience, I don’t expect much crossover between the two.

Secondly, all games simply link back to the Pogo hub. There is no game integration within Facebook. Ah, the old hub-and-spoke strategy feels more like the bait and switch made popular at consumer retailers like The Wiz.

Is EA just clinging to the old and familiar business model they’ve groomed so nicely since the Pogo acquisition? Or is there simply a disconnect between the old guard and the new — the centralized web vs. distributed networks?

Maybe the new social network-centric gaming companies like SGN and Zynga know something that the executives at Pogo have yet to figure out. Let me give them a hint — Facebook gamers want to play in their own backyard, not a click away in someone else’s playground. Maybe it’s the old Groucho Marx joke, “I would never want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member.”

Pogo Facebook Widget

Note to self: Remove Pogo Widget from my Facebook Profile.

February 29, 2008 at 3:20 am Leave a comment

Presidential Widgets: Politics As Unusual

The fact that 2008, The Year of the Widget, is on a crash-collision-course with the 2008 United States Presidential Election hasn’t alluded the candidates, their internet-savvy pundits and wonkette junkies alike. Given all the political discourse we’re in store for over the next 10 months, it’s good to see that several non-partisan widget developers have the president’s office clearly in their sites to keep us all informed of the latest mudrucking.

For those who are firmly behind a candidate, widgetnest makes the 2008 Presidential Candidates widget to help you keep track of your man, or woman. Featuring headline links to latest news, directly from the candidate camp, whether you’re for Ron Paul, Joe Biden or Tom Tancredo, widgetnest makes a presidential widget for you. Cautionary note, if the number of installs correlates in anyway with the popular vote, it looks like Huckabee could run away with the race according to widgetnest’s stats (the company does note that the counter has been discontinued).

obama.jpg

A funny thing happened to me when I installed the Obama widget on my Facebook profile – I felt like I was out-in-the-open, revealing where I stood. Even if he doesn’t get my vote, it was a declaration for all the social networking world to see. So, in addition to keeping the electoral base informed, presidential widgets, like campaign buttons and bumperstickers of yesteryear, are just as much an expression about who we are and where we stand.

But for those who don’t know where they stand, which according to some polls is close to 35% of eligible voters, developer Tim Hogan has created the Presidential Election 2008 widget, a nonpartisan general and candidate focused search that filters through RSS news, blog and forum information on each candidate. Built as a specialized Swicki widget from Eureka, the service allows its users to create a custom social search portal on the topic of their choice and offers digg-style user-generated voting on every article. So, in theory, with every search, vote and click, the swicki generates more relevant results and turns into a shared-knowledge resource to be spread virally via “get this widget” installer tab.

USA Presidential Candidates 2008
Search and Grazr

Dedicated Search Engines
Biden
, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, Giuliani, Hunter, Kucinich, McCain, Obama, Paul, Romney, Richardson, Tancredo
News, Blog and Forum info
 
 

This is the first year that we can measure the true impact of widgets on a presidential election. Regardless of who wins, one thing is certain, widgets will forever change the speed at which a candidate can take his/her message to the people. Never again will it be politics as usual.

January 25, 2008 at 5:13 am Leave a comment

The New Social Gaming Paradigm

Like many consumer technologies, the gaming industry is in a quagmire, moving both very quickly and much too slowly at the same time. For gamers, which now is as likely to include your Aunt Shirley, as it is your younger brother, the need to interact with friends is bringing about an entirely new real-time, online gaming experience, while simply replicating an age when people actually played together in the same room.

Gamer

But, the mass appeal of social gaming shouldn’t take us by surprise. If you look at the history of games, you’ll find that gamers have been participating in social games since the early D&D days. Given the popularity of today’s console-based gaming networks, it’s plain to see that gamers are now and have always been social by nature.

Now, enter the social network. One could say the social network was born from the need to find other players. And, no where is the influence of social networks changing the business of games more than in the casual games space. Once dismissed as granny games, like solitaire, chess and bridge, casual games are ushering in a new social gaming paradigm that could quite possibly be the next killer app. the social networks so desperately need to keep their millions of members engaged.

In fact, the casual games publishing industry is about to be turned on its head thanks to the growing influence of social networks. And, the transformation couldn’t have come at a more needed time. The traditional one-hour, try-before-you-buy business model the industry has been clinging to is not working. Game studios, publishers and digital distributors are in the midst of changing their game plan and are already experimenting with in-game advertising, micro transactions, product placement and video interstitials with better-than-expected results.

Ludia LogoThe newest sign of gaming companies changing the game can be found in a spate of recent funding announcements, licensing deals and start-up activity. First, from Ludia, a Canadian casual games developer, comes word of a worldwide license for American Idol, an online game with social media components. While offering few details, the very fact that America’s most popular reality TV Show is going social in 09′ has me rehearsing my favorite Bruce tunes in front of my Logitek. This combined with the fact that Ludia’s founder, Alex Thabet, has an incredible track record in the casual games space and a unique ability to sense where the market is heading before it gets there (and, happens to be a real nice guy even though he hails from Montreal), and it’s easy to see why the king of TV franchises, Freemantle Media, chose Ludia to lead their AI baby into the brave new world of social gaming.

BunchBallNext up is BunchBall, the first company to offer cross-social-network compatibility of its multi-player games. Following a $2MM round in 2006, the company has rolled out a library of Flash based casual games that live on social networks via embed code, while allowing a core group of friends to play one another, regardless of their social network affiliation (network agnostic). Bunchball seems to be taking it’s knowledge of social gaming and applying it as a service called Web Catalytics. Or, as they put it, “.. a methodology for driving web site behavior based on game design principles. Simply put, Web Catalytics makes web sites more addictive, fun, and compelling.” Wow, that’s a far cry from “you sunk my battle ship.”

Zynga - Fun & Games Across the Social NetAnd, just a few days ago, we hear word from Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures that they have joined forces with several other notable VCs and angel investors, including Reid Hoffman and Peter Theil, in backing social gaming pioneer Zynga, responsible for many a college student’s wasted hours of Texas Hold ‘Em across Facebook, bebo, Friendster and beyond. Zynga’s founder, Mark Pincus, knows a thing-or-two about the power of social networks, having founded Tribe and selling the company’s assets to Cisco (that’s the router company, not the rapper). Oh yeah, he was also an early investor in Facebook and enjoys the annual Burning Man festival, making him one of the coolest guys I’d most like to party and play poker with.

It’s not clear what form of monetization will work across social games, but one thing is clear – games will never again be a solitary experience – not even solitare, where players now compete for high score. And, who knows the fate of today’s gaming sites that have spent time and money building a loyal fan base and recognizable brands. In the world of distributed networks, is there still a place for a hub if the spokes are strong enough to support the frame? As Zynga investor Fred Wilson states, “Zynga is the first investment we’ve made in a company that has no website,” although he goes on to note that Zynga was in the process of posting one that very day.

January 18, 2008 at 10:09 pm 4 comments

Gigya Launches Widget Ad Network

Gigya LogoFiled under “we saw this coming,”  widget distribution and metrics provider Gigya has launched its own widget ad network, providing marketers with a cost-per-install model that is sure to get attention from some major advertisers.   Gigya joins the ranks of ClearSpring and WidgetBox, who have all announced similar offerings recently.    Gigya plans to price its ad units at $2 – $5 per install.  They have yet to announce their participating widget publishers.  One thing is for sure, widgets are aiming to be the next rich-media ad format.  And, looking at the widget landscape, they are emerging as a cost-effective, engaging new tool for online marketers. You can read their spin on it from the Gigya press release here. TechCrunch has a good recap here.  

January 15, 2008 at 9:22 pm Leave a comment

Gruvr – Feelin’ Groovey

GruvrFor all of you music fans out there, the web service Gruvr is an invaluable tool for discovering your local music scene. A true Web 2.0 mash-up, Gruvr serves up local maps, overlayed with live music information. No need to enter your zip code, Gruvr deciphers your whereabouts via your computer’s IP connection and localizes the map to correspond with your immediate major metropolitan area.Since live music is a social activity, Gruvr offers both local and band-specific widgets to share the music love. These widgets allow anyone with a blog, social network profile or web site to publish a live music directory. That alone is quite an accomplishment.Gruvr’s location-based widget provides a continuously updated listing of upcoming concerts near you. Each listing brings up the map of that show. To grab this widget, visit here. No need to fill in the town or zip code, as the service should already know where you live. Copy the widget to your blog or webpage via simple, one-click install process. If you’re handy with feeds, you can also grab their helpful GeoRSS or plain RSS feeds, if you just want the data.While their are a few others in this space, Gruvr offers about the easiest way to add local concert listings to your blog or website. Gruvr will even provide a link back to your site if you use the widget. Here’s an example of Live from Nashville’s Gruvr widget:

Gruvr Location based widget

When users click on the Nashville map link, they are taken to Gruvr’s Nashville map:

Nashville, Gruvr Map

Links with performance information within the widget are also provided and link back to each performer’s MySpace page for more information.Gruvr also offers a tour map widget, specific to a group or performer. It is this widget’s ability to track a musical act’s touring schedule overlayed on a real Google map that has made this a popular MySpace Music tool, invaluable for both performers and their fan base.Benefiting from the youth market’s enthusiasm for viral media, Gruvr has experienced tremendous growth via its band map widget thanks to some pretty high-profile musical acts adopting its technology. Among the more notable bands who have incorporated the widget on their MySpace pages are: Miley Cyrus, Jonas Bros. and Alanis Morissette. In total, the widget is featured on more than 1000 MySpace Music pages. But that’s just the start. Fans can grab their favorite musical performer’s touring widget and add it to their blog, web site or MySpace profile.Just go here to grab a band-map widget and type in your favorite band name (or myspace name if needed).It’s this ying-and-yang between artist and fan that make Gruvr a potentially powerful viral agent for the music industry. Since bands big and small are no longer selling CDs like they use to, live performances will be the big money maker, as evidence by the recent multi-$$$ deals put up by Live Nation to secure bands, ranging from the Jonas Brothers to Madonna.While Gruvr is playing with the big acts, it’s focused more on the long-tail of music, offering a much more granular view of local shows. Everyone knows when Van Halen is playing at the Garden, but who’s out there that we don’t know about. That’s where Gruvr has its greatest potential!And at just over 2-million uniques per month and showing consistent growth month-over-month, the service is really starting to take off. Leveraging the social media spoke-and-hub strategy, Gruvr pushes out content from its hub, while driving traffic back to the hub via its large-base of installed widgets (i.e. Spokes).

Gruvr traffic graph

Gruvr is a self-funded, Boston-area start-up that, to date, generates revenue via Google AdSense and a few affiliate relationships. When will Gruvr start Feelin’ Groovey with cash flow? When it enables bands to monetize their fanbase via its widgets. And that’s exactly what the company has in store – from ticket sales to merchandise to digital downloads, there is no easy plug-and-play solution to support the millions of bands looking to earn a buck. Just when you thought there was no money in Rock & Roll, along comes Gruvr to keep the long tail of music wagging.

Some examples and screen shots

Neursonic myspace – advanced use of widgets on band pages Bucky Covington – from American Idol Flowmotion – widget used on myspace and band website The New Pornographers – example of standard myspace schedule vs. mapDubioza Kolektiv – example of European tour map kolektiv mapDevon Allman’s Honeytribe – example of awesome layout art — but how easy is it to read the schedule? allman schedule

compare to the map: much easier to tell at a glance if they are playing near you…

devon allman map

Example of how upcoming-shows announcment looks as bulletin in myspace, used by Indorphine . Each date is clickable to bring up an individual concert map.

January 15, 2008 at 12:30 am 10 comments

TicketMaster Empowering Scalpers

While widgets, like ringtones, have largely been about expressing oneself, there is a new widget paradigm taking place whose influence will be felt at the cash registers for many consumer marketers who have embraced social media and have dipped their virtual toe into the emerging widget economy. To these few brave organizations, your strategies will pay off and we salute you.

First up is TicketMaster, who just yesterday announced their ticket affiliate sales program. Not surprisingly, widget distribution is at the heart of their affiliate offering, and what better way to share the love (for money that is) than with a customizeable widget to show your support for your favorite touring band.

Ticketmaster’s new EventEngine widget allows registered affiliate individuals and organizations to create and post a customized Ticketmaster event marketing engine on their blog or web site that dynamically serves information regarding upcoming events with links to purchase tickets via Ticketmaster’s web site. Affiliates will eventually have access to Ticketmaster search buttons, banners, and link engines.

Ticketmaster EventEngine Widget

Widgets are an ideal marketing vehicle for getting those referral links out there. Hats off to the people at IAC and TicketMaster who found a way to make affiliate marketing engaging, in-context and profitable all at the same time. This is a trend that we will continue to see as marketers leverage social networks and develop sophisticated widgets that provide added value content as well as a way to monetize niche audiences.

November 28, 2007 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

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