Saw this link today about Buddy Media's White Paper on App-verstising, i.e. creating branded applications for advertisers that want to enter the social media space. Buddy Media cites the following key factors for success of "app-vertisements": Super Social Invites, Status, Visibility, User Identify and Benchmarks and Milestones. As the experts in this space of appvertising, they do have answers to the many who have deemed this to be a completely unsuccessful direction for businesses in the space. Adweek called apps a Brand Graveyard, and Buddy Media (who happen to be brilliant at this stuff, by the way) responded with their successful app campaigns thus far. They cite the Travel Channel's Facebook App as having over a million players a day.
All of this is wonderful. But let's be realistic. Of the hundreds of thousands of apps that are created, how many will be viewed as mass dollars WASTED? Quite a few. Why invest dollars in an app, when you could invest time and interest in your customers by simply joining the conversation?
Take Comcast, for example. Tech falls asleep on the couch. Guy films it. Costs nothing. Damages the heck out of the brand. What's Comcast to do? Could they have invested money in a very funny, fancy app that "wakes the comcast guy", or something of that sort? Perhaps. Instead, they dedicated a high level employee of Comcast to tweet immediate responses and form relationships with customers.
My point is, branded applications may work 1 out of 10,000 times. Heck, it may work 1 out of 1,000 times. (And by the way, if you are going to do this-- I DO think Buddy Media is the team to do it, as their approach is the most convincing I've seen.) But you've got a much better shot of having direct success with social media by investing the time in the space-- by having a voice in existing communities...by listening to your customers, by engaging interested community members, and by actually using social networking to (gasp!) actually network.