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Apps Bet On Facebook, Facebook Bets Back

Where better to build an app discovery engine than in an app that’s already been widely discovered?

Apps Bet On Facebook, Facebook Bets Back

App developers seeking social momentum often take a risk by building on Facebook’s ever-changing platform. Now, somewhat ironically, Facebook seems to be betting right back.

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The social network is establishing itself as a hub for app discovery, and it’s established a revenue source built on mobile ads for apps in Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

While Facebook has had trouble monetizing its mobile users, it has had no problem gaining them. Its mobile userbase is 543-million strong, and 20% of those users log in exclusively through their mobile devices. Throughout the last couple of months, the social network has been trumpeting an ability to share these copious mobile users with other mobile apps.

At Game Developers Conference Europe on Tuesday, Facebook announced it drove people to the App Store and Google Play more than 170 million times last month. That’s an improvement from earlier in the month, when a Facebook developer noted the platform had sent users to the Apple App Store and Google Play 146 million times in the previous 30 days, via clicks from channels such as news feed, timeline, bookmarks and App Center.

Facebook’s Newsfeed stream of app updates have always sent traffic to third-party sites, but the social network’s focus on mobile downloads began when it launched its own App Center in June. The company says App Center drives 2.4 times more installs than the old apps and games dashboard. It looks a lot like the App Store or Google Play, but it’s recommendations are powered by Facebook social data and, instead of selling mobile apps, it helps users discover them. To actually download mobile apps, Facebook will send you to the stores of Google and Apple–both of whom could be considered its competitors.

But why would it do that?

“While the user may be directed off of Facebook to install a new mobile app on the App Store or Google Play, activity is shared back to Facebook, which is good for the platforms, developers, and the user’s friends,” a Facebook spokesperson tells Fast Company.

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True. But another potential motivation emerged when Facebook launched its second mobile-only advertising product early this month: ads for developers who want to use Facebook mobile to promote their apps. An app’s best chance of being discovered is currently to win a featured spot in an app store. Developers have used all sorts of tricks in order to get there–gaming reviews, buying advertising in other apps and entering low-competition categories. Facebook is offering an alternative, and it’s a service that developers are seemingly willing to pay for. Sure, it’ll send users to Google and Apple to actually buy the apps, but it will also send advertising revenue to Facebook. Establishing Facebook as a multi-platform app discovery tool only makes those ads more valuable.

“Facebook is the most used app on pretty much any mobile platform,” Mark Zuckerberg recently reminded us during his company’s first earnings report call.

Where better to build an app discovery engine than in an app that’s already been widely discovered?

[Image: Flickr user BotheredByBees]

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About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.

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