For the local small business or artist building up a Facebook fan page, the prospect of creating a mobile optimized Web app is another hurdle or headache. So why not combine the two efforts? That’s the premise behind a new product from mobile app builder Cabana, which is releasing a Facebook app called Fan Page Mobilizer. Fan Page Mobilizer lets any owner of a Facebook fan page reformat and optimize their page into a Web app that uses Facebook as a back-end resource for their content.
Facebook fan pages are already accessible by mobile devices but the process of finding them is difficult, involving a manual search via the Facebook mobile app and mobile web site. And when you get there, the fan pages are simple-looking and limited, said Reeve S. Thompson, the co-founder of Cabana.
Customers considering Cabana’s services for mobile apps want the ability to re-use existing content, and a lot of the content needed for a mobile app can be found on their Facebook fan pages, Thompson said.
“We think this is an easy way for some of these smaller businesses to have a mobile app presence and not have to change their behavior,” Thompson said. “They’re already creating content, they don’t have to think about the back end.”
Users of the Fan Page Mobilizer Facebook app identify their fan page within Facebook and then start customizing the look of their mobile web app, choosing the title, icon image and start-up screen. The web app is formatted for mobile with a more visual look, making the pictures bigger and more prominent than on the traditional mobile fan page. Fan page owners can also include wall posts, information, images, and events accessible through a sliding menu system similar to Facebook’s existing mobile app. Anytime the owner wants to update the mobile web app, they just update their fan page.
The Fan Page Mobilizer app allows the owner to text or email a link to the new mobile Web app to themselves. When a new user gets the link while on a mobile device, they can install the app on their device home page or in their bookmarks. If they visit the link from a computer, they’re given the option of emailing or texting the link to a mobile device. For now, the Web apps are limited to the iPhone but Android support is coming in the next few weeks. The Fan Page Mobilizer is free if you “like” the Facebook app or you have to pay Cabana $5. Technically, anyone can make a web app of any fan page, not just the ones they own.
Fan Page Mobilizer could work for a segment of business owners who want to have a simple way to go mobile. But the challenge is they will need to distribute a separate URL for people to visit this particular app. Thompson told me that Cabana is working on adding a tab to the fan page so visitors from a desktop will be able to email or text themselves the link to install the web app. And he said businesses with their own website could include a link inviting mobile visitors to install the mobile web app. Another problem could be if Facebook gets involved and either blocks the use of their API for this purpose or offers the functionality themselves. And the fact that anyone can make a web app from an existing fan page raises potential trademark issues.
But overall, I think this is an interesting way for some small business, artists and anyone with a following on Facebook to use their existing work to build a simple mobile experience. It doesn’t require much work and it can give visitors a better experience. Serious businesses will still want to invest in more of a mobile optimized site and potentially native apps. But this might be a fun way for others to dabble and get better use out of their fan page investments.