Social Mobile Marketing

Mobile Fan Acquisition Programs: Issues and Workarounds

There are still plenty of brands that have “get more fans” as a primary goal for a social media program. If you have ever created fan-gated programs, either for tabs on Facebook or as stand-alone microsites, you probably have experienced the challenges these pose for your mobile community.

Develop For Mobile Interaction or Risk Losing 60% of Users

In the early days of social media program development with fan acquisition goals, mobile audiences were a minority and it was clear that Facebook did not intend to play nice in terms of mobile functionality, which was and still is, subpar. After our data showed that 60% of our users were trying to access our applications from mobile devices, we jumped into action trying to find a solution.

Our experience with figuring out mobile fan acquisition looked a lot like this:

Fan Acquisition Stages

Figure 1 – Businessman images by Pixeden

Mobile is now the majority and we are still waiting for Facebook to address this major issue. We think Facebook will have bigger problems like losing brands and revenue, but in the meantime we needed solutions. Here’s five workarounds for brands that are having trouble with a mobile-based social program, in order from the easiest and cheapest but less optimal, to more involved and more functional solutions.

5 Fan-Gate Solutions For Mobile Social Programs

Splash Page

In the early stages, we used what we referred to as a splash page. We presented our mobile participants with a static image of the program pages scaled for mobile dimensions and inserted the Facebook like button. A simple call-to-action asked the user to view the tab on a desktop. 

Pros: The splash page took care of the 404 error users were receiving when trying to access Facebook tabs on mobile devices.
Cons: The splash page did not offer any interaction with the program from mobile devices. Essentially, it left users with the question, “If I’m not in front of my desktop, what do I do now?” We also were taking a chance that users would remember to visit our brands when they were back at their desks.

Unique Parameter – ?ref=mobile

After realizing that we not only wanted to ensure these users knew our brands pages were not broken but that we wanted them to engage with these programs in the mobile environment, we began testing a unique parameter. It seemed like a viable hack around viewing the Facebook tab on mobile.

Pros: The unique parameter allowed mobile devices to show the content of the Facebook tab.
Cons: With this option, the rendering was inconsistent across mobile systems. Testing revealed several issues that would affect the user interaction with the application. We decided the user experience would suffer with this implementation and abandoned it as a mobile strategy.

No Fan-Gate For Mobile

So we moved to our next best option. For programs that were fan-gated on a Facebook tab, we would simply redirect mobile users to the application sans fan-gate.

Pros: These applications were fully functional on mobile devices.
Cons: Although our users could interact completely with the program, we had lost the fan acquisition piece for mobile users. There was a potential of losing a high percentage of new fans.

Potential 7-Step Process Using Facebook Login and Permissions

Using Facebook to connect with our applications is the next strategy in our list and one that we are currently using in our programs that are not on a Facebook tab and involve fan acquisition. This process is illustrated below in Figure 2. In summary, it involves the user accepting permissions and extended permissions. If users are not currently fans of our brand page, we send them to a page with the Facebook like button. This step is not optional and users are not allowed to proceed until the step is completed.

Pros: By using Facebook to connect and serve up permissions, we can successfully create a fan-gated experience whether they are on mobile or desktop.
Cons: There can be up to seven steps to reach the main destination. This type of fan-gate is reserved for programs with large user incentives.

Seven-step prcoess for mobile fan acquisition

Figure 2 by Chase Holfelder, UX Specialist Ignite Social Media


The last of these strategies is what we have dubbed a “Soft-gate.” A soft-gate offers an unobtrusive way to gain fans during brand programs. Presenting users with the option to “like” our brand’s pages before continuing – instead of giving them an ultimatum it gives them a choice. If your brand’s program is strong enough, a soft-gate will work. There are several possibilities for the user interface with this option including, but not limited to:

  • Pop-up windows with the Facebook like and continue buttons.
  • Adding a “Step 1” for the user to the like the page. This step, however can be skipped in the process.

Pros: Users are presented with the Facebook like button front and center.
Cons: Users can decide not to like your brand page and skip to the next step in the process.

While these mobile strategies allow us to engage our users while maintaining fan acquisition as a goal, in the end, Facebook is still the best tool for brands to gain page fans.

Tell Us What You Have Found

What strategies have you used to make your fan-gated programs accessible to your mobile community?

Ignite Social Media