Chances are good that you have a brand presence in social media. Maybe you’re not in every network, but you’re probably active on Facebook, Twitter or LinlkedIn. But let’s face it: not every company is capable of doing social media right, and there is no guarantee that your ROI will be high enough to keep a high level of activity going. If you’re wondering whether something out there could successfully replace your branded social media accounts, take a look at Taco Bell’s mobile app example. 

The company deleted all of its previous Facebook posts and changed its Twitter cover just to announce that the way to get information about Taco Bell from now on will be #onlyintheapp. Why would they do that? There are actually several very good reasons.

Why a Mobile App Is a Great Deal Better Than Social Media

  • Mobile apps offer more to customers. Taco Bell’s branded mobile app available in the AppStore and on Google Play allows customers to order customized tacos, find the nearest Taco Bell location, create wishlists of favorite menu items, and even check out with a credit card. You can also pay before getting to the restaurant, minimizing the wait time between you and your taco.
  • Promotion is easier. Brands don’t have to compete for a newsfeed spot if an app is downloaded, unlike social media, where competition is pretty tough. Moreover, social media blackouts can add intrigue and inspire customers to check out a new mobile app with the #onlyintheapp hashtag. For Taco Bell, the strategy worked out great: After two or three days, the app was ranked first in the Food and Beverages category, beating industry giants such as Starbucks, Domino’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts.
  • Mobile apps provide lots of useful data. Though social media can give businesses a clearer understanding of the customer, mobile apps have better tracking of the customer experience and associated marketing events. In other words, apps take that a giant leap from insight to actionable and highly practical data. Mobile apps can also offer discounts and coupons that are tailored to a particular customer’s behavior, as the Taco Bell CEO claims.
  • Mobile apps help create a pool of really loyal customers. Social media accounts are much easier to subscribe to, but there is no way to know for sure that the audience is buying the products. Mobile apps provide data about whether the customers are buying from Taco Bell or not, what their favorite Taco Bell locations are, etc. Launching a mobile app increases your chance of being more relevant to the customer than a mere social media presence.
  • Mobile apps are more immediate thanks to push notifications. The probability that your social media post is seen by your interested customer is quite low due to high newsfeed competition and new Facebook policies that wipe out brand pages (in fact, only 10-15% of your subscribers generally see any given post). Meanwhile, the open rate for push notifications are about 90%.
  • There is more flexibility for branding. If you have a good budget for great design, opt for a mobile app because social media’s visual and experiential functions are limited by the platform. A mobile app can provide any experience you want to offer—only follow AppStore and Google Play guidelines, please.
  • The ROI is easier to calculated. When you can determine your revenues from the app by analyzing the app checkout data, you can calculate your ROI for the app with little effort and high accuracy, something which is impossible when it comes to social media.

Would you opt for a mobile app instead of social media? Or would you use both instruments to increase your reach? What’s your experience with these digital tools? I’m ready to hear your comments.