The best features of the Nike+ Timeline integration and how developers should apply them to their own apps

Nike launched Facebook Timeline integration for the Nike+ Running app for iOS and Android this week.

With the app, users can share their runs and track their progress on Facebook, but Nike has added several features that distinguish it from other workout apps. It also serves as an example for how other apps can implement Open Graph in a way that makes users want to share more of their activity. Here are some of the highlights of Nike+ Running and what other developers could take away from the integration.

Friend tagging

It sounds simple: users can tag the friends they run with. But even though Facebook has allowed friend tagging in third-party apps since March, Nike is one of the few developers we’ve seen take advantage of it. Apps that allow users to share actions they might be taking with friends — watching a movie or going to a restaurant, for example — should consider integrating this feature to help users tell richer stories and give their app greater reach. Photo and video sharing apps should especially allow friend tagging.

Compelling News Feed stories and positive rewards

A unique feature of Nike’s Facebook integration is the option for users to let their friends know they have begun a run and then receive feedback in the form of cheers as they go. Whenever friends Like or comment on a user’s Nike+ post, the runner will hear cheering sounds through their headphones or phone speakers. It’s not only encouragement to keep running, it’s a reward that can only be attained by using the app. We’ll likely see some apps copy the feature, but even if they use a different mechanism, developers should consider what reward their own users get by using their app and sharing activity with friends. This is a problem for some social reader applications, for example. Many users can’t see a benefit to sharing articles with their friends in this way.

Developers need to be thoughtful about what actions they promote in the feed so that users don’t feel as though they are spamming their friends. Users also want to feel cool or appreciated, so when they share a story from an app and it gets a lot of feedback, they are more likely to keep using that app and telling their friends about it.

Detailed Timeline summaries

Nike+ tracks how far, how fast and how frequently users run and then aggregates this information in Timeline summaries. These aggregations also include a list of users’ “running buddies” who are most frequently tagged in their run stories and “fans” who most frequently Like or comment on users’ Nike+ activity.

Interesting summaries like these could encourage users to use an app more frequently so they can keep track of their progress, remember important events or learn something new about themselves. Developers should consider what are the most interesting and useful monthly and yearly summaries to include on users’ Timelines. By creating more detailed maps of their Open Graph actions and objects, developers can help users see trends in their own lives over time. For example, a check-in app could indicate the type of restaurant a user most frequently dined at in a given month. Movie apps could share how many films starring a particular actor that users watched in the past year.

Full control over sharing

The Nike+ mobile app clearly asks users whether they want to share a run on Facebook. Users have the option to share a map of their run or not. Giving users these controls helps them feel confident that the app will only post what they want to share with friends. Because some early apps did not give users clear enough controls, many users are now very concerned about whether Open Graph apps share their activity automatically. Nike is among a number of developers that have been pushing the standards forward to include more transparency and user controls in their apps.

Readers can download the Nike+ app from the Facebook App Center here.

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