social media how toDo you use Facebook apps to collect data from prospects?

Do you understand the pitfalls?

This article will explore the ins and outs of Facebook permissions and reveal five key points marketers need to keep in mind.

So What Exactly Are Facebook Permissions?

Facebook Permissions are a Facebook feature that allows the social network and businesses that use Facebook for marketing purposes to collect information about users.

When a user agrees to “allow” Facebook, or a business, to broadcast a user’s Likes or other information, the user has granted Facebook permission to do so.

By the way, Facebook Permissions are not only on custom apps. Any time that you connect to Facebook from an outside website—such as Strava, a fitness training site—you’re giving that website permission to access your basic information on Facebook.


Strava is a fitness-tracking website that allows users to use a GPS device to track activity, then view the activity on the Strava website. Strava allows users to sign up using Facebook, and users are prompted with Facebook Permissions they must accept to sign up.

Using Facebook to Mine Data

With each data field a business asks for online, the opt-in rate drops by 10% (I heard this from a Facebook product engineer).

That means if gaining access to your app requires customers to tell you anything at all, you could lose 10% of your potential users right off the bat.

Ask for an email address and lose 10%. Ask for a birthday and you lose another 10%. Ask to access their friend list and another 10% are gone.

The quick math here? Ask for five pieces of data and you could lose half of the people (or more) who are at least interested enough in your business or brand to check out your page and your app(s).

Why Marketers Need to Take Note

These facts are not only relevant to developers who are creating the apps: they matter to any business owner who wants to collect information about users via Facebook apps, including contests and promotions.


Collecting data from users is a key reason that businesses run Facebook contests and promotions. Data collected can be used for later marketing outreach. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Today, social media is being used for customer research on a daily basis.

However, with all of the news about privacy, identity theft, hacking and in-boxes being filled with unwanted email, it’s no wonder that Facebook users abandon forms on custom apps when they ask for an exceptional amount of personal information.

Unfortunately, some of the data that the business owners try to collect is marketing-driven and has nothing to do with the app.

So it’s not surprising that none of the discussions are favorable: consumers don’t like it when a brand asks them for personal data, especially when the user can’t see how it will be used.

With that said, marketers and business owners on Facebook are still able to gather information from their users and avoid these abandonment rates.

While researching this topic, I discovered that there’s a lot of information about how consumers can protect their privacy, but next to none about what businesses need to know about this issue. I believe it is a two-way street.

If more marketers were careful about how they collect data, consumers would be more comfortable sharing the information that is the most helpful for businesses.

To collect any data from users, outside of what is available via Facebook Insights, businesses must use a third-party provider to create a custom app. It’s here that Facebook Permissions come into play and businesses can make sure to choose a third-party app that allows them to customize the permissions, turning off access to data that they don’t really need.

So in that spirit, here are 5 things marketers need to know about Facebook Permissions and asking for customer data.

#1: Collect the Minimum

In most cases, knowing a customer’s or prospect’s name, gender and email address might be all you really need.

Don’t ask for their home address, marital status, birthday and so on unless you’re asking them to sign up for your birthday club and want to give them a coupon for a free sample at a neighborhood restaurant.

If you simply must have more than the basics, incentivize it.

For example, give them access to your monthly email newsletter if they also give you a home address.

request for permission

The more permissions an app asks for, the bigger and better the incentive needs to be.

#2: Ask for Everything You Want (but Make it Optional)

Let’s say you really want 12 bits of data from your customers, but would be satisfied with five. When you ask for their data, make the first 5 fields required and then the next 7 optional.

The last thing you want to do is lose the valuable information you could be getting from those first 5 fields. Who knows, they might give you 10 out of 12. That’s a lot better than nothing at all.

permissions form

This app asks for information beyond the basic name and address fields, but some of that additional information is optional, which increases the likelihood that users will enter. Some users may even fill out the optional fields.

#3: Use What Is Available

There’s a lot of information you can use for your marketing efforts that’s already available on Facebook Insights.  You can learn the gender, age and location (cities and countries) of your fans or Likes. And you don’t have to ask them explicitly for this information.

facebook insights

Facebook Insights gives page admins a good overview of their fan base without ever having to serve an Allow prompt or use a form to collect data.

#4: Make it Worthwhile

Enthusiastic fans of a brand or business will willingly give up all sorts of data if they believe that what they’re getting in return is appealing.

Maybe you offer a great prize, or offer a coupon for free shipping, or give access to a new ebook that you just wrote.

If your customers value what you have to give/sell, they’ll give you what you value in return. Don’t present them with a big form to fill out and offer nothing in return. Not many people have that much free time.

In the image below, Say It Social is offering a complimentary white paper to fans so they make sure to ask for relevant information pertaining to the what they’re offering.

say it social

Say It Social is making it worthwhile for their fans.

#5: Do Your Customers a Favor

I hear all the time from businesses who use apps with a Facebook Permissions prompt that they do so to “save the customer time.” But in many cases, all you do when you use the Permissions prompt is make your potential users click away from your app.

You already know your users’ gender, age, location, Likes, interests, friends, etc. It’s up to you to decide how much value there is in collecting information beyond that.

Remember that if a user is not willing to fill out the most basic information—i.e., name and email address—he or she wouldn’t have come to your page in the first place.

Most requests start out with the marketer saying, “I just want to fill out their name and email address for them so they don’t have to type it.” Then the conversation turns into “Well, while I have their attention, I’d also like their friend list, so that I can invite them to the app.” Then inevitably, “Oh, if I could access everything they’ve Liked in the past six months, that would be great too.”

You see how slippery the slope gets? You don’t really want to save your customers time, you want to market to them and their friends. Savvy marketers may truly need this data for advanced apps, but they should also know how to use it correctly and not abuse it.

When you collect only the information the user gives voluntarily, this can lead to more users of your app.

washington post

The more permissions an application asks for, the more users will click Cancel.


Remember that whenever you ask customers to authorize an app, you’re asking them to grant you certain permissions, also known as access to their personal data. This is asking for a lot of trust, so don’t abuse it.

Only serve your customers a permissions prompt if you really need to, and be cautious not to push them so far that they give you nothing at all.

What do you think? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

Image from iStockPhoto.
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  • SME, it seems every time I am about to do something on the social media side, your team comes up with the answer my question! 

    Awesome article Jim! My team and I are planning to use an app to gain more community supporters, form included. I was not sure if I needed to include the form, now I know what I have to do! You rock! 

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  • Ya i know consumers don’t like it when a brand asks them for personal data but do you really think small businesses companies(who always wants to save their money) will use a third-party provider to create a custom app?

    All five points are very valuable for us.

    Thumbs up for mentioning second point(Ask for Everything You Want) in above post.

    Thanks very much SME Team! 

  • I run away from apps that ask for too much information, so I hope marketers will take to heart your observations and suggestions.

  • I agree with this article. For sure it’s a really bad experience to face some app that asks for too much information. When I see apps that want to post in my name, I generally run away. It’s important to think about and plan well the permissions you want to use

  • Thanks for reading John!

  • Hi there,

    Most third-party applications offer a free version of their product. At ShortStack a majority of our users are small businesses, so using third-party apps is definitely something small businesses are doing to enhance their social media presence. 

    Thanks for reading, I’m glad you found it informative!

  • JIm,

    This is a great article.  I’ve yet to begin using FB apps in my business but I have been on the receiving end.  I don’t particularly like when a app wants to gather too much of my info, especially when they ask to post on my behalf.  That really irks me.  You did a great job at breaking down the whole process.  Thanks for the info!

  • Thanks Ti, at ShortStack we don’t believe in collecting unnecessary data so our platform and our widgets are designed to collect the minimal information about users. We’ve definitely seen a lot of appreciation for having things that way! Thanks for reading!

  • Sylviau2002

    YES, this is right , I personal get pissed off  when this Sites  pop up with more and more one after the next… SO I will not go into such “practices” myself , because you are so right and I know how this make me feeling myself !

    Any “out of balance” will anyway “back-fire” to as sooner or later….. this is my “personal rule”

    Wish everyone much success and this with joy !


  • Ken

    The killer for my using an app is when they look for permission to post on my behalf.  Uh-uh.

  • Hi Jim,

    Interesting article. We have experienced the same effect, promos that only ask for a Like and an email work substantially better than those that ask the user to fill several fields.

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  • Yep, we have seen the same thing! Glad to hear others have noticed the same! Thanks for the comment

  • Susie QGuru

    Great and timely article John!  THANKS!

  • I don’t mind being asked, but then I ALWAYS change the posting icon on the Allow App interface to “Only Me” so as I interact with the app only I see the posts etc. If I especially like the app and think it will add to my business presence on FB I will set the posting icon to Public, but this is very rare.

  • Hi Jim,
    thanks for this article, i really need to follow up on some apps that are useful for small businesses, i have not been doing so in a long time.

  • Bonnie Rauwerdink

    I can’t imagine why anyone would work with an app that says it will post on their behalf.

  • samneve1

    Timely article – I have just started looking at apps and I am always wary of data mining. Thanks for the tips!

  • meercat007

    Hi Jim,

    You write in your article… “It’s here that Facebook Permissions come into play and businesses can make sure to choose a third-party app that allows them to customize the permissions, turning off access to data that they don’t really need.”

    Can you recommend third-party apps that allow to customize the permission dialog? I’ve used Wildfire, SnapApp and Woobox… none of them has customization options for the permissions dialog.

  • Rachel

    @ Bonnie – I’ve allowed some apps such as Hootsuite to post on my behalf, but I agree that there has to be a really good incentive for ME to allow an app to do so. I’d like to see more optional permissions like this – so many are all or nothing it means I’m like most people here and run a mile as soon as a see a permissions window!

  • To be honest I am surprised the drop off rate for opt-ins is only 10%. I thought it would have been higher than that!

    CMS platforms such as Fanbooster don’t use apps in this way so you can collect data without having to ask fans to click on “allow”

  • Facebook Apps are a great way how to get information from people. However, you have to be careful not to ask for too many information from your customers/fans. If an application asks for too many information, when the people can say to themselves “why would such an App need so many information/permissions from me?” they won`t give the app the needed permissions and will not use the app. Just be careful when designing the permissions to ask for the information/permission that such an app really needs.

    Anyway, a great article. Thanks for that Jim.

  • Wow, I knew a little about this until now.  Thanks a lot!  I guess, the words ‘Facebook’ and ‘Privacy’ can never mix, like toothpaste on your morning coffee.

  • Itskimmec

    Hello Jim, this article came
    in handy. I am a student at Full Sail University. I just handed in an
    assignment yesterday and cited you in it. J


    Through that assignment I
    fell into the Social Media Apps downward spiral…. obviously I am a newbie.


    Two questions:


    One, if you just want to
    conduct a small contest to generate new likes on Facebook do you have to have a
    third party? Example: I wanted to use a giveaway contest to the fans I already
    have to get them to promote likes from their friends list.


    Secondly, I am a small start
    up with a fan page of only 174. I do not need all of the bells and whistles
    that theses apps offer. My biggest goal at this point is to create more
    followers. What app do you recommend to start out with?


    I have to say that for a beginner
    to the Social Media Apps I was totally overwhelmed.


    Thank You, KimmeC

  • Great points.  Have to value where the potential customer is coming from.  Thanks for taking the time to write this.

  • Dorothyannfrank

    Great article.  I am ok with giving some information.  But I stop short when they want to share it with my friends.  I’m not willing to let them use me to solicit.

  • Great article, and I agree. When I click on an app, I take the time to look at what permissions they are asking for. I love that you make it clear how much it affects your potential users.

  • Cynthia V. Anderson

    Absolutely fabulous that you also use visuals in your reports! Thank you for that.

  • Vanessa Cabrera

    I LOVE shortstack and use it often. But is it true that individuals that are led to a Facebook app, requires them to allow permission for using the app? 

  • Hi KimmeC,

    Thanks for your comment! First off, yes, you do need to use a third-party app if you plan on running any type of contest/promotion on your Facebook Page. This is because Facebook requires that users follow certain guidelines and third-party apps fall in line with those guidelines. When Facebook eliminated FBML, they made it a requirement that you must go through a third-party app to run a contest.

    I am a little biased but I would recommend ShortStack! We offer a free plan for users who have 2,000 fans or less so your business fits in there, and you can run some basic apps to help increase your engagement and fan count. You can build up to 12 apps on the free plan as well.

    Thanks for reading!

  • Hi Margit,

    Here at ShortStack we allow you to customize the permission dialog. ShortStack doesn’t ask for anything that we do not need, so we really ask for the bare minimum that is required of us. When you are using ShortStack you can customize the dialog that pops up through Facebook settings, so although biased I would have to recommend ShortStack!

    Thanks for reading!

  • Hi Vanessa,

    No that is not true. General visitors to a Facebook app do not need to allow permission for the app. They only need to allow permission for certain features, if the app is using them, such as the voting widget or share widget. But upon just visiting the app there is no allow prompt. 

    Hope that clears things up! Thanks for reading and for your comment.

  • meercat007

     Thanks for your reply, Jim. I will check out ShortStack!

  • 10% drop for adding email permission would be not a high price to pay for building a continuous relations with the users. Unfortunately, in real life the price could be much higher.

    When we first build our contest platform, we required only basic info, submitting email was voluntary. It led to a ridiculous situation, when we had over 100K users who allowed our application and less than 5K had emails in their profiles, so the rest of 95K were basically out of reach for us. We are now adding email permission to the authentication dialog. The stats are yet to be collected, but based on the previous experience, we’re expecting a 20%-25% drop in the overall amount of authenticated users. It’s just the price you pay for having a consistent user base.

  • I use to manage which permissions I grant to different apps. Highly recommended.

  • If an application asks for too many information, when the people can say to themselves “why would such an App need so many information/permissions from me?” they won`t give the app the needed permissions and will not use the app. Just be careful when designing the permissions to ask for the information/permission that such an app really needs.

  • Elegantbride72

    I want to give a free ebooklet of  wedding tips  to brides to be using FB ads. Would this come under Short stack apps and list of  of Fan only content? Do they Like then the booklet appears or emailed separate? How might that work?

  • Hi there,

    It can work several ways. You can set it up so that once they like the page they receive a link to download the booklet or you can set it up so they have to fill out a form in order to get the download link. You can also, as you mention above, set up the form so that you simply ask for an email address and you personally email the booklet to each person that fills out the form. However, most people who do giveaways like this simply fan-gate their app and then have the fan fill out some basic information like name and email and once they have done that they receive the download link for the booklet.

    Hope that helps! Thanks for reading and for your question!

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