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Facebook apps all grown up: four to watch

Facebook apps all grown up: four to watch

Down in Palo Alto this week, CIO.com's C.G. Lynch examined a slew of start-ups that have built cool features into apps and services that allow people and businesses to utilize Facebook for more than just games. Here are his favorites.

2. Wildfire solves a problem that businesses large and small are already encountering. They have a feeling they should be running marketing campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and other large social networks, but what will that cost in terms of time, money and technological expertise?

Unlike early ventures of this sort that went for the big wins of Fortune 100 companies only, Wildfire gives companies tons of options that fits their budget. Small businesses can spend as little as $5 per campaign, while premium models range up to $250. The "white label" accounts, presumably for Coca-Cola- and McDonald's-size companies, will be much more. On Facebook in particular, the Wildfire app draws traffic to your company's pages and prompts users to share pieces of content they engaged with on your website. Using Facebook Connect, a lot of this information flows freely from Facebook and back to your original company site.

3. Sociable. Ever peruse a retail site and wonder what one of your friends would think about a product? If a site implements Sociable, you can do just that.

You can share the product with them on Facebook, and see what friends of yours think. For retailers, this represents a large opportunity to publish the buying actions of consumers back onto their friends News Feeds on Facebook. Users are prompted to "share on Facebook," however, so the question is: Will they elect to share? Time will tell, but for now, according to Nisan Gabbay, the company's CEO, Sociable expects to break even by the end of the year and is seeking $1 million in funding. Live Nation, the concert site, has begun using Sociable to help fans connect with each other before a show.

4. Run There. If nothing else, they get a mention because this type of app hits close to home for someone who runs a lot. But they deserve it on their own right for creating a better user experience from past sites with the same concept. Many sites, namely MapMyRun, have given runners, bikers and hikers the ability to map their routes on top of Google Maps or Map Quest. But MapMyRun has really failed users. If you wish to use the free version, it's loaded with ads that create horrible latency for plotting a run.

RunThere has a more stripped down, elegant design. It also features an amazing 3-D feature. With Google Earth plug-in, you can replay your run and see all the terrain you crossed. But it's not clear to me how they build a business off this idea. Ads would ruin it (like it did MapMyRun), and I'm not sure people would want to pay for this service when others will offer it for free.

C.G. Lynch covers consumer web and social technologies for CIO.com. He writes frequently on Twitter, Facebook and Google. You can follow him on Twitter: @cglynch.

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