It is one thing to create an application for a social media platform, but it is another to make it meaningful to its users. This is especially true in the case of corporate application development, where programmers struggle to determine what it takes to create an app that consumers will rally behind.

For one, it takes a lot more than creating an app just to get one up on Facebook or Twitter. And for corporate developers, it takes a lot more planning and patience to avoid foundering, according to social software experts.

It will take resilience and time to work through the noise in crowded social media environments, but done right, corporations can watch their apps take off. There is a laundry list of features and functions an app can have, but there are certain things that need to be seriously considered by corporate developers to separate their brands from others in order to customize for social media.

“What’s interesting about the opportunity here for corporations to make use of an app is…you don’t want to have an app that is a blatant ad,” said Kyle Ford, director of partner and design of the Ning social networking site. “But I think if the app provides an interesting functionality, that’s the kind of model that can prove to be successful.”

Ning, described by Ford as a “social platform for interests and passions in the world,” went on to suggest a good idea for an app: a recipe exchange on Ning’s food networks “brought by this company,” he said. “Because this approach will make food fanatics want to tell others about this app, and in turn make it successful.”

Derick Schaefer, founder of social media consulting company Orangecast, agrees that offering something to consumers as opposed to blatantly pitching something about a company or its product has more favorable reactions from people. “I always recommend the 8-to-1 ratio,” he said, which he described as doing something helpful or beneficial for a community (whether online or in the real world) eight times, and then say one thing about your company or product.

An approach like that resonates with users, Schaefer added. “You have to give a little in order to get. And if you can solve something for someone or shed light on something that’s not you, it will go a long way.” And developers will find that this works across any social media platform, he said.

But no matter which social media platform or approach a developer chooses, “It’s taking the next step from presence to being effective,” said Matt Etlinger, cofounder of camping supply site eSwarm. “You need to cross that chasm that a lot of people don’t.”

About Katie Serignese