Integrate with BBM and Watch Your Application Go Viral

How-to

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If you could promote your application on a rapidly growing social network with 60+ million active users – 70% of which use it daily – with just a few lines of code, would you do it? I think the more appropriate question is, why haven’t you done it yet?

Meet the BlackBerry® Messenger Social Platform (BBM™ SP), which you can use to enable your application to go viral with very little effort. Approximately 2% of applications in the BlackBerry App World™ storefront have connected to the BBM SP; however, that group accounts for over 20% of all downloads! Spending just half an hour to add this to your application can really pay off. With minimal development effort, Foursquare was able to integrate their application with the BBM SP, resulting in a doubling of downloads in a single day. Nobex Radio saw a 52% increase in downloads after they added support for the BBM SP.

Continue reading for a high level overview of what can be done using the BBM SP APIs. Today we’ll cover the “What” of the BBM SP. Future articles in this series will provide more technical “How To” for both Native and BlackBerry® WebWorks™ developers. The features discussed in this article exist both on BlackBerry® 10 and BlackBerry® OS 5 through 7.

Registration

Registration is the first step in connecting to the BBM Social Platform, which involves an application registering itself with the RIM®-hosted BBM infrastructure. Keep in mind that like most features on a BlackBerry device, the user can approve or deny this connection, allowing them to regulate which applications they allow to use the BBM SP. The application is also informed during this process whether or not the connection was a success. If it did fail, the application is given the reason why. Possible reasons include lack of network coverage, registration blocked by the user, or BBM Client not configured. Once this step is complete, the more interesting APIs of the BBM SP are available to your application.

Invite to Download

The invite to download feature allows users of your application to invite their BBM contacts to download your application from BlackBerry App World. The recipient receives the invitation through a BBM Chat session, which includes a message provided by the application and user sending the invitation. The chat session also contains buttons for the user to accept or decline the invitation. If they accept the invitation, BlackBerry App World is opened to show your application. This feature is ideal for multi-user applications or games, allowing the user to easily invite their contacts to participate.

Note that for this to work between BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry OS 5-7 users, the SKU in BlackBerry App World for the two releases of the application (BAR and COD) must be the same.

Profile Integration

Updating personal message from BBMQtProfile Sample

BBM SP allows for both read and write access to the user’s BBM profile. This allows your application access to their profile message, status text, availability and avatar image. The screenshot above shows the confirmation prompt that appears when an application attempts to update a user’s personal message.

View from my contact’s device

Profile updates are visible from the devices of my contacts. They can see a list of recent updates made to my profile and provide yet another opportunity for viral growth. If an update to my personal message was made from an application other than the BBM Client, a tag is shown under the update stating the name of the application that performed the update. Note the “from BBM SDK Demo” tag beside the red arrow. Users can click on that tag to download the application from BlackBerry App World. This requires the sender to have installed the application from BlackBerry App World, so that tag won’t take you to BlackBerry App World if you side loaded your application for testing.

Profile Boxes

Profile Boxes provide yet another way for an application to promote itself to a user’s BBM contacts. They appear within the Apps area of a user’s profile and are ideal for sharing what a user is doing within an application. Every application that is connected to BBM SP appears in the list. Applications can create profile box items that appear under their application header. You can supply a custom image and string, which is used to create the profile box item. The user’s contacts can also use this to download the application from BlackBerry App World.

Contacts

An application can retrieve a list of BBM Contacts who have the same application installed. This list can be used as selection criteria for connecting to create a multi-user experience. Events are also fired for changes to this contact list, allowing your application to keep track of both the addition and deletion of contacts in the contact list itself and/or changes to individual contacts. An application could pick up on changes to individual contacts to trigger some event. For example, if someone gets a new high score, a game may broadcast it to the user’s BBM contacts by changing their BBM personal message. An application could listen for this update and use it to trigger an in-game challenge to beat their friend’s new high score.

You could also use this to trigger in game connections. A user could enter a game and indicate they want to play against their friends. The game could update the user’s BBM status to something like, “Mark wants to play Slingshot 5000 with someone.” By listening to BBM status updates, my contacts who are also in game could be prompted to join for some head-to-head action.

Wrapping It Up

This list covers the core BlackBerry Messenger Social Profile features that will be available for your application to use upon the launch of BlackBerry 10. The SDKs and APIs are available to use now — start today so you can be ready for launch. If you have an existing application that targets BlackBerry OS 5-7, you can roll out these features right away.

Keep an eye here on the blog for follow-up articles that’ll provide some technical information on how to code these features into your application. We also have further information available on the BBM SP website. Also, watch this blog for additional blog posts in the BBM series that cover how to use these features in a Cascades™ application and BlackBerry WebWorks application, as well as how to invoke BBM using the invocation framework.

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