It is what it is.
Some think Facebook is all that and a bag of chips while others are determined to keep away from the timesuck that it truly can be. But no matter how you feel, you can’t deny that Facebook is where the people are and for those of us that blog, run a business, or want visitors to our website, we desperately need to know how to play the game.
The problem is, the rules of the game keep changing. Facebook makes updates to how things work and we have to accept them and evolve with them. That is why when we we’re working on making improvements to our facebook pages (WPMU DEV & Edublogs), we look for methods and plugins that we feel certain won’t be changing in the near future as the tides in Facebook’s headquarters are almost certain to change again. And soon.
So, pull up a chair (sorry, this post goes against my usual keep it short as possible rule) and read on below to ensure that you are maximizing your true facebook potential.
First, on the Facebook side of things…
#1 Profile vs. Groups vs. Pages – What’s best?
First, we can eliminate groups from the list right at the start. If you are currently managing a Facebook group for your site or organization, you need to put a stop to it. Set up a page instead, put a link up in the group to the new page, and cut your losses. You will know that you have a group and not a page because the URL when you visit it will look something like www.facebook.com/groups.phpblahblahblah.
There are several reasons why groups aren’t what you need, but the most important is that any updates on a group page don’t get sent to all of the followers’ live streams. In short, unless someone visits the ugly looking URL mentioned above, they will never know what you are doing. We certainly don’t want to rely on that.
If it sounds like I am harping here, it’s because I still run across businesses and non-profits that are maintaining groups and not pages. That’s example numero uno of why once you jump on the Facebook train, you have to keep up. Most of those groups were created long before pages ever even existed!
If you have a Facebook username, then you have a Facebook profile too. Unless your blog is personal, and a journal about your day-to-day life, then you probably don’t want to worry about maximizing your profile for your blog. You would be better off keeping your profile for friends and family and starting a page for your blog instead. The reason being, if you hope to build up readership and Facebook followers for your blog, it is easier and just more natural for people to click “like” on your page than to become Facebook “friends.”
Plus, let’s be honest, everyone personally (as in real life) knows all their Facebook friends, right? We should strive to keep it that way ;)
So that leaves us with a page. Every blog, business, band, club, and whatever should have their own page! At least they should if they want to build readership and make it easy for their “fans” and “followers” to keep informed.
#2 Now on to creating that page
This one is pretty simple. Go here to create your page if you still need to.
Here’s some quick tips to help jump start your page:
- Do complete all of the options asked on your Info tab of your page – this is often one of the first places new visitors to your page go and an easy place to put links and content about what you have to offer.
- Create a nice logo image (Facebook calls it a profile image) for your page. Many people don’t know that these images can be up to 200px wide and 600px tall. That gives you a lot of room to provide a lasting impression on first time visitors. Though if you go too tall, you risk pushing down your menu and links to page content – so there is sort of a trade off.
- Spend some time looking over the different settings for your page. For example, we like it set so that anyone can post to our pages’ walls, but that only our postings get shown to visitors when they first visit the page. This helps ensure that our messages are the first visitors see, but we still encourage anyone to leave feedback, ask for help, or share as well.
There is a lot of particular vocabulary and idiosyncrasy to Facebook pages – and there is a really thorough downloadable guide from Facebook itself here.
#3 Customizing your landing page
It is buried in a strange place, but Facebook allows you to set a ‘default landing tab’ for visitors to your page that are not already “likers”.
(Side note: I’m still confused about what we should call those that like our pages. They can’t be followers, that is too twitteresque, and I always accidentally type lickers instead of likers for some strange reason. Fans is the official name, I think, but in some situations it sounds wrong as well! Anyone have any ideas that don’t make my spell check go crazy? )
To set a landing page up, you first have to create a new tab. Then go to the ‘edit page’ admin screen and choose ‘Manage Permissions’ from the menu. A landing page doesn’t immediately sound like a “permissions” setting to me, but that’s where you will find it.
You will see a drop down box to choose the tab you want visitors to see first when visiting your page. You could also set this to your ‘Wall’ or ‘Info’ tab if you wish.
You have two options to create a new tab on your Facebook page:
Option 1: Use a Facebook App – There are countless number of Apps out there that let you add content and create custom (and sweet looking) tabs (pages) on your page.
However, I would be weary of any app that a) charges for use and b) puts ads on your Facebook page. There are tons of these!
I’m certainly not against app developers trying to make a buck, but we’ve tried out quite a few of these, and I’m not convinced the business model works to maintain these aps in the long run. I would hate to see you invest a lot of time and money in an app only for it to go under or not be updated. And you can count on the fact that Facebook will change the rules in the near future and you will need for your app to keep up.
For now, you are probably best off with a Static HTML: iframe tab app which lets you use good old fashion html to design away. Not good with HTML? Use your WordPress page editor and then copy and paste the HTML generated in the HTML tab over.
Option 2: Use a WordPress Plugin (that also requires an App)
Or to make it even easier, there are a handful of new WordPress plugins that can take care of this for you.
Here’s one I tested out and like: Learn all about the Facebook Tab Manager Plugin here. You do have to create your own Facebook app, but that isn’t nearly as hard as it sounds. The support pages for the plugin walk you through it.
#4 Posting blog content to your Facebook wall
There are a million reasons why you want to do this. Over 500,000 million actually. All of Facebook’s .5 billion+ active users spend the majority of their time on Facebook on their own ‘news feeds’.
This is the page you first see when logging in that shows all of the latest updates from your friends and pages.
So, if you take away one thing from this post, it is do it all MANUALLY!
There is a huge number of apps and WordPress plugins that will let you post to your page’s wall automatically. That sounds nice, right? It’s less work! But as soon as we turned off our automatic post app, we saw an immediate increase in the number of comments, likes, and general interaction with blog posts on our pages!
This is because when adding manually, you can:
- pick the thumbnail image shown when manually adding links to Facebook
- add some text to your fans asking them to leave a comment or do something
- decide the best time of day to post to Facebook – or not wait for your app to check the RSS feed for something new
- keep multiple posts from being clumped together and make sure Facebook fans are only getting what you want them to
- not worry that the Facebook API or rules will change and something might fall through the cracks
To add a link to a blog post manually, go to the wall of your Facebook page while logged in and copy and past in a link to the post. That’s really it!
If you must be lazy about it, we were using the Networked Blogs app before – and liked it over all the other options we tried out. But don’t be lazy if you can help it!
#5 Facebook ads and demographics tools
To really do advertising with Facebook justice, we would need to write a whole other post or three. But there is one thing you should play with now – mostly because it’s addicting and cool!
Go here and click on ‘Create an Ad‘. Note you won’t have to actually publish or pay for an ad if you don’t want to.
Scroll down to the second box called ‘Targeting’. This is where the fun is to be had.
Have you ever wanted to know how many people like Starbucks, have a dog named Pig, and love to listen to Lady Gaga? Well you can’t get that specific, but almost!
There are over 80,000 Facebook users that have “liked” WordPress and live in the US, UK, and Australia. Would you like to have an ad up in minutes that targets only these users? And you only have to pay if they click on the ad?
See, I told you it was pretty cool. And you can target gender, ages, locations (down to the city!) and more.
Now, on to what you can do on your WordPress site to maximize your Facebook footprint…
#6 Allowing users to use Facebook ID’s to login
Facebook Connect allows you to let visitors on your site login and/or leave comments using their Facebook profile information.
It sounds great, in theory, and sometimes really is – but you need to have a think about if you really want to provide this for your users.
For example, in my other life, I work extensively with Edublogs which is a blogging service for education. Because Facebook is banned in most school settings, Facebook Connect is certainly a no go for us.
You also have to really think about your intended audience (as well as your own thoughts) and how they might react to adding to what some perceive is a data mining machine that simply knows too much. You might come across users that aren’t on Facebook or don’t like linking their account to other sites just as often as you will have users that are happy to click the shiny familiar facebook login button that’s now around every corner.
Like the CNN example above, it is best to give an option. There are quite a few Facebook Connect plugins for WordPress out there, but you can read about one of our favorites here.
#7 Go even further with Facebook Comments
About a month ago, Facebook rolled out the option to let users leave comments using their Facebook profiles anywhere on the web. Many WordPress sites and blogs are using this to completely replace the built in comment experience. This means that all users must be logged into Facebook to comment AND these comments can also be read right on Facebook itself.
It sounds great, and in fact, we seriously considered adding it to this very blog. It is a good option, and one of the largest and most influential blogs out there, TechCrunch, really seems to like it.
The pros are that it forces users to use their “real names” (or at least the name they use on Facebook) to post, eliminates tedious forms and captchas, and really integrates your site with Facebook. It is shown to really cut back on trolls, spams, and pointless or nasty comments.
The cons are that not all users have Facebook, they may not be able to leave a comment if Facebook is banned at their workplace, and like discussed above, you turn over some of your autonomy over to “the man.”
Facebook Comments For WordPress Plugin is probably your best choice to easily implement this on your site. It even lets users leave anonymous comments if you’d like (thus eliminating some of the positives of the set-up though!).
#8 Shares vs. Likes – Is there a difference?
Yep. Well sort of.
It used to be that you had to add a share button like this to allow readers to easily post a link to your content on their walls:
These buttons still exist, but Facebook recently (I told you it is always changing) merged the two so that the features are similar.
A like button, like this will now also post a not on users’ walls (and thus hopefully in the ‘news feeds’ for their friends to see).
You can see that we like to make use of these pretty liberally. You might want to do some testing and experimenting to check the types of share buttons you should add and where they should go.
#9 Facebook widgets and social plugins
And now for more fun stuff. You really don’t NEED any of the many plugins out there to add much of Facebook’s widgets and social boxes like this to your site.
Using embed code and a text widget, you can do just about anything.
Add boxes listing your fans, show the most popular content across your site, and much more just by copying and pasting the code from here.
And Facebook, if you’re listening, I would love the Activity Feed Social Plugin to work across multiple subdomains easily. Care to help me out?
#10 Posting Facebook stuff to your site
With the exception of the social boxes in step #9, you will need some of the plugins available if you want to put Facebook photo galleries, event calendars, profile information, or the like onto your site.
Honestly, this is an area where there is much room for growth by the community. I’ve not really found the all-in-one solution I’ve been looking for, but Embed Facebook is a good start and may just do the trick for you.
That being said, is there anything particular you would like to see in a complete Facebook integration plugin? I may know just the team that could pull that off. :)
Summing it all up
Some of what’s presented above is guaranteed to change with new rules, developments, and features from Facebook. But don’t let that persuade you to take it slow or not try – we’re all learning here!
And want to add something that was left off? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!