This article is updated. If you are reading this in 2011, please see the new how to build a perfect Facebook page article.
This is a guest post by Jesse Stay, founder and CEO of SocialToo.com and all around great Facebook Fan Page coder. He’s volunteered to give away a copy of his recent book, FBML Essentials, to two readers. Scroll down to the end of the post for details on how to win.
Marketers love Facebook. With 350 million+ users, a self-promoting and natural way to have people promote your product, and a very active audience full of close friends and family, what’s not to like? If you had any doubt, just go on over to their stats page and see for yourself why it is something you want as part of your marketing strategy.
The best place you can place your brand on Facebook is through a Facebook Page (that’s with a capital “P”, not to be confused with your personal Profile). As of the time of this writing, over 10 million users become fans of Fan Pages every day. This number should be no surprise — when people “fan” your Page, their friends see it, and your brand spreads organically. What most don’t know is that you can customize this experience for your users. With just a little work, and either some knowledge of simple HTML or the ability to hire a developer to do the work for you, you can have a custom Page up for your business in no time. Here are some tips you can apply to your Facebook marketing strategy that will put your Facebook Page leaps and bounds ahead of the competition:
Maximize Your Avatar Visibility
Profile pictures on Facebook can have a maximum size of 200×600 pixels. This applies to Pages as well. Facebook Pages do not allow background images like Twitter, Myspace, and other services. What you can do, however, is take advantage of that full 200×600 real estate and get your brand in front of the eyes of your fans. This will make sure, regardless of what part of your Page they are on your brand is front and center.
Install the Static FBML App and Add a Custom Tab
Do a search for “static FBML” on Facebook (or just click here), and click “Add to my Page” in the upper-left. A dialog pop-over will appear with a list of Pages you administer. Select the Page you want to customize by clicking the “Add to Page” button next to the Page, and when you click the button it will disappear from the list. Now click “Close”.
Now what you want to do is create your tab. To create the tab, just go to your Page and click the link, “Edit Page” in the upper-left below your main Page image. Now when you scroll down you will see a subsection called “FBML”. Click on the “Application Settings” link for that subsection, and another popover dialog will appear. Click “add” next to the Tab field and click Okay. You’ve now just added a blank Tab called “FBML” to your Page. Now you need to customize it.
Add Content to Your Custom Tab
If you go view your Page now, you’ll notice when you click the “>>” tab there is now an “FBML” option in the drop-down. If you click on it, that tab appears in the list of tabs at the top, and you can drag it around (to the extent that Facebook allows you). You’ll notice the tab is completely blank. Let’s add some content to it.
To add content, click on “Edit Page” again on the left below your Page image. Go to the “FBML” subsection again, but this time click the “Edit” link. Now you’ll be taken to a very simple form with a “Box Title” field and an “FBML” field. This is your Canvas.
Let’s start by changing the title of the tab. As I mentioned earlier, the tab, by default gets called “FBML” when you add it. You probably don’t want to keep that name, so I recommend changing it to something productive, like “Welcome”, or “Introduction”. You can name it whatever you like, depending on your purpose!
Now you’ll want to enter some content. The “FBML” field will take almost any basic HTML. You don’t need to include any <html>, <head>, or <body> tags, as the HTML you enter will only take the place of that whitespace you just saw. All the header stuff is taken care of for you. Play with it and see what you can do.
Customize Your Tab With FBML
Beyond simple HTML you can also enter very simple FBML tags to simplify some of the process. FBML stands for “Facebook Markup Language”, and is meant to be a shortcut for use in Facebook applications. Facebook has also enabled the use of a subset of FBML in the Static FBML application. FBML can be a great way to reduce the amount of HTML you need to enter, while at the same time keeping Facebook’s own look and feel. The format is very simple, and if you are familiar with HTML or XML you’ll pick it up very quickly.
To learn FBML you’re going to want to check out Facebook’s documentation and reference on FBML tags. There is a large reference of these tags on their developer wiki. I recommend you look around and see what’s available, then try them out and see how they work. You can also purchase my book, FBML Essentials, which will give you a little more details on FBML (as well as the Facebook developer platform in general).
Keep in mind that the Static FBML application only supports a subset of what the full FBML reference indicates is available. Unfortunately there is no documentation stating what is, and isn’t supported. Tags that have been confirmed working and are my favorites are:
<fb:name> – displays a specific user’s name in the standard Facebook format
<fb:profile-pic> – displays a specific user’s profile picture in the standard Facebook format
<fb:swf> (great for Youtube videos or other video display) – allows you to include Flash applications in your tab
<fb:live-stream> – posts a Facebook live stream widget on your Tab (you must create a new application to do this)
<fb:comments> – adds a Facebook comments box to your Tab
If you read the Facebook wiki documentation keep in mind that “loggedinuser” does not work for the uid on the Static FBML App, but “profileowner” does. Beyond that, if you specify the specific user id in that field it should show properly. Here’s an example of a simple tab I set up:
<fb:profile-pic uid=”profileowner” size=”square”/>
Hi! My name is <fb:name uid=”profileowner”/>.
<fb:live-stream width=”700″ height=”400″
That produces something that looks like this:
Set Your Page to Default to Your New Tab
Now that you’ve created your custom tab using the Static FBML App you may want to set your Page to default to the new tab. This can give you a nice welcome message for your fans. To do so, just click “Edit Page” as I mentioned above. Under “Wall Settings”, click “edit”, and under “default landing tab for everyone else” select your new tab in the drop down. You’re done! Keep in mind that this default tab is only visible as a default landing page for those that are not yet fans of your Page yet.
SEO for Facebook Pages
Your Page is visible to search engines! Now that you’ve created your custom landing page, keep in mind that search engines see the page layout in the same way that someone who is not a fan of your page would see.
If you haven’t yet created a Facebook Page, you should also keep in mind that the Page title can be one of the best places to create a search-engine friendly title for your brand. Be sure this is something that describes yourself and your brand, and that you think others will be searching for. It should also, at the same time, be something familiar to other Facebook users, as this is what they will see in their News feeds as their friends become fans or you post updates. Keep in mind your Page name can not be changed once you create it, so get it right the first time! It can be a pain to have to re-create a new Page and re-establish months of work building your Page if you get it wrong early on.
As you can see, a Facebook Page is a powerful tool that you can use to enhance and strengthen your brand naturally using the tools Facebook provides. Be sure to leverage this tool, customize it, and make it work to get your brand in front of as many people and their friends as possible. Facebook is growing massively at the moment — is your brand a part of that momentum?
Jesse has agreed to give away two copies of his book (in eBook or paper format — your choice), FBML Essentials, for the best use of FBML for any fan page. Criteria are that the Facebook Page has to use the Static FBML app and will be judged by best use of FBML as a complement to HTML. If you have a Facebook Page to volunteer, just hop on over to the comments and share your favorite page. You have until December 10th to enter. Good luck!
Jesse Stay is a consultant who specializes in the integration of social APIs such as Twitter and Facebook. You may know him as founder and CEO of the social stream clean up and automation tool, SocialToo.com, but Jesse has also written two books on the subject of Facebook. His first book, “I’m on Facebook–Now What???” focuses on the beginner Facebook user and teaches you how to use Facebook as a productive tool rather than a toy. His second book, “FBML Essentials” takes you from the ground up on the Facebook developer platform, serving as a reference to Facebook’s Markup Language.
Update: Dave Dugdale of RentVine.com has graciously provided a video tutorial on how to create a “Fanbook page” (it has a nice ring to it, right?). Thanks Dave!