Using Facebook for Business needs a lot of planning. You've searched for Fan Page inspiration and started building a custom landing page for your business's Facebook presence. Now, you're looking for features that will further engage fans of your brand.
The modern social web is modular. You plug in and customize pieces of software that have often been created by other users or companies. You mix and match what works best for you without a lot of technical know-how. Facebook works the same way with apps.
Many Facebook apps are built for casual use, like the social games and quizzes your friends use in their personal feeds. But quite a few apps are ideal for a business Fan Page. These help customize your page with greater detail, showcasing your content from other social sites and getting more information from your customers.
Here are five essential Facebook apps that your business may want to take for a spin.
1. Static FBML for Your Page Sidebar
We've already discussed how the Static FBML app can be used to make your Fan Page a unique destination. But this versatile plugin can also bring some interactivity to the column that appears on the left-hand side of your page.
Vertical, left-hand navigation is something users expect to find on most websites. They will be comfortable looking there for additional links, promotions, and contact details. Moving a Static FBML box over to the left-hand column is a great way to exploit this valuable real estate. Here's how to do it.
If you haven't already done so, add the app to your Fan Page and make sure it's functioning as a "Box" rather than a "Tab." Add content to your box using standard HTML. Graphics cannot be uploaded to Facebook here, so you must reference them from a URL -- likely, one on your own hosted website or blog.
For a sidebar, think about adding some clean graphic buttons or icons that link out to other destinations your fans would be interested in, such as your company website, blog, or Twitter account. This sidebar will be visible no matter what Fan Page tab your visitors are on, so consider using graphic elements that coincide with your existing logo and color scheme.
Once your content is added and saved, it will appear as a box on the "Boxes" tab. Head over there to ensure that your HTML has rendered properly. If so, click the "Pencil" in the top-right corner of the box and select "Move To Wall Tab." This will display your content in the left-hand navigation of your page.
Contests and giveaways are a great way to engage people with your brand, especially on the social web. A chance at some free stuff is one of the top reasons people follow and friend brands in the first place. The Promotions app makes it easy to build and publish a contest on Facebook in a way that is inherently social and shareable.
Promotions differs from many Facebook apps in that the content you create for it lives on the developer's website. This makes it a versatile tool, but you'll have to sign up for a free account at wildfireapp.com.
Once you create an account and connect the registered app to Facebook, the promotions you generate on WildFire will populate the tab on your Fan Page. Promotions are easily built through a step-by-step process. Provide the dates of the contest, the types of prizes, the fields for the entry form, specific parameters about contest entry and rules, and upload any additional artwork you want to include.
A nice advantage of having contest data centralized on WildFire is that it can be sourced out to other social networks, and even to your own company website. Any changes or additions you make to your promotions will dynamically update on all of the locations where your customers and fans find you on the web.
Note, the cost to publish a basic promotional campaign through Wildfire is $5, plus $.99 for each day the campaign is active. Additional packages with more customization and publishing options are available.
3. Social RSS
If you already have great content from your company's blog or another social network that you'd like to bring to the fore of your Facebook presence, Social RSS is a smart tool.
You can configure this app to automatically pull in updates from any RSS or ATOM feed and display them as posts on your Fan Page, either on a dedicated tab, a wall tab (on the left side) or as part of your core news feed. It's a useful way to automate your content and eliminate the need to republish things manually to your Facebook Page.
Take note, however, that fans on social networks are much more responsive to curated content. Especially on Facebook, where people connect to a smaller community of personal friends and family, an unfiltered pipeline of RSS content may not be welcome in all news feeds. If your core customers are already subscribed to your blog and other social accounts, a double-dose of the same exact content may trigger some to hide your updates or "un-fan" you. Consider relegating your Social RSS feed to a tab if this is the case.
Test where and how an app like Social RSS is best implemented on Facebook, and adjust as needed depending on the size and response of your audience.
Sometimes you just need a little feedback. That's what social engagement is all about, right?
On Facebook, it doesn't get any simpler than the Poll app. There's no account to sign up for. Once you connect it to your Page, all the setup and data lives right in your settings panel.
A poll can be a casual way to get a read from your fans about a new product, a new page design, or your business in general.
In the poll settings, simply name your burning question (What do you think of our new spicy burritos?), list your choices (Delicious, Pretty Tasty, Needs Work, Offensive) and select your publishing options.
Polls can be published to your Page wall/feed, live on a custom tab, or be popped into your left-hand navigation where visitors can click anytime they come to your Page. You can invite your friends to take a poll, and they can easily share it out as they would any other post or app. Both you and your visitors can see the poll results without leaving Facebook.
Publishing a weekly poll about new products or changes in your industry is a great way to keep fans coming back to your Page and talking about your brand.
5. YouTube for Pages
If creating video content is part of your business's social media strategy (and we recommend it should be) you can squeeze more views out of your productions by dedicating a Fan Page tab to your YouTube channel.
That's exactly what the YouTube for Pages app does. To activate the app, you'll have to set up a free account at the developer website involver. Once it's connected to your Fan Page, simply input the YouTube channel you'd like to pull videos from (it could be your own, or anyone else's), pick a few more settings, and you're all set.
The app "features" your most recent upload or favorite, and displays thumbnails for previous videos on a simple, clean interface. The videos play directly on Facebook of course, so fans can watch without ever leaving your Fan Page. Just be sure to add the tab in the app's "Application Settings."