By Mari Smith
Published December 21, 2010
These apps allow you to customize your landing tabs, add your blog, add videos and photos, add chat, add polls, contests, geolocation, scheduling, email, ecommerce and much more.
Why Facebook Apps?
Why add apps to your Facebook Business (Fan) page? By customizing your Fan page with apps, you can significantly enhance the user’s experience. And, the more you keep your fans engaged and coming back for more, the more likely you’ll increase your “viral visibility.”
In other words, every time a fan interacts with your Fan page, it’s free advertising for you because each fan’s activity goes out into their stream (their wall and their friends’ News Feeds). To find the best apps to enhance your Fan page, you could spend endless hours browsing Facebook’s Application Directory:
However, there are literally tens of thousands from which to choose. Even clicking on the Business category as I’ve done in the screenshot above, we get apps like Bartab (send friends real drinks for $1) and Hugs and Hearts. I don’t know about you, but these are hardly business apps in my opinion!
There’s also Appbistro where you can browse their comprehensive directory of apps for businesses.
Now that Facebook nixed the ability to have our own custom content/apps on the Wall tab (left column), we need to get even more creative to ensure content on tabs is actually seen and that your fans interact with it; otherwise there’s not much point in having a dormant app that doesn’t enhance the user’s experience.
You can track your metrics via Facebook Insights and see which of your tabs gets the most clicks as shown in the screenshot below:
However, it may be that very few of your tabs get much visibility except the actual Landing tab (my top scorer in the screenshot above). Your Landing tab is the default page that visitors see who have not yet joined your page (click Edit Page > Manage Permissions > select Default Landing Tab).
So, my recommendation is to focus on those apps that actually publish content to your own Fan page stream (your page wall and the News Feed of your fans). Plus, add a few apps that allow for heightened engagement at specified times, such as live streaming video and live chat apps as I’ve detailed below for you.
Custom Landing Tabs
Let’s start with custom content as it’s important to have a branded Landing tab for your Facebook page. In fact, as reported by InsideFacebook, BrandGlue founder Jeff Widman discovered that a custom Landing tab DOUBLES conversion to fans:
We ran an A/B test just four weeks ago to guesstimate the efficacy of a landing tab. We drove visitors to the fan page of a major brand using ads. Those ad-driven visitors converted to fans at a rate of approximately 47% WITH a landing tab. When we turned off the landing tab, those same ad-driven visitors converted to fans at approximately 23%. A VERY noticeable loss in conversions over the course of the campaign.
The most popular app by far to add your own custom content has been Facebook’s own Static FBML. Facebook will be replacing all FBML tabs and apps with iFrames at the end of 2010, at which time you’ll be able to create custom tabs using iFrames. However, Facebook will continue to support any and all tabs/apps created prior to when FBML gets deprecated. See the Developers Roadmap for updates on the timeline of changes.
By way of example, here’s the Landing tab for Social Media Examiner’s Facebook page. Note the call to action (”Click the Like button”) and the seamless branding:
Apps for adding custom content/branded Landing tab:
Here are my top two recommendations:
- Static FBML – you’ll need to be familiar with coding or use a WISIWYG editor first. See Tabfusion’s Free Facebook Page Tab Maker here. Plus, review these two helpful tutorials.
- TabSite – free version with two TabSite subpages or choose from three paid levels. Complete WISIWYG editor; tabs within a main tab. TabSite is one of my favorites. It’s a very easy-to-use interface. I created the “RESOURCES” tab on my Facebook page using TabSite.
Facebook custom tab apps:
For easy-to-use templates, check out these options:
- Static520 – UPDATE 12/21/10 – apparently this app provider is no longer working properly.
These sites offer suites of apps, including custom Landing tabs. Some apps are free, some have a fee:
If you’re looking for full hands-on customization service at very affordable rates, my top choices are:
See the complete list of Facebook Preferred Developer Consultants here.
Once you’re happy with your custom Landing tab, it’s time to import your blog’s RSS feed. My favorite app – used widely by many bloggers on Facebook – is Networked Blogs. It’s free and relatively simple to set up.
Once you’re set up and have a few followers, you can place the Networked Blogs widget on your blog for added visibility. Any time you have the chance to display your fans’ faces, go for it!
You can add the Networked Blogs app to your personal profile in addition to your Fan page, if you wish. Alternate methods for pulling in your blog posts include:
- Facebook’s Notes app (can be a lag time and is sometimes buggy).
- Any of the RSS apps; e.g., RSS Graffiti, Social RSS or others.
RSS Feed and Content Publishers
RSS/Content apps include:
- RSS Graffiti
- Social RSS
- Involver – RSS Feed (free version posts to the tab, Pro version posts to the wall)
- North Social – RSS Feed
- Objective marketer (complete publishing platform – used and recommended by Guy Kawasaki).
Video – YouTube and Viddler
I’ve been searching for some time for the ultimate YouTube app – one that automatically publishes new uploaded videos from your channel to your Facebook page wall, has a nice-looking tab, is easy to navigate and doesn’t take users away from your Fan page to view videos. Plus, if I were really waving a magic wand, I’d love it if YouTube gave us the option under their “Activity Sharing” feature to post liked or favorited videos to our Fan page (versus profile).
The closest I’ve found is YouTube Channels – I like their interface but the downside is they charge a monthly fee of $4.99 and I couldn’t get the Publish to Wall feature to work, so I canceled my subscription. Check out the YouTube Channel app by Involver (screenshot below) or the YouTube Video Box app.
If you have a Viddler account instead of or in addition to YouTube, check out the Viddler app.
I’m not a big fan of importing all tweets onto your Facebook wall, unless you don’t tweet that often! A more effective solution is to only publish select tweets TO your Fan page using this app:
- Selective Tweets – once set up, this app allows you to post your tweets to your Facebook page simply by including “#fb” at the end of the tweet (or there is an option to include #fb anywhere in the tweet but I don’t recommend that option as it’s too easy to make a mistake!). You can choose to post tweets to your personal profile and/or Fan page.
Or, my favorite solution as mentioned in the RSS Feed section above is to only import your Twitter Favorites. I do this using the RSS Graffiti app. To find the RSS feed URL for your Twitter Favorites, with the new Twitter design the only way is to view your Twitter account while logged out:
Another Twitter solution is to simply install an app that pulls in all your tweets onto a tab, but doesn’t publish in the stream. I’m not sure there’s much benefit to this, as I say the primary goal here is to get into the News Feeds of your fans.
To publish your Facebook content TO Twitter as tweets, connect your page using Facebook’s own Twitter app. You have a choice of six different types of content: Status Update, Photos, Video, Links, Notes and Events. Facebook’s publisher (the field where you type your updates) takes up to 420 characters; whereas tweets are 140 characters. With this Facebook to Twitter app, your content will automatically be truncated with a link back to your Facebook page which can help increase engagement by bringing your Twitter followers onto Facebook.
To display photos from your Flicker account, you might want to try the Flickr Tab app. See also the suite of app providers above.
If you have slides up on SlideShare, display them on your Facebook Fan page! You’ll have a nice display on the SlideShare tab, but I haven’t found that adding new slides automatically publishes to the wall. So, as you add new slides (and/or videos) to SlideShare.net, also publish the URL right on your Facebook page wall. What this does is pull in an actual player very similar to the video player with the blue play button icon. Your fans can play the slideshow right on your wall, and of course like and comment, providing that coveted News Feed ranking.
Facebook has a Reviews app that you can add to your Fan page. The cool thing about this app is whenever a fan writes a review, it goes out into their stream (their wall and friends’ News Feeds). If you have a particularly negative review, spam or trolls, unfortunately there’s no way to remove individual reviews. If that ever happens, you could remove the app altogether. Otherwise, I think the Reviews app is an often-overlooked goldmine for businesses to have on their Fan pages!
One of my favorite apps to spark immediate real-time, live engagement is Vpype. You can launch a webcast at any time (or scheduled time) to your fans and the app then posts an announcement on your wall. The app can hold up to 300 viewers with a live chat alongside your webcam broadcast. You can easily record and archive your shows; recordings include the full chat transcript too. Plus, you can even download the FLV file of your shows. The app tab is aptly named “Shows.”
Read my review here from when I beta-tested the app for Vpype.
Alternatives to Vpype include:
- Linqto (going live January 2011 – this should be a very popular webinar/livestream app!)
Along with offering impromptu or scheduled live video broadcasts, you could also offer live chat sessions with your fans. One such app I’ve tried and like is Clobby. The one downside of this app is the obnoxious banner ad at the top of the chatroom as you can see in the screenshot below. However, simply scroll the page down enough to hide the banner while chatting.
Whenever you open your chatroom, you can publish an announcement to your Fan page wall, which of course goes out in the stream and fans start coming over to chat. Publish a tweet as well to get even more people in the chatroom! You could host a regular live chat for your fans; I suggest capturing the chat stream with an app like ScreenFlow for Mac or Camtasia Studio for Mac or PC – that way, you have an archive to refer to.
If you find yourself continually answering the same questions for your clients and community, be sure to compile a Frequently Asked Questions section – the simple FAQ Page app allows you to have an FAQ tab on your Fan page that you can direct fans to when answering questions on your wall. A couple of things to note about this app: you can’t reorder the questions once inserted, so you may wish to compile your FAQs and all their answers in a separate document before pasting each one in. Also, it would be great if each question had its own unique URL so you could just share the link in answer to questions on your wall, but this isn’t the case.
Polls and Quizzes
For a poll or quiz app to work well, you want your fans to quickly and easily participate and for that activity to spark more engagement and visibility. If users have to jump through extra hoops to participate, they’ll likely just move on. This screenshot shows the Fan Appz poll app live on the Family Guy Fan page – I like how the app provides the option for voters to share (on their personal profiles) and also to share on their Fan pages!
Some choices include (free and paid):
Contests and Promotions
Facebook’s rules around contests, drawings, competitions and sweepstakes are rigorous. Though many Facebook users are either unaware of the rules or choose to ignore them, I personally feel it’s not worth the risk to administer a promotion of any kind that doesn’t adhere to Facebook’s rules. In one fell swoop, you could lose your carefully built Fan page.
The safest way to run any kind of contest or drawing on your Fan page is to use a third-party app such as:
- Momentus Media
Apps for Local Businesses
With the boom of LBS (Location-based Services), local business have more ways to integrate social and mobile media than ever before. Why not show off your Foursquare customer check-ins with an app on your Fan page?
Plus, be sure to claim your Facebook Place page: just search for your own business name on Facebook and look for the link at the foot of the Place page that says “Is this your business?” Once claimed, you’ll have the opportunity to merge your Place page with your Fan page. The resulting new page looks rather different, so think carefully about this. (For examples of merged pages, take a look at Iron Horse Vineyards and The Ellen Show).
- Foursquare Place Widget – see screenshot below
- Yelp Reviews by North Social
- Store Locator by Involver
- Facebook Places and Deals
Make it super-easy for your Facebook fans, clients and prospects to book time with you. Add a tab synched with your appointment scheduling platform of choice. Remember, each tab has its own unique URL; you can easily direct your fans to your appointment tab.
- Schedulicity app (requires a Schedulicity account)
- Genbook BookNow! app (requires a Genbook account)
Ideally, you have your own email marketing service provider as outlined in the next section. However, perhaps you wish to get started with a simple contact form on your Facebook page. Here are a few options:
Embed on an FBML tab:
See this helpful post by Tim Ware at HyperArts with a review and tutorial on JotForm and Allforms.
Email Marketing Apps
Your Facebook Fan page can be a tremendous source of traffic and a means to collect email addresses of your fans. Plus, some email marketing service providers have a feature that allows you to post your latest enewsletter to your Fan page. Check out any of the following:
- Constant Contact
- Nutshell Mail
- Delivra via TabSite integration. (See Delivra on Facebook)
Ecommerce Apps – Sell Products on Your Page
Many Facebook page owners often ask me if it’s okay to put up “Buy now” buttons and actually try to make sales directly from their Fan pages. I say “Go for it!!” If your fans are already spending time on your page learning about you and your products and services, you just never know when someone might be ready to buy from you. There are a few choices for adding a shopping cart tab to your fan page, including:
- Ecwid – free, run your own store, mirrored on many sites
- VendorShop [UPDATE: added 12/21/10. Thanks to Krishna De for the tip + review.]
- OWJO [UPDATE: added 12/21/10. Thanks to Krishna De for the tip + review.]
See also this related blog post on Social Media Examiner: How to Sell Products via Your Facebook Page.