Update: I am hosting a live Facebook for Business webinar – Jan 21, 2010 – Listen to the archive recording here
This month’s overhaul of the the Facebook interface dramatically improved the functionality of the Pages feature on Facebook. Anyone with a Facebook profile has had the ability to add something called a Page to extend some content beyond the profile page. This was a smart thing for businesses to do as you could control the content and fans could subscribe to the content. The functionality, however, was pretty limited and these pages were more like static web page brochures than anything else.
With the latest overhaul the Pages have become much more profilelike and, in my opinion, much more useful as a tool for a business build a brand and community inside of Facebook.
On top of a new tabbed interface the most notable changes are:
The addition of the Wall function.
Fans and non-fans alike can view and join the conversation by commenting on activity and creating activity on your Page’s Wall. I believe this added level of engagement gives Pages much more dynamic community building functionality and helps your Page behave much like the rest of Facebook.
You may also notice that Facebook in general has taken on a twitterlike feel to the status update. Not surprised really, but it was a bit jarring for the Facebook hardcore, many teenagers who still don’t have a use for twitter. But, the new status update being added to Pages gives businesses the ability to put update content out and on to the profile pages of fans. This alone should get your attention. If used properly this should give businesses the ability to more effectively, yet still gently, promote within Facebook.
Custom tabs mean custom landing pages
Another significant addition is the tabbed interface that can be lined up to focus attention on important elements of your Page. Now you can create tabs for things like videos, photos, discussion, and events and by doing so you can build out subpages with a specific focus. These tabs use common Facebook applications, such as Events, to drive the page content and are simple to set-up and edit. Each tab has a unique URL giving you the ability to promote particular events or photos as well as create some custom landing page functionality.
Tricking out Boxes with FBML app
A new default tab called Boxes holds lots of potential for businesses as well. Think of a box page as a free form scratch pad. You can add up to 10 of what Facebook calls FBML elements (you must add the Facebook Static FBML application to your apps to edit these). FBML is Facebook’s mark-up language but these elements will take any HTML as well. So you have the ability to add newsletter sign-up forms, ebook downloads, and other HTML based elements. (You can add any of the default elements such as video or discussions as well.)
Once you create the elements you can slide them around the page to the get them to display as you like. Here’s a quick example – Note: If you clicked on the example link I just gave you, it took you directly to the tab page I wanted you to go to. So, in effect, you can create and promote custom landing pages inside of your Facebook Page and promote them as entry points. Great place to offer non-fans a reason to become a fan. (tech note: you can edit the Boxes page by dragging the elements around, but you must go to wall page and hit Edit the page to edit an individual FBML element)
Doesn’t play nice with apps
One source of frustration at the moment is that Facebook just kind of flipped the switch on this update without much warning so many apps don’t work with the update. Facebook’s homegrown apps, such as video, events, photos and discussion – all good ones for your Page, seem to work, but for now many other 3rd party apps don’t.
I was able to install RSS-Connect and create a Blog/RSS tab that currently displays blog posts from all my Duct Tape Marketing Coaches and my twitter feed. There is a setting that puts these in the Wall page sidebar as well.
Seriously ugly URLs
While you can promote your Page URL from outside of Facebook, the URL structure is pretty ugly and long. I would suggest creating a subdomain on your site and using that as the main promotion URL with a 301 redirect to your Facebook page. I use fb.ducttapemarketing.com to get the job done.
This is an evolving platform and my page is by no means the ultimate example of what’s possible for business using Pages, but it should get your started.