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Facebook markup language or FBML for short is used in a variety of places within the social network. Anyone who has written any Facebook applications will already be pretty familiar with its tags, and will probably have used it to write data to walls, or share postings with others programmatically. If however you haven’t yet dipped your toe in the water of the Facebook API, or indeed haven’t actually needed to – there are some snippets of FBML which prove to be mighty useful when creating custom Facebook Fan Pages, and can easily and quickly out of the box be used with the FBML widget, which adds an extra much needed layer of customisation to an existing Facebook fan page. The static FBML widget can be added multiple times, and in multiple places (sidebar and tabs) to facilitate this. Once you’ve added it to your page, simply go to “edit page”, then under Applications click “edit” under Static FBML. This will give you the options you need to paste in your code.
Adding your newsletter
If your blog or website offers subscription via email, an additional place to find subscribers is within the Facebook network. Fans that stumble upon your page, or are invited by others may want to add themselves to your subscriber list directly from you page, without visiting your site. Using the code that your newsletter provider gave you, you can easily create a newsletter tab with a subscribe box. Whilst this isn’t strictly FBML (its just HTML) – its an easy way to increase your reach and exposure on the cheap. FBML needed. Something similar to below. This is what I’m using folks.
<form action="http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify" method="post" target="popupwindow" onsubmit="window.open('http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=WebDesignInIrelandBlog', 'popupwindow', 'scrollbars=yes,width=550,height=520');return true"> <p>Enter your email address:</p> <p><input type="text" style="width:140px" name="email"/></p> <input type="hidden" value="WebDesignInIrelandBlog" name="uri"/> <input type="hidden" name="loc" value="en_US"/> <input type="submit" value="Subscribe" /> </form>
Include Sharing With Friends
One of the main benefits of being on the Facebook platform is the ability for viral sharing to take place amongst participants in the network. To encourage your business page to be shared with others you can implement a Facebook “multi-select” box, all within the static FBML box. This will loop through the current users friend list, allowing them to select who they want to share the fan-page with when they click send. You might want to put this under a “Spread the word” type tab to increase your reach.
Update. Some people have reported problems with this code. From what I can remember, it worked previously – so unless FB have changed things. Anyway – I’m using the below successfully now. Don’t for god’s sake copy and paste, examine the code, and type it exactly. WordPress makes a mess of single quotes which won’t work inside Facebook. I will get around at some stage to ammending this, but for now take care and try and understand what you are using. If all else fails, consult the Facebook documentation, or leave a comment here, which I’m more likely to respond to. I’ll not be replying to personal emails asking for help.
<fb:request-form method="POST" type="Webdistortion" invite="true" action="http://www.facebook.com/multi_friend_selector.php" content="Become a fan of Webdistortion!<fb:req-choice url='http://www.facebook.com/webdistortion' ' label='GO' /> "> <div style="padding-bottom: 10px;"> <fb:multi-friend-selector condensed="true" style="width:80%;" /> </div> <fb:request-form-submit /> </fb:request-form>
<fb:request-form method="post" type="Your Fan Page Name Here." invite="true" content="Check out Your Fan Page Name Here on Facebook!<fb:req-choice url='YOUR FAN PAGE URL here' ' label='GO' /> "> <fb:multi-friend-selector actiontext="Tell your friends about us rows="3" showborder="true" /> </fb:request-form>
Multimedia objects such as flash, video and images can also be easily added to Fan Pages. If for example you wanted some flash video, or embedding of a flash game, the FB:swf, and FB:flv are perfect candidates. More details on the format of the API request available here for FLV and here for SWF. FBML needed (Flash object).
<fb:swf swfbgcolor="ffffff" swfsrc='http://www.yoursite.com/flash.swf' width='380' height='250' />
<fb:flv src='http://www.yoursite.com/video-gallery/video.flv' />
<fb:photo pid="12345" /> <img src="http://www.yoursite.com/image.jpg" />
Monitor your pages with Google Analytics
A great social media campaign should focus on measurement over reach. One of the easiest ways to take a look at the data provided via a Facebook page is via Google Analytics. Thankfully, inclusion on an existing static FBML page is particularly easy. Here’s the code you need. Obviously, just replace the uacct with your own account ID to start collecting data about your page. FBML needed
<fb:google-analytics uacct="UA-9999999-99" />
Randomise your messages
You can easily add random messages to your Facebook page. You may for example, want to experiment with multiple calls to action – or offer multiple promotions to your audience. The Facebook Random tag lets you achieve that, without any programming. Here’s how: FBML needed
<fb:random> <fb:random-option weight="2">A: This will be shown 2 times as often as B.</fb:random-option> <fb:random-option weight="1">B: This will be show half as often as A</fb:random-option> </fb:random>
Add profile image
Your profile image is the thumbnail found at the top left of your page. To include it again anywhere on your Facebook Static FBML page, try using this example. A number of size parameters can be set with the tag, so if this size isn’t your thing, you can easily adjust it. Replace the UID parameter with your own userId.
<fb:profile-pic uid="12345" size="normal" width="400" />
Add wall sharing capabilities
Sharing of individual bits of data or URL’s on Facebook is pretty integral to success. One easy way to do this on a Static FBML app is via the share-button. This allows you to share both data and links into a users wall / stream. FBML needed
<fb:share-button class="url" href="http://www.yoursite.com" >
Or to include more specific meta data. FBML needed
<fb:share_button> <meta name="medium" content="news"/> <meta name="title" content="Announcing the xxx Application"/> <meta name="description" content=""/> <link rel="target_url" href="http://apps.facebook.com/xxx"/> </fb:share_button>
Hopefully some of these FBML examples should help get your Facebook page off the ground, with some additional functionality for minimal effort. Combining some of the tags that Facebook provide out of the box, with a little creativity can really boost your social media marketing efforts without the need for calling on a programmer.
If you have an out of the box requirement for a Facebook landing page, I’ve also started to create Facebook templates. – if there’s nothing there to suit you, feel free to drop a comment and I may put something together to suit.
A follow up post of mine discusses how you can take this concept further, and fully integrate WordPress with Facebook