Now that you've got a Facebook Page for your business or organization, you're probably itching to do something with it. After all, there are more than 300 million people using Facebook on a regular basis. Surely at least a few of them want to interact with you!
Tons of companies come in to Facebook, set up their page, throw a few photos and status updates on it and leave. Doing this is akin to building a web site without bothering to optimize it for search engines and create a content strategy. Facebook is essentially another home on the web for your business, one that's easily accessible because it allows your customers and evangelists to choose to receive updates from you on a regular basis. Think of it as an RSS reader or an email newsletter on crack.
It's easy enough to figure out how to post a status update to your page, but you're going to have to go further than that. In this article, I'm going to take a look at the default Facebook Page applications and give you some insight on how to both use them and leverage them. (If it's third party apps you're wondering about...never fear. I have felt your pain, as has anyone else who has tried to set them up. I'll cover them in depth later in the series.)
For now, let's take a look at the first three native applications that come with your Facebook Page. Today we'll be exploring Discussion Boards, Events and Links. In the next article in the series we'll dive into Notes, Photos and Video.
Let's Go Explore Facebook Page Applications
The first thing you'll need to do in order to work with applications is to get back into the admin panel for your Facebook Page. To do this, you'll need to log in to Facebook and go to the Facebook Page you want to edit. Once you're there, look underneath the large avatar on the left and find the link that reads "Edit Page."
Clicking on this link will take you back into the Facebook Page admin panel. Once there, you'll want to scroll down to the section that says "Applications."
Using the Facebook Page Discussions Tab
We're going to work through each of the native apps, so let's go ahead and start at the top. Find the box that reads "Discussion Boards." If you have the type of Facebook Page that's heavily information based or you're seeking to build a really interactive community, you'll likely want to make use of the Discussion Boards.
If you've ever used a discussion forum, it's pretty much the same feature. Discussion boards allows for threaded conversations on your Facebook Page. While it's true you can also have threaded conversations on your Facebook Page Wall, it just makes it a little neater and cleaner to contain more targeted discussions within the Discussion boards. There's not much you need to do admin wise to get these running. Just head over there to the right side of the page and click the little blue edit icon.
First you'll want to hit "Application Settings."
Go ahead and leave "Box" set to "available" and set "Tab" to "added." (Unless of course you don't want discussions in which case you can remove the discussion tab and skip this entire section.)
Then click over to "Additional Permissions" and make sure the box is checked for "Publish Recent Activity." This will allow snippets of your discussion conversations to publish to your Wall as a way to draw additional fans to the conversation.
Now that you've got the basics set up, you'll need to click back over to your Facebook Page so you can start a conversation. Look for the tab that reads "Discussions" and click on it.
Once you're there, look to the right side of the screen and find the "Start a New Topic" Button.
Click that and you're ready to enter your topic name and the content of your post.
Once you've got it written up, go ahead and click the "Post new topic" link. Facebook will take you to the published post.
From there, go ahead and click on the "Discussion Board" tab and you can go back and see what the list of discussions will look like on your Facebook Page.
Now how you use the Discussions tab is up to you and your personal strategy. If you're promoting a web site that focuses on content, you may want to use it to drive discussions from your posts or to ask questions of your readers. If you're a company that sells a product or service, you may want to encourage your fans to use it as a feedback channel.
Little Debbie Snacks does a great job of utilizing their Discussion tab.
Most of the conversation is fans talking about their favorite products, but the Little Debbie team also pops in to answer questions.
Your discussion tab is one of the best ways to really interact with your fans in depth. Find ways to spark conversation, get in and participate in the conversation and keep an eye out for new content ideas for the rest of your Facebook Page based on what people are talking about.
Using the Facebook Page Event Tab
One of the great things about Facebook Pages is the way companies and groups can use them to build a community. Of course part of building a community is bringing people together to share experiences. Whether it's a public apperance, a contest, an educational event, a sale or pretty much anything else... events are your way to rally your fans together around a happening.
They also serve as a great way to remind your fans you exist because they give you a reason to contact them via Facebook and invite them to come back to your page to interact with you.
So let's head back to the main Facebook Page and once again select "Edit Page" from the list of links underneath your Facebook Page profile picture.
Scroll back down to the applications section and look for the box labeled "Events." Move your mouse over to the right, find the blue edit button and click it.
As with the Discussions tab, we'll want to jump straight to "Application Settings." This time around, you'll need to decide how you want to approach sharing event updates with your fans. It's easy enough to select the Tab setting and give fans the option of exploring a full page worth of events that way, but if you plan to integrate a lot of tab options for content and you know you'll be going light on the events, you may want to disable tabs and enable the "box" option.
If you enable the box, your events will show up in the left side bar under your avatar, along side your content. Like this:
Now that you've got your Events set to show up the way you want them to, let's try adding one.
If you've added an Events tab to your Facebook Page, you can click on it, then look for the "Create an Event" button on the top right side of the screen.
You'll be taken to the first of three pages you'll need to fill out to create your event.
It's important to note that as of right now, Facebook Page Events do not have the same features as Facebook Profile Events. When you're setting up an event on your personal profile, you can set an event to be Open, Closed or Secret. This gives you quite a bit of leeway in using the application for events that may or may not be open to the public. The event option for your Facebook Page lacks this. (Hopefully just for now...)
Fill in the information for your event and click "Create Event."
The next page will give you the option of uploading an event photo, writing a description of the event and selecting the options for how the event will show. You can choose to enable an event wall and then to allow guests of the event to post their own photos, videos and link. You can decide if you want to show the guest list or not and you can allow your guests to spread the word and invite other guests.
When you hit "Save and Continue," you'll get a pop up window showing you what the event will look like when you publish it to your wall.
The event will immediately publish to your Wall. Facebook will then give you the option of going through your list of contacts and inviting specific people to the event. You can also import email addresses and add a personal message to your invite before sending it off.
Click "Send Invitations" or go ahead and skip this part and just leave the event posted on your wall.
Once you've done this, Facebook will automatically take you to the event page you've created.
You'll quickly see where you can upload photos, add video, post related links and make posts to the event wall. Over on the right side of the page you can also RSVP as to whether you are attending, print a guest list, invite more people to the event or even promote the event with an ad.
Once you've got that set up, go ahead and click back over to your Facebook Page and take a look at how the event shows up on your wall stream.
If you've got an active membership for your Facebook Page, you may not need to do much more than publish the event. If you're just getting things set up, you're going to have to do a bit of publicity for it. This is where you'll need to actively issue invites, add that email list, and come up with some creative send to friend incentives to help your existing fans spread the word to potential fans.
Using the Facebook Pages Link Application
Your Facebook Page should be a resource for your fans. It should be a place for them to learn about your company and your offerings, but it should also be a place to get supplemental information, to spark conversation and to share things you find. The Facebook Links application makes this possible.
Once again we want to head back to the settings page. (Go back to your Facebook Page and find the "edit page" link under your page's profile picture.)
As with the last two applications, we'll need to start by clicking the blue edit button on the right side of the Links box.
You'll need to once again decide if you want this application to run via boxes or tabs. I've personally yet to really see a reason why I'd run my links in a tab, so I always leave this option off.
Links are more of an immediate delivery to your audience, showing up in your stream and getting clicked and commented on. That said, I do like to turn the box option on. This allows the last several links you've shared to be archived in the box tab on the left side of your page.
The great thing about adding links to your Facebook Page is the system does a great job of formatting them in a way that makes them stand out. You're not publishing a standard text link here. When you enter a hyperlink, Facebook will automatically pull the title of the page, a description and will let you pick an image. You'll also be able to add your own commentary on the link. If you've ever shared a link via your blog, think of this as a micro version of that.
Posting a link is crazy simple.
Simply go to your Facebook Page and find the big entry box at the top of the page.
Paste your link into this box.
Facebook will automatically go spider the link and will generate a box below the entry point that pulls the title of the page, a description (sometimes the Meta, sometimes a snippet from the page) and any images that may be relevant.
If there are multiple images available, you'll be able to use the forward and back arrows that show next to the image to scroll through and pick the one you like best. (You can also click the "no thumbnail" image if you'd rather not have one, but keep in mind images naturally draw the eye toward them, making link that include images stand out on the page.)
Once you're satisfied with the information for the link, it's time to move back up to the entry box and add your own commentary.
You can highlight and delete the link you entered at this point if you'd like. It will still show as a fully functional link when it's posted. I tend to do this before adding some comments about the link.
Links can be an effective tool for attracting fans and building up loyalty. Share resources with your readers. Give them interesting and relevant information and become the source they trust for the topic you cover.
Coming Up Next
In the next article in the series, I'll keep working through the native Facebook Page applications. We'll take a look at the Notes feature, the Photo Album feature and Video integration. We'll skip over the native Facebook RSS/Blog options because quite frankly, I think they're lame. (Don't worry, I'll share with you my favorite third party app for integrating your blog feed down the road.)
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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