If you own a small business, having a Facebook page lets you reach individuals among the 500 million or so users worldwide who are most likely to be interested in your company. Your interaction on the social network gives customers the sense that they know you and your business, which can increase loyalty and make them more likely to recommend your services.
On Facebook you can easily add features that are harder to implement on your website. You can build a custom page, run contests and promotions, and manage a small e-commerce shop. Plus, Facebook is free. Even if you pay for custom applications or a developer's services, it remains a form of advertising with a small price tag.
The potential reach of a Facebook page is huge, as half of its users--some 250 million people--log in every day. Facebook studies show that people interact with their favorite brands on Facebook more than on any other social network, are more likely to recommend a brand after becoming a fan of it on Facebook, and are more likely to purchase a product after becoming a fan. In addition, anyone outside Facebook can view your Facebook page because search engines index it.
Establishing Your Profile and Page Admins
Before creating your Facebook fan page, you must establish a personal Facebook profile. The individual in that profile is the creator of the fan page. As a result, the subsequent Facebook business page doesn't have a separate login from that of the individual user who created it.
Many people are nervous about mixing their personal information with their business information, but the two are conceptually separate. You'll interact with the business page as the business, and on your personal profile as yourself. Only administrators and the owner of the page can see other page admins. Thus, when I interact on my Facebook page, (Anti) Social Development, I post as that company and not as Kim Woodbridge. People who interact with my company page don't see my personal profile.
If you aren't going to be the only person working on your business's Facebook page, you'll need to select admins. To do this, fill in the appropriate data in the 'Edit Page' section under 'Manage Admins'. The admins either must be Facebook friends of yours, or must be identified by the email address they use for Facebook.
The admins you designate won't need your login to access the page, and once they log in as admins, they'll have access to page-editing features. For example, I'm an admin on a number of business pages and can access all of them by logging into Facebook, so I don't need anyone else's login data.
Be careful, however, to add only people you trust as admins. Any admin can remove any other admin, even the owner of the page--a structural flaw that Facebook needs to address. If you add a developer or other person to work on your page temporarily, I recommend removing that person from admin status as soon as the job is done.
Creating a Facebook Page
From your Facebook profile page, click the Pages header in the left-side navigation. Next, click the Create a Page button, and select the type of page--Local Business or Place, for example, or Brand or Product. You'll see a number of fields to fill out, such as your business category, name, and address.
Next, click the Get Started Button, and Facebook will guide you through the rest of the setup process, step by step. If you skip any of those steps, you can fill them out later on a new page in the Facebook Welcome section, which only page admins will see.
Information to Include
When Facebook walks you through the initial steps, it will request information about your business--a logo for the page avatar, details for the About section, contact information and hours, and the URL of your website.
If you want Facebook to pull in your blog posts automatically, an application such as Networked Blogs can help. Each time you publish a new post to your blog, Networked Blogs will import the post and add it to the Wall of your Facebook business page.
Among the Facebook applications that come with your page by default are Photos, Links, Events, Notes, and Video. You can't remove the default applications, but you can set them not to appear in the left-side page navigation.
After completing the first steps, you'll want to customize the public appearance of your Facebook page with designed appropriate for your business.
Next page: Should you build your own custom page, or hire a pro?
Building Your Custom Page: DIY or Hire a Pro?
When you create a custom Facebook page, it appears as an additional page along the left side of the page navigation. A custom page includes your own text, images, videos, newsletter sign-up, and so forth--all specific to your business and branding. You can designate a custom page to be the default page that people see, in place of your Wall.
A custom page will allow your business to stand out from others. People are 40 to 50 percent more likely to like your page and become a fan if you have a custom tab as opposed to the generic standard Facebook page, according to BrandGlue, which tested a Facebook fan page with the custom tab on and again with it off. A custom page lets you can add branding and increase customer engagement.
Should you create your own custom page or hire a professional? Here are some factors to consider:
• Do you have time to create a custom page?
• Do you have a server to host your page on, if you plan to build the page with iframes?
• Do you know HTML? Many third-party applications require at least a basic knowledge of HTML, and you must know it to build a custom page with iframes.
If your answer to any of these questions is no, you should hire a professional. Otherwise, go ahead and create your own custom page.
Building a Custom Page With a Third-Party App
Various third-party applications are available for creating a custom Facebook page. They are useful if you don't know HTML or you don't have a Web server but you want to dress up your page with images and text in a custom layout.
One such tool is Pagemodo, a simple WYSIWYG editor that lets you create a layout and edit sections by clicking on each part and adding the content. You can also easily change fonts and colors via the online editor. Pagemodo doesn't require any knowledge of HTML; it has a point-and-type interface, and a version containing all of the tool's basic features is free.
Third-party applications like Pagemodo are easy to use, and they let you quickly craft a custom page. But they lack the design flexibility of a page created with iframes, and they leave you dependent on them. If a free service suddenly decides to charge a fee or goes out of business, you'll be out of luck. DIY types will also prefer to build their own page.
To get started with Pagemodo, go to its website, and click Start Now! Connect With Facebook. A standard 'Request for Permission' pop-up box will appear; click Allow. If you have more than one Facebook page, a pop-up box will ask you to select the page that you want to add the tab to. Alternatively, you can click a link to set up a new Facebook page. Click the Choose button. The site will then present you with an array of templates to choose from in creating your page. Most of the templates are free, but some are available only with the paid version of Pagemodo.
To create a custom page with Pagemodo, first select a theme and then modify it by selecting the layout and colors you want to use. Selections made on the left will appear on the right. Now you're ready to edit content. Open the Edit Content tab, and click any element on the right side of the page in order to edit it. For example, click an image area to upload an image there.
Pagemodo's 'Like Gate' feature is available only with paid accounts. It requires vistors to 'Like' your page before they can see its content. Businesses frequently use this arrangement in connection with coupons or other special offers, but it's unnecessary if you don't plan to offer those to customers.
The Publish step is where you select a name for your custom page tab, and where you can share the page with friends or fans. If you're using the free service, you'll have to 'Like' Pagemodo's Facebook page, and a link to Pagemodo will appear at the bottom of your custom Facebook page. The app will display a final preview of the page so you can edit it before publishing. Once you publish the custom page, it will appear live on your Facebook fan page.
Next page: How to work with iframes for more complex pages...
Build Your Own Custom Page With Iframes
An iframe is code used to pull content from one website into another.
You've probably seen them used with Google Maps and Calendars. For instance, you can pull a Google map of your business location into your Web page via iframe code. Facebook uses similar code in its iframe application, allowing you to pull a Web page you've created into a custom Facebook page.
To build a custom page with iframes, you must know HTML and have experience with creating Web pages and uploading them to a Web server.
Start by creating an HTML, PHP, or other type of Web page and uploading it to your Web server. If you already have a business website, you're good to go, though you may need to adjust a page to satisfy Facebook's size restrictions. Facebook has established a maximum permissible width of 520 pixels, and pages work best at between 480 and 500 pixels wide. The iframe application will later import the page you made into Facebook.
Once you've created the page to import into Facebook, you'll need to create the iframe application. You perform this step at the Facebook Developers site, a subsection of Facebook. If you've never used the Developers site before, you may need to create a new account using your existing Facebook login. Click Apps in the top navigation bar, and then click the Create New App button. After you create the app, you'll be on its basic settings page. It should already have your email address filled in and provide you with an application ID and application secret ID.
To add your own custom icon to the page, click the Edit icon within Facebook. You'll find the icon in the left-side navigation next to the name of your custom Facebook page.
In the 'Basic Info' section, fill out the App Display Name field. This is the name of your custom page within the Developer's area, the name of your application in your Edit Page area (as discussed below), and the name of your custom page. You can rename your custom page in the Edit Page area, meaning that you don't have to display the name that appears in the 'App Display Name' field on your Facebook page.
Next, click the App on Facebook section and fill out the Canvas URL field. (Starting on October 1, filling out this field will be mandatory.) This consists of the URL to your uploaded page without the name of the page included--for example, http://yourdomain.com/facebook/. Now go to the section at the bottom called 'Page Tab' and create your Page Tab Name.
You must also identify the 'Page Tab URL'--the full URL to the page you created, such as http://yourdomain.com/facebook/demo.html. (Starting in October, you'll need a secure Page Tab URL.)
On the left, under 'Settings, Advanced', are the 'Canvas Settings', which determine page width and height. You should be fine with the default values, so save your changes. On the left side of the page, under 'Related Links', click View App Profile. From that page, click Add to My Page. If you administer more than one Facebook page, select the correct one.
Go to your Facebook page and click the Edit Page button at the top right. Select Apps in the links along the left side. Locate the app that you just created, and then click Edit Settings to add the tab to your page. (Select Edit Settings a second time if you want to rename the tab.)
Remember that the Facebook page, via an iframe, is importing content that you've uploaded separately to your Web server. If you want to change the content on the Facebok page, you must first edit the file that you created for your website and then reupload it to your Web server.
As of October 1, all Facebook applications will be required to have SSL certificates to ensure secure browsing over Facebook. Since Fcaebook considers a custom page created with iframes to be an application, the server that your page is hosted on must have a SSL certificate; otherwise, people won't be able to view your page. Ask your Web host for more information about SSL certificates and their cost. Once you have the certificate, fill out Facebook's Secure Canvas URL and Secure Page Tab URL fields for your application.
Other Third-Party Apps for Facebook Pages
Various other third-party applications can help you build a custom Facebook page. Be sure to review the cost and the requirements of each before selecting one. Not all of them are free, and many require at least a little knowledge of HTML.
Wildfire is best known for its applications that allow you to run a contest or sweepstakes on Facebook, but the service also has a custom page tool. It is currently free but Wildfire plans to charge for it in the future. Apparently, free users will be grandfathered in to the paid version.
Involver has a suite of applications for Facebook. Static HTML pages will create a custom page tab. The application requires knowledge of HTML. You can use two of Involver's applications for free; but using additional ones will trigger a fee.
Iwipa is a free application for Facebook pages; it doesn't require any knowledge of HTML.
What to Seek in a Professional
There are a number of questions to ask when hiring a professional to create your custom Facebook page. First, ask to see a portfolio of the person's work. Even designers who don't have a lot of experience should have created some sample pages.
You'll also want to know the cost, payment methods, and terms, and how long the project will take. A single Facebook page should run between $200 and $500. Other questions to ask: Will the designer be hosting the page, or do you need your own server? How will SSL be handled? Will the designer create the graphics or will you be responsible for providing them?
Next page: Now you've got a page. What's next?
Managing Your Page
You'll manage your Facebook page in Facebook's 'Edit Page' section, which includes a number of tools and useful resources. From your Facebook page, click the Edit Page button, which defaults to the 'Manage Permissions' screen.
The 'Manage Permissions' screen contains a number of useful sections.
Your Settings: This section includes posting preferences--which determine whether the page or the personal profile will make wall posts--and email notifications.
Manage Permissions: This section determines page visibility, age and country restrictions, the default landing tab, and whether visitors are allowed to post on the page.
Basic Information: The fields in this section are specific to your business: address, phone number, about, hours, email, and the like.
Profile Picture: You'll use this section to upload or change the logo displayed on your Facebook page.
Featured: This area is designed for managing pages that the page has liked as favorites, and for displaying information about the page owner.
Resources: This section contains tools for promoting your page, linking your page to Twitter, sending an update to your fans, and advertising.
Manage Admins: The owner of a page is also an admin. In this section, you can designate additional admins. As noted earlier, though, any admin can remove any other admin--including the page owner. So add only trustworthy individuals as page admins.
Apps: This section is the place where you manage any the Facebook applications associated with the page, including both default applications and custom ones.
Mobile: This location handles setting up mobile email, the iPhone app, and text messaging.
Insights: Facebook pages statistics appear in this section, which we'll discuss in more detail in the next section.
Help: This is Facebook's help section.
Checking Page Statistics
Facebook provides basic statistics about traffic and visitors to your page in the Insights section of the Edit Page.
The Insights section consists of three subsections: Overview, Users, and Interactions.
Overview: The overview subsection displays 'New Likes', 'Lifetime Likes', and 'Monthly Active Users' under 'Users', and 'Post Views' and 'Post Feedback' under 'Interactions'. The default time frame is the past month, which can be changed to the past week or to a custom date range. You can export this data to a CSV or Excel file.
Users: This subsection provides more-detailed information about the page visitors, such as gender, age, location, and referers. In the screenshot above, for example, you can see that most of the page's visitors are male, and between the ages of 25 and 34, and from the United States. Such information can help you determine the customers that your business best serves.
Interactions: This subsection provides statistics on post views, post feedback, number of views per post for the previous month, and activity on the page. If visitors aren't allowed to post on the page, no data will appear under the page activity section.
If you build a custom page with iframes, you can add tracking code from Google Analytics or other stat-tracking programs.
You should now see the benefits of having a Facebook page for your business and have the information you need to create a custom page with your own branding. Make sure that you post interesting and useful content regularly to keep people interested. Maintaining a Facebook page that lacks activity and interaction is worse than having no Facebook page at all.
On my own Facebook page, I post links to my articles, but I also provide other content and links that will interest my visitors. Your visitors will appreciate a personal touch, too, such as your asking them questions about their favorite product, their favorite software, or even their plans for an upcoming long weekend. The more you interact, the more engaged visitors will be with your business. And there is nothing better for a business than postive word-of-mouth recommendations.
Kim Woodbridge is a freelance Web developer specializing in WordPress and Facebook. She blogs regularly at (Anti) Social Development. You can check out her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter as @kwbridge.