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Facebook Social Plugins & Their Impact on Your Website

June 11th, 2010

Facebook’s announcement in April of their new Open Graph made waves across the web.  Its release has introduced a new level of social integration and personalization readily available to all website publishers.  If you are in charge of the strategy and/or user experience for your organization’s website, Facebook’s new social plugins are new tools for the toolbox you’ll want to become familiar with.  In this post, I’ll outline some strategic ways to bring your website and your Facebook audience together.

Like Button
This is the core plugin that can free your content to be easily distributed across the web and to open a dialogue between your site and Facebook users. The Like Button enables users to post pages from your site back to their Facebook profile with one click along with an optional comment.

Once a user has “liked” your page, product, or other piece of content, they will be notified whenever you post updates about that item such as a sale for a product line, news about an upcoming movie, or an update regarding an open job.  The Like Button indicates the popularity of an item by showing the number of likes it received.  What’s more, it will also let you know if any of your friends have also liked that item.

Ways to integrate the Like Button:

  • Add the Like Button to every product on your site.  Make sure the product image is also associated with the item so it can stand out in a user’s stream.
  • Integrate with each press release, news article, or blog post.  A good strategy here is to add it to the top of the article or post to encourage user to read the content (will shows friends who have also liked) as well as the bottom to make it easy for them to like the content when finished reading.
  • Certain types of content (such as movies, books, sports, restaurants and celebrities) can be automatically added to a user’s interests area of their profile when liked.  If you offer this type of content, integration of the Like Button is clearly a must-do.
  • Consider using the Like button at a category, topic, or even author level for broader interests.  For instance, a user may want to be kept up to date on all of your mens shoes offerings.
  • If you’re a financial site, you can offer the Like button so users can track certain stocks in their news feed.
  • Charity sites can use the Like button to virally spread the word about specific initiatives.

There are also WordPress plugins available.  Try it out at the end of this post!

Recommendations
The Recommendations plugin makes use of all the social interactions with your content (especially likes) to provide a list of recommended content for your users.  If the user is logged in to Facebook, the plugin highlights the content their friends have liked.  This plugin gives new credibility to your content and can serve to drive visitors deeper into your site.

Ways to use the Recommendations plugin

  • This is a great candidate for use on your homepage to immediately make a connection with visitors and deepen their visits.
  • Use the plugin on category pages to help users move to the next step.
  • On product detail pages, use the plugin in place of, or in combination with “You may also like” features.
  • Watch your web analytics data to find the most common exit pages you feel users shouldn’t be leaving from.  Add the plugin here in an attempt to prevent abandonment.
  • If you have a search function on your site, add the plugin to your results pages (especially the no-results page).

Activity Feed
This plugin is very similar to the Recommendations plugin.  The only difference is it’s designed to focus on your friend’s activity exclusively.  However, if there is not activity from your friends, it will back-fill to show recommendations.

This plugin is particularly useful on sites that feature local attractions such as restaurants.  Sites like Yelp have jumped at the chance to integrate this plugin as they understand the power of friends’ influence on user behavior.

Login with Faces
The Login with Faces plugin doesn’t require you to scan your face in order to gain access to a site.  No, it’s actually an effective way to motivate someone to take the next step and create an account.  The plugin shows the user’s friends who have signed up for a site along with a login button.  By seeing familiar faces, a user will be more inclined to participate with your content and will want to learn more.

Of course, your site needs to already offer login via Facebook accounts (using Facebook Connect).  Once setup, add the Login with Faces plugin next to your site’s primary login area and registration screen.  Combine this with the Activity Feed plugin for maximum results.

Comments
One the biggest hindrances to fostering a dialog on your site is the requirement that users have to create an account before they can post comments.  This of course, is necessary in most cases in order to prevent spam comments and auto posts from bots.

However with the Comments plugin, you can now add a comments thread to any page on your site and allow those already logged in to Facebook to add their two cents.  In addition, the user can opt to have their comment also posted to their Facebook profile.  If they do, that comment will show up in their news feed, viewable by all their friends.  They just might bring more peeps to the party.

Use the Comments plugin anywhere you want to solicit feedback such as:

  • Local business review sites
  • Product reviews on ecommerce sites
  • News announcements and press releases
  • Featured destinations on travel sites
  • Gauging user interest in potential new site features

Like Box
You’ve seen widgets on sites advertising their Facebook page for some time.  The Like Box takes this a step further by integrating the Like Button into it.  The big benefit here is a user can see which of their friends have also liked the page.  Recent activity from the Facebook profile is also displayed.

This plugin is useful anywhere you want to advertise your Facebook presence.  It takes up a bit of space, but the header or activity stream can be removed if desired.

Facepile
Very similar to the Login with Faces plugin, the Facepile plugin shows which of the user’s friends have signed up for site.  The really nice difference though is that the plugin can dynamically resize its height based on available data and even won’t show at all if no friends have signed up or if user is not logged in.

This can be a great addition to the header or top portions of a homepage and key landing pages to further encourage users to dig deeper.  Your screen real estate is reserved if there are no friends to display.  Truly a win-win.

Live Stream
The Live Stream plugin allows users to post comments in real-time. This is a great addition for sites that feature live events like live streaming video for concerts, speeches, or webcasts, live Web chats, webinars, and massively multiplayer games.

You can filter the feed by all “watchers” or by just your friends.  You’ll want to verify you have enough interest in your event prior to adding the Live Stream or risk featuring a ghost town plugin.  However, for those with a significant following, the real-time chat can keep visitors engaged with your event.

Extensive Integration Examples
These examples go beyond simple social plugin embeds.  They are the result of careful and deliberate partnering with Facebook.  Each user experience has truly pushed the envelope in terms of social integration and benefit to the user.  Be sure to check these out for inspiration.

Pandora
Now you can see which songs and stations your friends recently listened to.  Get new music ideas from your social circle.

Simply Hired
When viewing companies or specific open jobs, the site displays your friends that work at these companies and may be able to recommend you for a position.  It will also display friends whose companies currently have open positions which might be a fit for you.

Microsoft Docs
Makes it easy to share documents and collaborate online with friends.  Comments can be run on any document.   Eliminates the need to log in separately to the Microsoft Docs platform as users can also login via Facebook.  This should truly help with adoption of the new service and offer Microsoft a little edge in their battle with Google Docs.

Pluck
Pluck is a robust social community platform used by major national brands.  Their recent integration with Facebook has taken full advantage of the new capabilities including:

  • The ability to post comments using your Facebook account profile
  • Automatically “verifying” a commenter who uses their Facebook profile to post comments.  A comment thread editor can easily mark these comments as featured since the editor can verify the user’s identity.
  • Users can discover their other Facebook friends who are already part of the community
  • Comment threads can be filtered by all comments or just comments from their friends

Getting Started
How do I add these plugins to my site, you ask? Trevin Chow offers tips and code snippets, and of course there’s the Facebook Developers site.

Check your pages after adding plugins using the URL Linter (love that name) to make sure everything’s working properly.

I hope you liked, and will “Like” this post (try it out below)! As always, comments are encouraged.  How are you using (or intend to use) the Facebook social plugins?  What other great examples of integration have you seen?

Interactive Industry News & Events, Social Media, User Interface Design, Web Strategy Consulting , , , ,

  1. June 17th, 2010 at 07:27 | #1

    If it helps anyone else, the “Like Box” wizard on the FB developers page failed on me in Firefox, but IE worked (when does THAT ever happen?!) :)
    http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like-box

  2. Molstad Consults
    June 17th, 2010 at 07:48 | #2

    Thanks for the tip, Paul! Firefox in general sure is up against the ropes these days, isn’t it?

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