The Fatal Facebook Flaw…and How to Get Around It

Monday, 16 February 2009

Using HTML Apps to Make Facebook Work for You

Facebook has always positioned itself as kind of the anti-MySpace: no auto-play on audio or video, once they allowed music players at all; strict profile limitations and restrictions on customization; and, most frustratingly, pretty much no HTML allowed anywhere. And while they’ve proven themselves and passed MySpace in popularity, their page functionality leaves a lot to be desired.

Yes, I hate MySpace as much, if not more, than the next person, and I’ve always admired the neatness and predictability of the Facebook profile, but when you’re using Facebook pages to promote a product, service, brand or business, their crazy rules start to get in the way of actual, effective or interesting marketing.

HTML=Facebook Hell

I certainly don’t long for a flashing, singing page that sparkles and spins each element until you’re nauseous and blindly searching for the mute key. But the ability to use HTML in event info, profiles and pages would be a giant leap for businesses and brands on Facebook.

As I’m writing this, I can see the Facebook argument: it’s a slippery slope from allowing a few hrefs and line breaks to becoming populated by screaming, swirling profiles that have become the hallmark of MySpace. But I find it hard to believe that the developers can’t reach some kind of compromise and figure out a way to allow legitimate style tags without allowing tacky, crap code that will take away from their brand essence.

But, barring a major change of heart or a Rupert Murdoch takeover, on page profile customization does not appear to be on the horizon. That’s where HTML apps come in. And there are a lot of them. However, no need to despair; I’ve tried every application imaginable to help you get over this HTML hurdle. Think of this as Facebook Applications for Business: The Sequel.

Static FBML

The Static FBML app allows you to add advanced functionality to a page by placing a customizable box in which you can render HTML or FBML (Facebook Markup Language), giving you free reign over the space to add images, video, stylized text and almost whatever else you want. This app was developed by Facebook, so it’s fully supported and not prone to the problems of some third party applications.

Extended Info

In an Extended Info box you can use HTML to customize any kind of content and create numerous fields beyond the standard Information categories; you can also name the box anything you want so it matches your page perfectly. This app works much like the Static FBML application but is slightly easier to use. Although not developed by Facebook, it is highly ranked and provides a nice alternative or second customizable box option on a page.

Flash Player

This Flash application, also developed by Facebook, will add a box to your Page in which you can upload your own Flash files to achieve advanced customization and play any kind of Flash video, widget or game. It can be renamed to maintain the integrity of the page and keep the look and feel consistent with your brand.

Posted Items Pro

With Posted Items Pro you can embed multiple YouTube, Yahoo, and Google Videos, music mp3s, sites, files, and more onto your profile and Facebook pages. You can add any variety of these elements, making it great for a media center or press section.

2 Things That Are Important to Note About Facebook and HTML Apps:

1- I don’t know anything about programming, coding, HTML, FBML or whatever you want to call it. I am not a “geek” by any means, just kind of a dork. Any HTML I know I picked up on my own and fit into Facebook using these apps and good old fashioned trial and error. So it stands to reason if I can use these apps, anyone can.

2- Facebook doesn’t allow multiple versions of an app run on the same page or profile. So once you use an app once, you’ll need to find a different (but similar in functionality) one to make another box somewhere else on the page or profile. Some of the better apps do offer multiple fields or categories, but it’s still all lumped in one box.

Some apps don’t work with certain pages, but that’s more of a developer issue than a Facebook problem. The apps listed above are a great place to start, but the more you work with your page the more you’re going to need to do some research–and possibly development–of your own.

10 Comments

  • Excellent post, Alison!! I predict we’ll see lots more peeps creating Facebook pages especially with the new design about to launch. The FBML app rocks – hidden treasure for sure. I’m sharing your post with my peeps. ;)

    Cheers
    @marismith

    Comment by Mari Smith — February 18, 2009 @ 2:36 am
  • Thanks for the info..am still working on promoting effectively on Facebook..everyone seems to be doing it now. Especially are emails are being opened less and less…will be following you now from the UK!

    Comment by Amanda — February 18, 2009 @ 5:39 pm
  • Very interesting post, Alizon and thanks to Mari for Tweeting it ;)

    Comment by Jonners — February 18, 2009 @ 6:02 pm
  • Great post and tips – thank you :)

    I use the profile HTML application – which also allows for HTML code. Even though you can only put one version of an application on your profile or page, the HTML applications do allow you insert several different things in them. For example – I have an aweber form in mine, but I could also include a contact form and web links – one box can do several things!

    Comment by Melissa Ward — February 18, 2009 @ 7:35 pm
  • Thanks Alison. Great post!

    Comment by Teodoro Quesada — February 25, 2009 @ 5:46 pm
  • [...] this isn’t MySpace, but you can get creative with some HTML Apps. Other ones to add: Notes, Links and Blog RSS Reader. Use both Notes and Blog RSS to pull your [...]

  • This is a terrible idea.

    There is a reason Facebook isn’t optimized to “promote a product, service, brand or business”. It is a social network; not a “lets shove shit people don’t want down their throats” network.

    Comment by michaelfeb16 — March 21, 2009 @ 11:32 am
  • Some people use Facebook for shady or spammy marketing; it was bound to happen at some point. But how does allowing a legitimate business to create a good representation of itself constitute a “terrible” idea? Is the entire internet now a terrible idea for allowing brands to create websites that may promote their product and allow you to buy it?

    This post is about adding HTML to pages. Which you must become a fan of to receive updates. If you don’t like the page, the brand, or either of the above being on Facebook, then don’t add them. Very simple. Then you won’t receive information “shoving stuff down your throat.” But allowing or helping them to put their best foot forward doesn’t fall under the “terrible idea” umbrella, in my opinion.

    Comment by Alison — March 23, 2009 @ 11:22 am
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  • Great post here, Alison. We have also discovered, and been taking advantage of, the power of Static FBML. I have posted on our blog a detailed article on how to set up and work with Static FBML (http://www.hyperarts.com/blog/customizing-facebook-pages-with-static-fbml-application/), as well as an article on how to embed video on FBML pages (http://www.hyperarts.com/blog/how-to-embed-youtube-videos-flash-facebook-static-fbml-pages/).

    But the real power with FBML is the ability to create a micro-site for your business. We are putting the finishing touches on our HyperArts micro-site on Facebook (http://bit.ly/3cuK2j), which demonstrates what can be done with this great application.

    I’ve subscribed to your blog so that I can keep up with your thoughts on this topic.

    Keep up the good work! Tim

    Comment by Tim Ware — October 18, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

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