6 Facebook apps to improve your company’s fan page


It was only a few years ago businesses realized they needed a website. Now, everyone seems to come to the same conclusion about Facebook, and the best way for a business to establish a presence there is through a Fan Page.

We generally think of Facebook fan pages as a medium for conversation. Thanks in large part to the development of apps designed to allow users to add personalized elements, fan pages have evolved into “brand pages” and bring a company’s brand experience directly to Facebook. Below is a list of several apps that I think are worth trying.

Static FBML

Of all the apps that made this list, Static FBML is the most remarkable. This allows those of us with a working knowledge of HTML (but little, if any, of Facebook’s own markup language, FBML) to create highly personalized pages. To say he gained a loyal following would be an understatement. It became the foundation for much of the custom fan page development done today.

What’s so appealing about Static FBML is its simplicity. The app is little more than a form with two fields, one for the tab name and one for the body of the page. Here is an example of what that looks like:

Example of a static FBML application.

And here is the finished product:

Example of a completed static FBML page.

Example of a completed static FBML page.

Note that it is best to upload graphics to your own server. Alternatively, you can save them to Facebook through the Photos component.

Image-maps.com

Image-maps.com is not a Facebook application per se, but an online image mapping tool which is almost as essential as Static FBML. In fact, I use both in concert all the time.

While learning the ropes of creating custom Fan Pages, I found that the HTML image maps didn’t work once the source code was uploaded to the Fan Page. I was then lucky enough to stumble upon Image-maps.com, which offers not only HTML image map making, but also CSS-style image maps. It was the latter that turned out to be my salvation. While Facebook (or Static FBML) apparently had no fondness for the HTML version, it works great with CSS image maps.

Online image mapping tool from Image-maps.com

Online image mapping tool from Image-maps.com

Involved

Involved creates a full suite of apps designed for use with Facebook Fan Pages. However, I have mixed emotions about including it in this list due to its price. On the one hand, it creates great apps that are easy to install and work great. On the other hand, the company does not seem to be able to stabilize its pricing model.

When I first started using Involver in the early days of the company, it was priced perfectly for small businesses. You can use any number of apps from Involver for less than $60 per month. As the company’s popularity grew, so did its prices. Currently, it only offers two options, free and premium.

The free option lets users choose from a list of about nine apps, including those for Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. Two of them can be used without incurring any costs. (I regularly use the Twitter and YouTube apps.)

The premium option has no disclosed price associated with it. This always sends me a red flag because it usually signals that the price will be high. In this case, the premium option costs around $500 per month.

While I don’t understand why the company is taking this all-or-nothing approach, I have to give Involver credit for creating some of the best fan page apps I’ve ever used. For this reason, I recommend it to you, in the hope that it recognizes the need to offer pricing options that are better suited to small businesses.

If you’re in the enviable position of paying $500 a month, then the sky’s the limit in terms of the types of apps available for Involver, including everything from a homepage app to social games to a music app, polls and many more. .

Fires

If you want to organize contests, sweepstakes or games, then Fires is the app provider for you. It offers everything from user-generated contests to coupons, product giveaways to quizzes. The best part is that its pricing options are well below what most small businesses can afford, starting at just $5 to create a campaign.

App for fans

A newcomer to my list is the one I haven’t tried yet, Fan Appz. It offers a suite of apps similar to Wildfire, including polls, quizzes, and coupons. The difference is that Fan Appz also has a free option.

ShopTab

No list of fan page apps would be complete on Practical eCommerce without including one related to eCommerce. In this case, I chose one called ShopTab. It is a Facebook application that allows business owners to sell products on Facebook by creating a shopping tab on their Fan Page, showcasing products from their existing online stores.

ShopTab itself is not an e-commerce platform but works with any other such platform and allows a shop owner to export their products from an e-commerce tool and upload them to a ShopTab on Facebook via an admin console. Pricing is also tailor-made for small businesses, ranging from just $10 to $20 per month.

It’s true that a number of e-commerce platforms have developed fan page components, but for merchants using shopping carts that haven’t, ShopTab could be a viable alternative.

Fanbook fan page building tools

While I proudly tout the virtues of Static FBML as a standalone application, there are also a number of custom, easy-to-use fan page building tools out there.

  • FanpageEngine is a page builder that uses a simple three-step process. Users choose one of its templates, enter text and graphics, then copy and paste the code into (what else?) Static FBML. The cost is under $70 and allows you to use the templates unlimitedly.
  • TabSite provides a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing environment where users can create multiple pages in a single tab. This is a good thing considering that a Fan Page can only allow about five or six tabs to be visible on its navigation bar. The others are hidden, requiring the user to click on the arrows tab to see them. It is therefore convenient to have several pages loaded in a single tab. TabSite prices range from free for a personal profile to five dollars per month for a basic TabSite, and up to $15 per month for the most feature-rich version. At the highest level, it comes with a photo manager, an integrated contact form and document management to upload PDF, Doc or XLS files, for example.
  • FaceItPages works similarly to Fan Page Engine in that users choose from a variety of templates, upload text and graphics, and then place the HTML code into Static FBML. According to the FaceItPages website, each FaceItPage design you create costs $39.99, but love the many design templates it offers.

Conclusion

Fan pages should be designed with one goal in mind, to support a company’s marketing goals. For Facebook, that means facilitating meaningful conversations around its products and services through wall posts, comments, and user-generated content, as well as generating leads, driving conversions, and driving sales.

It is true that you can have an attractive Fan Page using only the apps provided by the Facebook platform, but you don’t need to limit yourself to these when so many powerful options are available.

I encourage you to try these apps and let me know what you think. Also, leave a comment listing the apps you found useful. I’m sure our readers would appreciate it, just like me.

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