How to Build Your Own Facebook App

social media book reviewsAre you wondering how to integrate Facebook into your website? Got an idea for a Facebook app?

Keep reading to discover a new book that makes it all easy…

The Power of Facebook Integration

When JibJab (the personalized electronic greeting card company) released their first hit video “This Land” in July 2004, they relied exclusively on email to share it with their users.

At that time email was the most effective way to spread a message about an app or a website.

JibJab

JibJab's humorous eCards turn your average "hello" into a deluxe "Howdy-doo!"

jesse stay“But when Facebook Connect came out (in 2008), all this changed,” says Jesse Stay in his book, Facebook Application Development for Dummies. In just five months, JibJab achieved the following because of Facebook:

  • 1.5 million new users
  • Achieved six to ten times increase in the traffic from Facebook
  • Reduced the friction of sign-on, making it easier for users to get in and start using the website

What the company realized was that by leveraging Facebook, it was able to connect with users and bring those users and their friends back to their site.

Since then, countless organizations have also realized that integrating Facebook into their sites or applications is good for business. It keeps users interested longer, improves page views, encourages engagement and spreads the word about your brand.

But there’s a problem: Marketers and business owners don’t always know how to use the technology needed to take their Facebook marketing to the next level. Developers too are not schooled in the ways of promoting their technologies to users.

And that’s where Facebook Application Development for Dummies comes in.

It provides answers to questions you might have asked, such as:

  • How do I set up a Facebook tab?
  • How do I build apps that take advantage of Facebook’s news feed?
  • How do I get my app noticed by Facebook users?
  • How do I use Open Graph API?
  • How do I create mobile apps?
  • What pitfalls should I avoid?

So if you’re a marketer or a developer and you’ve had some of these questions go unanswered, Stay’s book is an excellent resource for you.

Here’s my review of Facebook Application Development for Dummies.

Facebook Application Development for Dummies

Author’s Purpose

The author’s purpose is to create a bond between marketers and developers so that the two groups may learn and respect each other’s fields.

Before Facebook came along, the two groups didn’t like to communicate, let alone take an interest in each other’s fields.

But today these two fields have collided. In order to stay competitive, marketers need to understand the simple technologies that make their pages more engaging to users, while developers need to learn how to properly promote their apps and products.

The author intends to teach developers who have no marketing expertise how to promote their technologies, and to teach marketers who have no coding experience how to understand these technologies.

Summary of Key Ideas

If I were to give my CliffsNotes version of the book, I would summarize the main ideas as follows:

  • Understand the (Facebook) environment that you’ll be working in, set up your tools and build a cool product.
  • Learn how to “hack” Facebook and find areas where you can integrate it with your product.
  • Discover the various techniques to help you bring your users back to your own website.
  • Measure your Facebook activity and create branding messages that will help your business to get noticed.
  • Learn the rules (Facebook Terms of Service), avoid common mistakes and prepare for numerous changes.
  • Learn from others who have built successful products.

What to Expect

At 369 pages, the book has 18 chapters organized in 6 parts as follows:

The Basics of a Facebook Application (Part 1)

This is an introduction to the fundamental principles that you need to know as you navigate the developer’s environment. You’ll discover Facebook’s default library and review Facebook’s developer documentation. The best part (especially for marketers) is that you’ll learn how to build, view and test your own simple application in just five minutes!

Fishing Where the Fish Are (Part 2)

In Part 2, you’ll learn how to make your newly built app even more useful by creating an enhanced user experience on Facebook. You’ll learn how to build a “social business” on Facebook by customizing a page, creating a welcome tab for new visitors and leveraging the basic tips offered by the author to make a Facebook page successful.

Some of the tips include providing incentives for your visitors to become fans, writing with a call to action, using SMS to your advantage and many others!

From Fishers to Farmers (Part 3)

In social media marketing there’s been a long-standing debate between engaging people at their location (fishing where the fish are) or bringing them back to your own site (farming). In the Part 3 of the book, the author shows you how to farm.

He takes you through various social plugins (e.g., Like button, Like box, Live Stream and others). He introduces you to Facebook’s Open Graph and the basics of Open Graph’s API (the core of Facebook’s platform that allows developers to read and write data on Facebook).

He also gives you tips for building social experiences with Facebook, explains what user information you have access to and how to get users to give you even more information about themselves.

The Basics of API (Part 4)

Part 4 is not for the faint of heart! The author goes deep into Open Graph API—a topic that is brutal for its technical details. It’s possible that marketers will not get much out of complex concepts such as Facebook Authentication, working with and accessing objects (e.g., usernames, user IDs, page names, page IDs), Facebook’s application programming interface (API) and so on.

However, there is some good stuff in there too! Stay introduces some fascinating anecdotes about mobile usage and how this could be leveraged to enhance the Facebook experience.

For example, studies show there are approximately 5.3 billion mobile subscribers in the world (77% of world’s population). Knowing this, Facebook has created tools (iOS Facebook SDK and Android Facebook SDK) to enable you to bring Facebook into the mobile interface. So if you’re determined to stick it out in this section, you’ll learn how to build and test your own app for an iPhone or Android.

Turning Your Facebook App Into a Real Business (Part 5)

In Part 5, the author explains how to turn your Facebook app into a legitimate business. He talks about the wealth of information that Facebook keeps about its users as well as the connection that those users have with one another (the social graph), which gives you an idea of how powerful Facebook is as an entity.

He then demonstrates how you can position your brand message in order to leverage all those connections so that your business can benefit from being on Facebook. Both developers and marketers will find immense value in his dissection of Facebook Insights and Facebook Advertising.

Ten Case Studies & Ten Resources (Part 6)

In the last section of the book, the author concludes with a compilation of case studies featuring 10 organizations that have been very successful at integrating Facebook platform into their marketing strategies. They include JibJab, Huffington Post, Pandora, Digg.com, Quora, SocialToo (the author’s own website) and others. He explains what makes each of these companies unique, how they use Facebook and how their strategies have proved to be successful.

Finally, if you get stuck while developing your application and don’t know where to turn for help, the author provides 10 additional application development resources (apart from Facebook’s documentation) to get answers to your questions.

My Personal Impression

While this book lives up to its promise to “be a middle ground so that marketers and developers may come together,” it’s a highly technical and a challenging read for both audiences. In order to get the most out of it, you’ll need to have two things:

  • A basic knowledge of HTML or JavaScript (or both)
  • A healthy dose of intellectual curiosity

Ask yourself, “What am I trying to achieve by reading this book?”

If your goal is clearly defined in your mind, you’ll be more likely to press on when the technical details are tough to digest (e.g., in Part 4).

As I read the book, I also noticed that a few anecdotes and screen shots have changed slightly since the book was published, but keep in mind that Facebook platform’s lack of permanence is in itself an exercise in frustration. If you’re looking to build apps for money, this minor irritation may be worth putting up with.

Having said that, there are some compelling reasons why you should pick up this book.

Like all Dummies books, this one takes you by the hand and leads you step by step through the process of building your Facebook app.

Throughout the book, the author makes excellent use of lists, detailed instructions, coding references, screen shots, icons and other visual images, and important tips to remember. He has clearly gone out of his way to make the book as skimmable and comprehensible as possible. For that reason, it works as a great reference book as well.

Social Media Examiner gives this book a 3.5-star rating.

What are your thoughts? Are you interested in building a Facebook app in the future? Please add your comment in the box below.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author, Patricia Redsicker

Patricia Redsicker writes research reviews for Social Media Examiner. She is the Social Media Manager at US Pharmacopeia, a public standards setting organization. Follow her on Twitter at @predsicker. Other posts by »




More Info
  • Misty E.

    This is great information! Thanks for sharing.. I am going to try this out!

  • predsicker

    Thanks Misty. I am confident that you will find this book to be an excellent resource for building and testing your app. All the best!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1039815246 Mario Artavia

    Being a marketer/designer, I have been looking for someone to easily explain how, when and why I should use Facebook apps for my clients. Would love to be able to build some simple ones myself, as well, for them. Looking forward to checking this out!

  • predsicker

    Good for you Mario! I think that this book provides very clear directions for building a FB app. You’ll have plenty of fun experimenting with simple products – I know I did! Please share your success when you’re done :)

  • http://staynalive.com/ Jesse Stay

    *Wonderful* review Patricia! Thanks so much for writing this.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey Jesse! Thanks for writing such a useful book.

  • http://askaaronlee.com Aaron Lee

    Great post Patricia, 

    I do have a question, how do you define a basic HTML? I do have a tiny experience with HTML. I do play around with dreamweaver although it gives me a headache sometimes with the coding. 

    I do have tons of serious dosage of curiosity though. I have always been wanting to create an application, then sometimes I ask myself if the time to do it was worth it, or whether I should outsource the whole process because I’ve been wanting to take advantage of 

    apps that take advantage of Facebook’s news feedOpen Graph API?Thanks for the review

    Cheers
    Aaron

  • Morgan

    This definitely seems valuable, but I kind of wish there were an online video tutorial to go along with the book to show step-by-step how to do it so I can build as I learn. 

  • predsicker

    Hi Jesse, you’re very welcome. Yours is a very resourceful book. I enjoyed reading it but more so I was thrilled to have an opportunity to get my hands ‘dirty’ with some of the simpler experiments. Thank you for your work!

  • predsicker

    Hi Aaron. Thanks for your feedback. I have no experience with any kind of coding but I do love to learn and discover new things.

    You are already way ahead when you’re willing to experiment. This book was written for you. You will definitely find it worth your while just to learn the process of building apps. Even if you choose to outsource at least you will understand what you want the app to do for you. Go for it! I think you’ll be surprised by what you can build with the help of this book! All the best!

  • predsicker

    Hi Morgan. Thanks for your comments. The nature of this book (and indeed all Dummies books) is that they literally hold your hand and guide you every step of the way. But I certainly understand your preference for video instruction. In any case, do check out the book and see how resourceful amd instructional it is. Good luck :)

  • http://twitter.com/ToyBoyWarehouse Julia Macmillan

    Books about the internet are normally out of date by the time they are published. We’ve done apps on Facebook but they’ve recently restricted viral spread of apps by making the apps directory defunct. It used to be much easier to spread apps virally. Changes like this have been initiated to make companies pay to advertise rather than giving them a quick route via virality. In the end it’s all about monetization and so the small companies lose out…

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Patricia – I wanted to welcome you to the SME team!  Great first post. – Mike

  • Eamon Bohan

    I was once a dummy but thankfully now I am fine

  • predsicker

    Thank you for having me on your team Mike! I’m looking forward to writing and sharing exciting content with the audience of SME.

  • predsicker

    Dear Eamon,
    You and I both ;) Where would we be without Dummies books…? #greatstuff

  • predsicker

    Julia, you’re right about Internet books and I’m certain that the author of this particular book not only recognizes this risk but has also prepared for it.

    He has a Facebook page (by the same name as the book) and a blog which provide updates and changes to Facebook developer platform.

    As far as the viral effect of an app ( or any product) I think the goal should be to create a great product that customers love. Whether it goes viral or not depends entirely on the audience not the developer.

  • http://twitter.com/SocialMeddraft Jerry Gunning

    Patricia,
    You enter with a bang, thanks for pointing out a great FB resource. Looking forward to more of your posts.

  • http://jessicajohannesen.com/ Jessica Johannesen

    Patricia,

    I’m a freelance web designer/marketing coach who is restarting the web design side of my business. I’ve always avoided app development because I thought it was to hard – and a few years ago, when i was last actively seeking web work there weren’t as many resources on how to learn it as there are today. I’m definitely going to check this book out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vladislav-Rakov/100000313410890 Vladislav Rakov

    Im only an amateur in coding but have already managed to build the app for myself on http://snappii.com In the earliest future I’ love to create more apps there and offer them to cliens to make profit.

  • predsicker

    Thanks Jerry!

  • predsicker

    Jessica, I’m glad you’re going to give it a shot. And what great timing – unlike before (as you pointed out) you now have a very good resource to help you with your goal. I wish you much success with your new app :)

  • predsicker

    Sounds great Vladislav! You certainly have the ‘intellectual curiousity’ to build new apps with the help of this book. I wish you continued success with your future projects.

  • http://twitter.com/InsurYourFuture Joshua Smith

    I think I will pick up this book.  Social media is constantly changing and to keep up we need all the resources we can find. 

  • CoffeeandPies

    We just built a Facebook app for giveaway. Check it out and see what you think. It is my first time being involved in this type of development so it would be nice to hear feedback. You can even participate in the contest if you like.

    It’s for Barrett Moving and Storage: http://www.facebook.com/barrettmoving

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2VGKJKU46A6E5CSRYIZ6Y4DKTQ Angie Norton

    Yes, I am interested in learning more about FB marketing.

  • predsicker

    A great investment, I assure you Joshua!

  • http://techgyo.com/ Sreejesh

    Wow! Thats a lot simple that I ever thought

  • Pingback: Good Morning Social News Sept 03 » Sighede´s Social Media Newsroom

  • Pingback: Latest in Social Media News

  • Pingback: How to Build Your Own Facebook App | srtOnlineMedia.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/ohearn.thomas Thomas O’Hearn

    I’m curious. I have an idea for an app I want developed, but how do I approach people (and who to approach) concerning the idea that won’t just rip it off? I want it to be a release available on my website/fan page, only available through me. How do I keep my idea safe? I don’t have the time or ability to develop it myself, but I do think it’s a necessary tool that just hasn’t been created yet.

  • Mayan Lee

    There are lot of ways in developing an application on social media, specifically in facebook. social media planner

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NJY6266IG6ZWF77DFBTP7SZHXY Graham Freer

    I have thought and thought about this idea but have never had the courage to look into it. I like the dummies sets of books so will have a look thanks for the rev.

  • http://www.neilyamit.com/ Neil

    I’ve long wanted to create a simple facebook app. The book should get me started. Thanks for the info.

  • http://www.vectorash.ro/ Victor Stanescu

    Sorry but I was looking or a guide, not a book to buy!! 

  • Cameron Reid

    Great post. Another easy way to create your customized Facebook Apps is to use Caspio-Powered Facebook Apps. You can create
    any type of business application and easily integrate it into your
    Facebook business page without coding. Build apps to generate leads, recruit people,
    promote your products, and more.
    http://blog.caspio.com/integration/create-a-custom-facebook-application-for-your-business/

  • http://twitter.com/CSPrestonInc Brett Miller

    Automated and Do It Yourself tools build less than ideal solutions and you will run into their limitations quickly.  The very best way to build a professional looking facebook app is to hire a well qualified developer.  Unless you have the time to research and troubleshoot different tools.

    I actually know many talented (and affordable) facebook developers (freelancers and agencies). I’d be happy to provide an introduction if you need one.

    Brett Miller
    http://www.customsoftwarebypreston.com

  • tk-miguel

    hy ther how do i make my facebook aplication.

  • Pingback: Unpopular Content: Why People Don't Share your Content | Patricia Redsicker

  • http://twitter.com/neerajdhiman85 Neeraj Dhiman

     nice article. i am a huge fan of your work and i’m always coming here to see what’s new. thanks.

  • http://www.sufalamtech.com/ Web Development Company

    Developing a Facebook application for your business can be a great way of marketingyour services and engaging with your customers. 

  • Cones

    what is the out of pocket for my to create facebook apps (games) and what kind of computer skills do i need







Check out the Social Media Marketing Podcast!
Check out our Blogging workshop!
Join our Social Media Marketing Networking Club
Download the free Social Media Marketing Industry Report
Check out our sister publication: My Kids' Adventures

Get Your FREE Copy of the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report

Wondering how your peers are using social media? Get this free report (50 pages, 80+ charts) and never miss another great article from Social Media Examiner.