Facebook provides a selection of free plugins.
By the time you're finished reading this article, you'll understand your options for turning your website into a social hub and how to get started.
Why Facebook on Your Website?
Facebook has a grand vision: to connect the entire Internet, and every website on it, with a layer of social integration. The social network behemoth has been developing tools to assist in the spread of this vision since the introduction of the Open Graph in 2009.
Now, with over 10 social plugins available to the public (and free of charge!), website owners need to decide how best to utilize the available tools for their businesses. The first question you're probably asking is: Do they even work?
Let's look at some of the stats from SearchEngineLand:
- The average media site integrated with Facebook has seen a 300% increase in referral traffic.
- Users coming to NHL.com from Facebook spend 85% more time, read 90% more articles and watch 85% more videos than a non-connected user.
- Outdoor sporting goods retailer Giantnerd.com saw a 100% increase in revenue from Facebook within two weeks of adding the Like button.
The research to date has pointed to the fact that Facebook integration helps drive traffic to websites and pages, as users interact with sites and increase the “earned media” of a brand (in other words, the mentions and exposure of branded content that the company didn't pay for—the authentic word-of-mouth).
To decide which plugins are right for your website, check out the descriptions of each plugin below, along with recommendations for types of sites it is best used with.
#1: Like Button
The Like button lets users share pages from your site back to their Facebook profile with one click. When the user clicks the Like button on your site, a story appears in the user's friends' news feed with a link back to your website.
This is a great way to direct traffic to specific items on your site that otherwise would not have gotten the attention. For example, if you include a Like button on every page and object on your website, you might find that one user who enjoyed a page enough to click Like draws an entirely new audience of his friends to become aware of your brand where they otherwise wouldn't have seen it.
This approach worked very well for American Eagle, which reportedly added the Like button next to every product on their site and found that Facebook-referred visitors spent an average of 57% more money than visitors who weren't referred by Facebook.
#2: Send Button
The Send button allows your users to easily send your content to their friends. It's different from the Like button in that the content sent between friends is communicated via a Facebook message and not, by default, through a public news feed posting as a “Liked” item would be. This button is great for content that might be better served individually.
For example, if your business is a jewelry store, you should consider a Send button in addition to a Like button, just in case a website visitor is interested in sharing the page of a beautiful engagement ring he just stumbled across on your site with a specific few Facebook friends rather than his entire news feed (and ruin the surprise!).
The Comments plugin lets users comment on any piece of content on your site. This plugin is especially handy for sites that are not built on top of a content management system (CMS) that already has comment threads built in.
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For example, if your website only has product pages and no room for comments, and you'd like visitors to be able to leave comments on each page (or even only on some pages), the Comments plugin allows you this technical capability without having to build an entirely new comments solution for your web domain.
#4: Activity Feed
The Activity Feed plugin allows you to show users what their friends are doing on your site through Likes and Comments. This is basically a listing of the most recent activity people have undertaken on your website (provided, of course, that these people also happen to be Facebook friends with the visiting user looking at the feed).
Unless your website is heavily trafficked with a user base that takes many actions (also tracked by Facebook Open Graph tags), there is not a lot of use for this plugin on your page.
The Recommendations plugin lets you give users personalized suggestions for pages on your site they might like. These “personalized” recommendations are compiled automatically by the plugin, using information from the most common activity on your site.
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When a user is logged into Facebook and viewing these recommendations, the plugin also takes into greater consideration activity undertaken by that user's friends (even if the user's friends made less-popular choices than what regularly occur on the site).
Recommendations is similarly useful to the Activity Feed—if your site is not getting high enough traffic to fill in the plugin's box with consistently updating recommendations, it can seem like a stale information feed, doing more harm than good.
#6: Like Box
The Like box enables users to Like your Facebookpage and view its stream directly from your website. You can toggle the stream of your Facebook page on or off with this plugin as well, so you have the option of showing a more detailed look into the types of content users can expect to see from your page when they commit to becoming a fan by clicking “Like.”
If your Facebook page messaging stream is consistently updated with interesting content that would be engaging even if taken out of the Facebook environment, keep the stream in the box. If, however, you don't update your page regularly and the stream is stale, omit it from the Like box settings, as you don't want to turn off users visiting your website from becoming a fan of your brand based on a seemingly outdated or disengaging stream.
#7: Login Button
The Login button lets you show profile pictures of the user's friends who have already signed up for your site in addition to a login button. This is only useful if you're also going to add in a Registration function (below), which allows you to create a community of website users who are logged into your site (with their Facebook credentials).
When Facebook users login to your site with this plugin, they are also giving permission for your domain to access all the network-available personal information they've shared on Facebook, which allows your brand a greater understanding of the kind of users engaging with your website.
The Registration plugin allows users to easily sign up for your website with their Facebook account. The registration process is simple for users, and generally includes input fields that are pre-filled with the users' personal information if they are already logged into Facebook in another tab. This decreases the barrier to entry of signing up and becoming a user (and therefore a member of your community), because the pre-filled form takes one click to submit (whereas a typical account registration form has several blank fields to consider, plus that pesky process of creating a new login and password to remember!).
The Facebook Registration plugin is highly recommended to be included with any websites that require a login to participate, either in place of a traditional registration or in addition to conventional account signup options.
The Facepile plugin lets you display the Facebook profile pictures of users who have Liked your page or have signed up for your site. However, it only displays the pictures of a user's friends (that the user is connected to on the network). It's a visually appealing way to display the pictures of a user's friends, especially coming in handy to surprise a visiting user when he suddenly sees his friend in an image on your site, realizing that his friend also likes the site.
If, however, the visiting user has few or even no friends who have Liked the page for your business, there are no pictures displayed. The Facepile plugin is appealing in that it can serve to entice visiting users who recognize a friend's face in the pile to also click Like.
#10: Live Stream
The Live Stream plugin lets your users share activity and comments in real time as they interact during a live event. This plugin is similar to the Comments social plugin in that a visitor to your website can leave a comment on a page and also post that comment to his or her Facebook profile.
However, with the Live Stream plugin, visitors' comments don't remain permanently, and only the last 10 to 15 are displayed, depending on the height set for the plugin.
Additionally, the moderator of the commentary (that's you, the administrator of the website) cannot edit or remove comments (something you might want to do if comments are inappropriate). Instead, the administrator can ban users from the live feed.
This plugin is handy only if you anticipate hosting live events such as webinars, presentations, video viewings, etc. It should reside on the same page as the actual event, and need not be distributed on any extra pages.
Now that you know the best use cases for each social plugin, you can choose the integration(s) that are right for your site. When you do this, make sure to consider the amount of monthly traffic your site has been getting (and growing) month over month, to consider if some of the more recommendations-based plugins are right for you.
Note that the installation of each plugin involves technical implementation on the backend of your website (some demand greater technical depth than others), but Facebook has documented these details extensively to help you through the process.
What do you think? What social plugins do you already have on your website? Are you planning on adding any more? Leave us your questions and comments in the box below. We'd love to hear from you!
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