How to Build Your Own Facebook App : Social Media Examiner

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'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,, 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.

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