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Adding Custom Content to Facebook Pages

Update: On February 11, 2010 Facebook announced major changes to pages. One of the changes is that they are doing away with the Static FBML app. Existing custom tabs will not be impacted and If you are reading this prior to March 10th you can still add the Static FBML app.

Facebook page

Maria Reyes-McDavis via Flickr

A few months ago Facebook officially did away with the idea of adding “boxes” of custom content to Facebook pages and instead forced users into adding “applications” as the primary way to add custom layouts, tabs and content.

While this change is old news and has been covered widely, Facebook continues to tinker with the interface and so I’ve been getting lots of questions again about the steps involved in adding custom content and thought I would do a quick tutorial.

Each Facebook page that you create comes with a standard set of tabs or pages. If you want to supplement the default set you simply locate and add applications. These can be Facebook applications like Video or Events or 3rd Party apps.

Some of these apps are free, some cost money. I hear great things about North Social set of apps and have used Involver apps for some time. I really like the service AppBistro provides as well. AppBistro can recommend apps based on your friends and activity.

If you want to create and add your own custom content such as a product, welcome or email newsletter sign-up page you’ll want to locate and add the Static FBML App. This application, once installed, allows you add up to 10 custom tabs with content using FBML (Facebook Markup Language) code that is somewhat like HTML, but for Facebook.

The video below shows the steps involved in locating, installing the Static FBML app and getting your page ready for custom content. In addition, the video shows you how to choose which tab is the default shown to visitors. Many people choose to have a welcome page shown as opposed to the default Wall tab.

Here are the steps for installing Static FBML App

  • Login to you account
  • Search for Static FBML app – you can find it here
  • Click Add to My Page – left sidebar under picture (If you administer multiple pages you will need to pick the page in question)
  • Go to the page you would like to edit and hit Edit My Page (Under you profile pic in left column)
  • Locate the link in the left sidebar called Apps and click it
  • Locate the listing that says FBML and click Edit Settings and hit Add if it has not been added already and hit Okay
  • Click Go To App – this will open the blank canvas where you add your FBML code – the name you give it in the title is the tab name (Note also at the bottom of the page it says Add another FBML box – you only install the application once but go back here to add as many as 10 instances.)

Once you add your code and save your page you can make your new page the default by going back out of the editing screen to your fan page home screen and look for the small little Options link under the status update bar. Hit Options, Settings and them from the Default Landing Page Dropdown menu, choose the page you just made and all visitors will be shown that first.

What about that FBML code stuff?

Okay, I’ve gotten you to the place where you’ve set up the custom page and it’s ready for content, now what?

For the most part a great deal of what you might want to do, such at add images and content can be done if you know HTML or use a program like Dreamweaver to create web pages. If you use style sheets, you must link to them externally and not embed the style code. You can learn about some of FBML specific code that allows you to do things like embed video, audio and interact with users by studying blogs like HyperArts or getting a book on FBML like Jessy Stay’s FBML Essentials

One FBML tag that’s definitely worth understanding is reveal fan only content – fb:visible-to-connection – this tag allows you to hide content and only make it available to your fans. You can use this as a bit of an incentive to get folks to become fans.

If that last few paragraphs make sense to you then I suspect you can do this on your own. Many business owners and even seasoned designers may want to make better use of their time by looking into services like ShortStack that manage the FBML coding or even templates like those from HyperArts or FanPageEngine.

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