Facebook’s “Like” button and its other social plugins
Here are the three main ways people are using the social plugins on their blogs:
The like button is usually just placed on individual blog posts. This serves multiple purposes, the most obvious being that when someone clicks the like button, it’s recorded on their wall and their friends’ news feed with as link back to the blog post giving the blog an opportunity to gain more traffic. It also serves as a useful popularity measure when scanning through blog posts – a visitor may be more likely to stop and read a post, or click from an excerpt to the full post if they see lots of “likes”.
Unfortunately there is not yet a social plugin to show the most popular posts on a blog, but this has been heavily requested. Once it’s available, it will be a widget many blog owners will be looking to add.
One side effect of adding the like button is that it is reducing the number of comments on blogs. It’s great at eliminating repetitive comments thanking the author for the post and providing aggregated feedback to the author, filtering the comments down to ones which are ideally more substantial and engaging visitors who would never have filled in a comment form. However, it can be less meaningful or personal to for the author to not receive thoughtful feedback and just a sterile number of likes to deal with. Facebook has provided an option for adding comments as to why they like it but most sites aren’t using this.
One of the biggest issues with the like button is the fact that it is provided in a fixed-width iframe. The most common type of like button used is the button_count option, which just shows the like button and the number of likes beside it. However, this has substantial design restrictions. For example, this version of the like button cannot be right-aligned; if you try to put the button at the top right of your post, the extra horizontal space added for the number of likes makes it look very bad, especially when ‘0’ likes doesn’t even display at all.
The same spacing issues crop up when trying to have a row of sharing options – it is virtually impossible to have a tweet button and like button side by side without the design looking very messy due to the extra blank space required by the iframes.
The like box is usually placed in a blog’s sidebar and set to not show the stream (you are already on the blog, so showing the latest posts isn’t needed). The Like box enables visitors to show their interest in the blog and let their friends know at the same time, helping to increase traffic. Just as importantly, it will add the Facebook page updates to their news feed, potentially gaining visitors back to the blog time and time again – especially if blog posts are automatically added to the Facebook page. Your blog will also appear in the “activities and interests” section of the user’s Facebook profile.
Further, when doing a search within Facebook for a topic or company, a “like” is a major factor in the search results algorithm. As more people use Facebook to conduct their searches, having lots of “likes” will be vital SEO.
Facebook share has been around longer and is now being discouraged by Facebook, but is still important and different from the like button. Share requires a little bit more effort on the part of the visitor as it’s not just one click but means that a little excerpt and picture from the blog is added to their wall and their friends’ news feed. Blog owners can optimize their code using Facebook’s Open Graph to automatically pick a good image to display (instead of an ad, for example), increasing the chances someone will click through to the blog post.
Syndicating to Facebook
While RSS readers aren’t going away, RSS is now being used more to syndicate blog posts to Facebook, Twitter or email. Surprisingly, it seems difficult to find out how to syndicate blog posts to Facebook, and since Facebook changes so rapidly, blog posts on how to do this are quickly out of date and confusing for newcomers.
One of the easiest methods of getting blog posts automatically pushed through to your blog/company Facebook page is by using Facebook notes:
- Log into Facebook
- Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/manage/
- Click on “edit page” for the page you wish to link to your blog
- Click on “applications” in the left hand menu
- Click on “go to application” below Notes
- Click on “Edit import settings” in the left hand menu
- Enter your blog’s website address (or the feed address), check the permissions box and click “Start importing”
If you wish to encourage visitors come over to your blog, set your feed to be an excerpt, rather than the full post, or create a special feed just for Facebook to use. There are some potentially major disadvantages to this method:
- Facebook only checks your feed every 2-3 hours so posts are delayed before showing up.
- A user has to click twice to get to your blog – once to view the note and then again to jump to your site, losing visitors along the way.
- You’re unable to edit notes imported in this way, only delete them. If you update your blog post, it’s not reflected in Facebook.
- Comments on notes don’t show up on your blog.
A popular alternative which has none of the above disadvantages is to use a WordPress plugin called Wordbook. One disadvantage of this plugin is that it currently posts all blog posts to Facebook, not just ones you select. With Facebook notes, you can select which posts you want to import into Facebook by making a blog category for your Facebook posts and using this feed in Facebook.
Other plugins are available (for example, Simple Facebook Connect, as well as plugins for other content management systems). These all involve setting up a Facebook Developer Application, which tends towards being too complicated for an everyday blog user to set up – especially when a large majority of instructions found by searching are outdated. Setting these up for a client isn’t particular easy either – you either need to log into Facebook as the client yourself (often involving getting through numerous security checks due to logging in from a different country), or invite the client to be your friend on facebook before you can grant them admin access to the application.
If you have multiple blogs you’d like to import automatically into Facebook, you will need to use a tool such as Yahoo! Pipes to mix the feeds together first.
As more people use Facebook to conduct their searches, optimizing blog meta tags for Facebook using the Open Graph will be an important part of SEO practice. Get in early with this strategy and you won’t have to force Facebook to re-scrape your page or have popular blog posts’ meta data locked down in Facebook and unable to be updated.
As mentioned above, when doing a search within Facebook for a topic or company, a “like” is a major factor in the search results algorithm. As more people use Facebook to conduct their searches, having lots of “likes” for your blog or company page will be vital SEO.
Not too long ago, clients would come to us asking for a “Web 2.0” blog. Now the requests are always about being “Facebook/Twitter integrated” or “social media enabled”.
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