There are over 650 million people on Facebook … blah, blah, blah. We’ve been stat-quoted to death about the importance of Facebook, so I’m not going to get into all that here (you can read about statistics and the benefits of advertising on Facebook here). This post is about custom Facebook Pages and how to create them.
Should Your Business Have a Custom Facebook Page?
All businesses should have a Facebook Page because these pages rank high in search on Google, are highly flexible and customizable, and allow people to easily connect with your brand via the Like button (click here to learn all about Likeographics, the study of targeting people by interests on Facebook). The default pages that Facebook offers, however, are less than effective for a business that has specific goals and products to sell. Remember, Facebook was set up as a digital directory, allowing people to share their lives for free online, through multimedia uploads; it has since morphed into an advertising and sales platform.
The main feature of any Facebook landing page is the Wall or News Feed, a mishmosh of everything happening with that person or business. This is great for people willing to browse through their friends’ pages and cyber stalk exes, but commerce requires focus. A business needs to be able to customize the Facebook landing page experience for both fans (people who have liked the page) and non-fans (people who have not yet liked the page).
NERD ALERT (there is some jargon in this next paragraph): Up until recently, you had to have an understanding of FBML, a special Facebook mark up language used to code custom pages, to create custom tabs and make an experience worth liking your page for. Facebook changed this in March of 2011, and all new Facebook pages are now powered through the use of iFrames, a basic function of HTML (regular web mark up language), that allows you to display content from an outside website on Facebook.
Think of iFrames like a window from Facebook to your website, so that any page you point the iFrame to, will replicate in Facebook.
How Do I Create a Custom Facebook Page Without Coding?
“Great,” you say, “but I’m still not even really comfortable with this whole iFrame thing. Damn it Jim, I’m a [insert position and your best Dr. McCoy impression here] not a miracle worker!” You are in luck.
There are two options for the non-coding inclined, either of which will work depending on your needs and resources: (1) hire a social marketing firm like My Media Labs to create and maintain a custom page for you or (2) invest in a custom Facebook Page creation tool.
It should be noted at the outset that using a page creator tool without an expertise in managing pages or running social media campaigns is similar to building and running a website on GoDaddy.com or a blog on WordPress using standard templates. The effectiveness of the page is going to be driven by marrying customizations and design to the drag and drop functionality. Facebook page creators just make getting the actual page up easier; they do not create brilliant campaigns or user experiences – that’s what My Media Labs is here for! : )
This post is going to discuss three tools that My Media Labs has used in creating and maintaing pages for clients, and suggest which one reigns supreme.
Caveat Emptor: Beware the Cinderella Factor
All of the tools below are subject to the Cinderalla Factor: if you stop paying the monthly fee, say goodbye to your custom pages. This is important for an Agency to consider when pricing the pages for clients b/c if you fall out of a paying relationship with that client and you have created their page on any of these tools, then you will have to foot the bill to keep that page live for the foreseeable future. One way of accounting for this is to build into your client agreement an annual fee to maintain the cost of the pages across the years and a clause that states “failure to pay the annual fee will result in a removal of custom tabs from your page.”
Tool #1: Splash Lab Social Tab Creator
Out of all three tools that I will talk about here, Splash Lab Social has the easiest sign up process, by far. I just entered my Facebook information and the page did the rest, pulling in my information and current pages (the other two tools have a few other steps, which make for an awkward initial impression). Then I was prompted to request a Business or Agency account, the difference being that a business account is to manage my own businesses page and nothing more, while the agency account helps me manage multiple clients and will be more expensive once the free trial ends (I chose agency).
From there it brings you to a page that says Add a Tab. It’s that easy.
I’m prompted to choose a page that I’m managing, and then asked to choose from nine different templates (this is the middle option for templates – Lujure has 6 and Shortstack has 18). From there you add your content, and here is where Splash Lab falls short on the other two tools.
Where Splash Lab excels in the amount of templates it allows, it limits you to five types of content, all that need to be uploaded or linked to via Splash Lab (no drag and drop). Here are the five types of content permitted on the page:
- Image upload
- YouTube Video
- RSS Feed
- Body Text (note: this is WYSIWIG editing, not HTML coding – very limited)
- Twitter stream
Pricing – this is another area where I think Splash Lab falls short. While cheaper on the front end at $29 per month for a single page (Business User) and $39 per month plus $19 for each additional page (Agency User) you get what you pay for. This is a basic tool to do basic things.
- Business – $29.00/month) – 1 Facebook Page
- Agency – $39.00/month – 1 Facebook Page + additional pages at $19.00/month
While Splash Lab seemed to be a good fit from demo videos and ease of use, it fell short in the content it allowed me to manage. Much of this could be remedied by allowing HTML coding in the Body Text section, but that would also take away from it as a non-coding tool.
Tool #2: Short Stack Labs
Besides having a great name (anything pancake related must be delicious!), Short Stack offers a solid tool creating custom Facebook pages. The sign up process is not as easy as the one for Splash Labs, but you certainly get more for Free with sign up (and even more when you pay).
The interface and dashboard for tab creation is the best of all three tools. It provides you with 18-ready to use template layouts, and from there it is just plugging in your widgets and code (you get to choose among 28 ready-to-use and coded widgets). Managing and publishing the pages is also super-easy, and requires very little know-how to change things or create more tabs.
My favorite feature, by far, is seamless integration with the picture editing tool Picnik. When you upload a photo it gives you the option of photo editing, which will allow you to crop, resize, sharpen, change colors and more. Even cooler, you can create clickable hotspots on the photo that link to different places (this alone is worth getting a free plan!).
And the free plan is one of the best things about Short Stack: it’s free plan allows you to create as many tabs as you want. In fact, you can create them on as many pages as you want, so long as all of your pages do not exceed 2,000 fans. Here’s some information from Short Stack about their free plan:
The “Surprisingly Free” plan has all of the same great features that the old free plan had, but instead of a fan allowance of 100 across your Pages, we’re giving out a fan allowance of 2,000.
What “Surprisingly Free” plan users are getting:
- Create “fan-reveal” landing pages
- Install to an unlimited number of Pages (one free plan can be used for as many pages as you want, up to 2,000 fans/likes total)
- Multiple tabs per Page
- Contests and Promotions
- Integrations with YouTube, Twitter, MailChimp and (lots) more
- Photo Galleries
- Shopping and product widgets
- Blog integration
- and almost all of our usual stuff
And what do we ask for in return? Just a small ShortStack icon displayed at the bottom of your tab.
It’s actually a small price to pay to get your Facebook Page up and running.
This is ideal for a small business or specialty page, but for anything more enterprising, a professional account will be needed (you’d be surprised how easy it is to reach 2,000 fans with a custom page). Here’s the sticking point for me on Short Stack: the pricing. It works for smaller pages, but consultants who handle multiple pages or businesses that attract more than 2,000 fans can find the costs pile up. The next step up from Free is a ShortStack plan, allowing up to 25,000 fans across all pages for $30 per month (not bad for a single business). Then there is the Full Stack, 100K fans for $75 per month (should be sufficient for just about any semi-or-non-famous entity). Finally, there is the All You Can Eat for $300 per month with no limits.
Now I know what you are thinking: how is this pricing bad? Again, depending on your needs and potential for growth on Facebook, it’s not. The only draw back is really for those of us managing multiple accounts, where it is conceivable that you will break 100K fans between all your clients or brands and then having to pay a hefty $300 per month fee. A potential work around is opening separate accounts for each client or brand, which will likely keep the number of fans lower, but will be a nightmare to manage (analytic reporting is very important on these pages).
Between the three of these products, the potential for hefty monthly fees was the one big turn off for me on Short Stack.
Tool #3: Lujure Assembly Line
Here is the Cadillac of Facebook Tab Managers, if you are consultant or multiple brand manager. In Lujure Assembly Line, the client management interface you get in the top-of-the-line Business Plan looks fantastic, with solid analytic reporting and client management tools. Also, with the option for yearly pricing and an unlimited number of pages, tabs, and Likes it seems, at first glance, as the obvious choice for any consultant or multiple brand manager.
By far, my favorite feature about Lujure is the ability to create overlapping, drag and drop widgets. So for example, if I upload a designed background image, and then want to put a Like button, a Google +1 button, and a Share This button within the image, rather than underneath or on top of it, I can easily do so. It allows you to do this with practically any widget, so you can create what looks like a highly designed Facebook page. It also has intuitive controls to change the sizes of just about any region on the Facebook page, giving you a level of customization that is not so obvious on other tools. You have your choice of 34 widgets to drop onto the page, the most of any of the tools reviewed here, and you can add custom code as well.
Now for the drawbacks: the Free plan sucks. It only lets you put one tab on your Page, which doesn’t really let you test the full capabilities of the tool. Also, the controls are not as smooth for things like contest or form integration (something that Short Stack does very well), and you can only choose from 6 ready to use templates to get your page started (compare to the 18 Short Stack gives you). Also, in the pricing, you can only go up to a Consultant Plan for $27 per month which allows you to maintain 3 Pages, before having to upgrade to the Business Plan for $195 per month – that’s a huge leap for anyone managing multiple pages (with Short Stack you have the $75 per month option before being thrown into triple digits).
It should be noted, however, that Lujure did give one of the best outputs on the tabs I created.
Overall, I think that the Consultant Plan works well if you are managing multiple pages and willing to open multiple Lujure accounts – for the busier social media managers, the Business Plan may be worth it.
The Custom Facebook Tab Creator I Chose Was …
As this is a project of My Media Labs, it will be like everything else we do: experimental.
For me, the tab creation tools make sense b/c they save me hours of coding. What they do not do, however, is create a custom experience by themselves. I still need to design custom graphics and backgrounds to make the pages pop, run campaigns around the content crafted for the widgets, and promote the pages through ads and other PR means. Like I said earlier in this post, custom Facebook tab creators are not a panacea; they are a tool that in the hands of a competent builder, make creating the house much easier.
If you want to make a custom Facebook page let us know by clicking here.