How to Use Facebook Apps to Promote Your Business

This post was originally published on Social Media Examiner. Updated August 2014 to reflect new Facebook policy eliminating "Like gating."

Have you considered using Facebook apps, but don’t know where to start?

In this article I‘ll highlight some of the most popular uses of apps, as well as a few individual apps, so you can find the right fit for your Facebook Page.

What You Need to Know about Facebook Apps

Apps let you do all sorts of things on your Facebook Page without writing your own code. You can import your blog, run contests and promotions, collect email sign-ups, sell product through ecommerce and provide customer support.

At any one time, you can install up to 11 apps on your Page, but only four are visible in the thumbnail images directly beneath your cover photo. While Photos always appears as the first app, you can choose which apps show in the remaining three spots. Any additional apps you install can be viewed by clicking on the down arrow to the right of the app images.

As the Page admin, you rearrange apps by clicking the down arrow to show all apps. Choose an app to move, and click on the Edit icon in the upper corner of the app thumbnail image to reveal the “Swap position with” option.

Some users may not know how to reveal apps by clicking the arrow, so be sure to include your most important apps in the top row of visibility.

This is important to remember if you’re running a contest or other promotion on your Page, where you’ll want to highlight the specific app for a period of time, but give up that valuable real estate once the campaign ends.

Because apps receive less visibility in the current Facebook design than they used to, you can also use your cover photo to draw attention to them.

Recently Facebook relaxed the rules regarding cover photos, so you’re free to include calls to action and text to accentuate your apps. Just remember not to go overboard as people tend to respond better to a clean Page without too many sales-oriented messages.

Should You Care About Using a Facebook Preferred Developer?

The short answer is that for most everyday apps, this isn’t a concern.

However, when running promotions, contests or more unique marketing campaigns, it can be comforting knowing you’re working with a Preferred Marketing Developer. They ensure you’re complying with all of Facebook’s guidelines and getting the most out of the platform.

What About Requiring Users to Like My Page to View Apps? (Updated)

I first shared some of my concerns about this practice almost three years ago. Facebook recently made the decision to no longer permit the practice of requiring someone to Like your page in order to access an app. This makes it essential for Facebook marketers to have a plan for how to engage fans to earn the Like rather than require it.

Stand-alone Apps vs. Suites

When it comes to utilizing apps, one of the first questions you’ll want to answer is whether you’re better off using a single-purpose app provider or signing up with a vendor that offers multiple app suites you may wish to use.

Generally speaking, if you’re looking to get more out of your Facebook Page, then you need to provide more utility to your fans.

Since you’re probably going to want multiple tabs on your Page, I encourage you to look at the many companies that provide a suite of apps to determine what meets your needs and fits your budget.

With each app provider, there’s a learning curve for creating an app using their tools.

Some vendors provide templates with some degree of flexibility to customize the look and feel using HTML or CSS. Others have more of a drag-and-drop interface where you can add and edit “widgets” (e.g., a video player, a map) within the app.

Most vendors offer a free trial so you can play around with the interface to build and design your app before you commit. This lets you see which one works best for you.

How to Create General Content and HTML Tabs

Create your tabs yourself with HTML.

If you can write HTML, you can probably figure out how to create your own custom Facebook app. However, using an existing app takes the hassle out of creating a custom tab.

With HTML, you can do almost anything that you can do on your own website but have it live within a tab on your Facebook Page.

A popular free option you can use to create custom HTML tabs is Static HTML. In addition to the editable HTML iframe tab, they offer some additional options once you have installed their app on your Page.

Use tools to create tabs.

If you don’t want to dive into HTML, you can use tools to help you create your tabs. Here are some you might want to look at.

Pagemodo is another widely used tool for creating custom content tabs, offering a variety of templates and themes to choose from, as well as the ability to do some custom HTML/CSS editing. Their free plan enables you to launch one tab on one Page only, but they offer paid plans for multiple tabs.

North Social was one of the first vendors to offer a suite of apps for Facebook Pages, and includes a WYSIWYG iframe Editor that allows you to upload an image, URL or full HTML. North Social provides a nice selection of 18 apps to utilize for as little as $1.99 per day.

AgoraPulse is another vendor that offers an HTML app, as well as other content apps (and while you’re there, you should check out their free analytics tool).

Here are some other ways to use your Facebook tabs.

#1: Integrate Other Social Media Channels

Some people think of their various social channels separately, but your Facebook Page is the perfect hub to cross-promote content from your Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest feeds.

In addition to posting photos directly to your timeline, you can use a free app like Statigram to pull your Instagram photos into a Page tab.

Tabfusion has a good selection of simple apps to pull in content from sources including Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube and Vimeo. Each app can be purchased à la carte or you can sign up to access all of them.

If Pinterest is your thing, Woobox offers a free app to pull in your Pinterest feed, as well as a Pin to Win contest app as part of their paid subscription plan.

#2: Publish Your Blog to Facebook

If you have a blog and you aren’t already reposting blog entries to your Facebook timeline, you should be!

Share new posts in the news feed and house an archive of your blog posts on your Page. Two popular tools for blogs to integrate with Facebook are NetworkedBlogs and RSS Graffiti.

#3: Run Contests and Promotions

Many articles have been written on the topic of Facebook contests because they remain one of the most popular and effective uses of apps on Facebook.

While a number of the vendors mentioned previously provide some sort of contest or sweepstakes application, three that I believe have the most robust capabilities in this area are:

  • Offerpop – Provides a variety of contest app types to choose from.
  • ShortStack – Delivers a rich set of tools for a very reasonable price.
  • Strutta– One of the most robust platforms for photo and video contests.

#4: Add Email Subscribers

A fan is visiting your Facebook Page and she may or may not like your Page. If she does, she may be in the 12% who see your posts when you post to your timeline.

Wouldn’t you like to be able to communicate directly via email with the people who like your Page? MailChimp and Constant Contact each offer sign-up apps you can add to your Page.

You can also use a third-party app like TabSite, which offers an email sign-up app as part of their free package.

#5: Enable Ecommerce

If you sell products on your website, have you considered offering them through your Facebook Page, too?

Heyo (formerly Lujure) is an app platform with some nice templates that let you build out commerce-oriented tabs and add product links to drive purchases.

If you want a more deeply integrated shopping experience, check out Ecwid. And if you’re looking to build out your web storefront with Shopify, they offer the ability to easily integrate on Facebook as well.

#6: Offer Customer Support

Social media is one of the first places people turn today to vent frustrations with a brand or product. If you have an existing Get Satisfaction community, you can integrate it on your Facebook Page. Parature is a robust customer service application with strong integration with Facebook.

If these are out of your league, you can also use your app vendor of choice to create a feedback form to host on a tab. Just be sure you’re able to collect the information you need and respond to people appropriately.

Well, there you have it. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but I hope it’s been helpful. Check out these providers to see what best fits your business needs.