I have been asked quite a few times how Facebook applications work and what you can and can’t do with them. I thought I would take the time to answer some of the most common questions that I get in regards to Facebook and make some comments on how the platform can help or hurt you.

What is a Facebook App?

Simply put a Facebook app is a part of your website that people can access through Facebook. Their Facebook data is shared with your site and your site shares data with Facebook. 

Do I need a Facebook App?

Well that is a very tricky question. The best answer is probably no. You do not need a Facebook app. Facebook is a social site and a Facebook app can add value to you or it can add value to your customers (the Facebook users). But in most cases the core of your website can function without it. 

What are the Benifits of a Facebook App?

Well, it’s a social site. It’s a great way to add more users or more exposure to your main site. In addition there are sites or apps that exist entirely in Facebook and have no value outside their site. There are other sites that barely have a 1% of their function in Facebook.

What are the drawbacks of Facebook?

In truth the only real downside is cost. You are increasing the complexity of your site therefor it can take longer to develop new features. Good developers will help minimize this by using techniques to share code between the two sites.

Breaking for a comment on the Facebook Cache

Facebook’s cache is a great thing, and when you get 100,000 people instantly hitting your app for some reason, you will be glad that you have it there as a buffer. However that comes at a cost. The most visible is with images, css (the stuff that says how the page looks), and javescript. The Facebook Cache caches things forever (in theory), so a change of a logo or banner on your site will not effect Facebook without some extras steps.

Continuing; How can I see if I should have a Facebook app?

First thing is first, do you offer something that you need a Facebook user for. For example do you want to put comments on a users wall, or link recent purchases with a Facebook account. If not then you should steer clear of a Facebook app in most cases.  Second, will the extra exposure and user base off set the cost of developing the Facebook app? Third, do you think there is any value at all to any Facebook user for your application? The value does not have to be high, just look at some of the silly apps out there. Some do nothing more then put an image on the wall.

What kinds of costs can I expect if I do want a Facebook app?

That is a very hard question to answer. First most of the coding for Facebook will happen in the language of the main site. Different Languages mean a different price, for me at least. Also there is complexity of the application, and what steps need to happen just to get it ready for Facebook. 

You can expect to at least have to shore up some old code if your site has been around a while before you can even start with Facebook integration. New sites have it much easier.  Again in comes the web standards stuff I always rail on. Facebook expects to receive good html and can do some pretty silly things when it doesn’t get it. 

The only real way to get a good price check is have your developer give it a once over.  See what it would cost. They can even help you in qualifying rather or not your site should even have a Facebook app. 

Facebook for advertising?

NO! Facebook is not an advertising platform (not talking about Facebook ads just yet, were talking about using Facebook as a place to advertise.) Using Facebook as a platform to discuss topics or list information or other things is great, but do not expect that you can build an app that does nothing but spam back links or gibberish about how great your site is.

That being said, Facebook can be a great way to improve your user base/reader base, and by providing good information or good additions to Facebook you can really improve your main sites stats. 

For an example, lets take this post/site/app. This site also has it’s articles posted on my Facebook page, and a small comment added to my stream when I update this page. However I feel that these articles offer a good service to the public and more importantly to my clients or potential clients.  I also personally think it would be fun to have discussions with other developers about some of the topics, and other business owners about others. All that said, if your viewing this article from Facebook, then you do not see, my normal “Contact Information” or the links to web hosting, Development or other things on my site that are targeted to sell services.  That does not mean that I do not expect a increase in my main sites traffic. That is what I receive for the extra work of publishing to both places.

Facebook Ads?

Facebook ads are ads inside Facebook.  Facebook has a lot of users, but their ad network is nothing special. You may consider it good if their demographic and yours overlaps, but it could also be a complete waste of money if they do not. As with any ad network, weigh the cost against your best outcome and split test like crazy. 

Any Facebook Quirks?

Oh yes, tons! If your trying to add a Facebook app feature to an older site, be prepared for the fact that it is not just plug and play. Facebook also has some pretty strict rules about styling and javascript, so be prepared to have to “slim down” some of your site features for Facebook. For a newer site (or band new) this is less of a problem because you are going into the project knowing that Facebook compatibility is a must.  Short version, yes there are quirks, but they can be coded around or corrected in many ways. The only way to tell for sure is to talk to a developer and ask them to review the possibilities. 

Summary!

Facebook can be a great place to add value to an already existing web site, or to create a new Facebook app that has nothing to do with any other website, but it is not an advertising platform, a place for back-links, or an automatic win button. It can be great if you want to add a social aspect to your existing site, but expect there to be an increased cost as you will be maintaining both a Facebook app and a Web app.

Coteyr.net Programming LLC. is about one thing. Getting your project done the way you like it. Using Agile development and management techniques, we are able to get even the most complex projects done in a short time frame and on a modest budget.

Feel free to contact me via any of the methods below. My normal hours are 10am to 10pm Eastern Standard Time. In case of emergency I am available 24/7.

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