Facebook-hosted "Pages" are No Longer Necessary – Here’s Why

Social Media Examiner shared some advice I gave on their Facebook Page recently regarding the warning about Facebook “boxes” being removed from Facebook Pages in the next week.  The reminder was met with a lot of concern from subscribers, who had grown attached to the ability to customize the look and feel of their Facebook Pages through the Static FBML app on Facebook and the ability to add custom “boxes” to the Wall of their Page.  The other concern is that Facebook will also be switching to the smaller, 520px Tab format, reducing the amount of surface area for a custom tab to add personalization to a Facebook Page.  I argue all this concern is moot however – there is something better Page owners can be doing that they aren’t, and that is moving their Pages over to their own websites and managing the interface there instead of on Facebook.com, and I think that’s the direction Facebook wants Page owners to go.

At Facebook’s sold out F8 developer conference this year this focus seemed evident.  Facebook launched a series of new “Social Plugins”, and a protocol (called Open Graph Protocol) enabling any website to essentially become a “Facebook Page”.  Right off, website owners could simply put a “like button” Social Plugin on their website by copying and pasting an iframe tag from Facebook’s developer site, and immediately, with some added meta tags added to the section of their HTML, they could have all the functionality of a Facebook Page right on their own website.

Facebook had a great demo at the conference, which Jolie O’Dell (from Mashable) pointed me to (see her article about it here), where they basically took all the content from Lady Gaga’s Page and converted it to its own, customized website with its own look and feel that you could easily change themes.  Facebook-me.com, which appears to still be there, enabled customized themes to be applied to profiles, perhaps similar to MySpace in a way, but in a way that website owners themselves could host those themes on their own servers.  All this could be done through simple Graph API calls and some customization on your own server.  See their demo they gave me here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix0OY6_6y_8

For instance, if you query http://graph.facebook.com/stay/feed in your browser, immediately you’ll be presented with a parseable feed taken straight from my Facebook Page of all the posts put there.  Re-format that in any way you like and you have your own customized Facebook Page.  No login necessary.

It can be even better though.  Rather than letting Facebook host the data, you can handle most of it on your own through Social Plugins.  For instance, let’s look at what happens if I want to make StayNAlive.com its own Facebook Page (in fact I’ll do it right here so you can try it out when I’m finished).  I simply go to http://developers.facebook.com and click on the big green “Add Facebook to my Site” button, then click on the Social Plugins link.  Select the “Like Button” social plugin, and enter http://staynalive.com in the URL box.  Click the “Get Code” button, and you’ll be given code that looks like this:

http://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?href=http%3A%2F%2Fstaynalive.com&layout=standard&show_faces=true&width=450&action=like&colorscheme=light&height=80

Now, if I put that at the top of the website, a like button appears, and my website is now a Facebook Page.  Go ahead and click “like” and you’ll see what I mean.  Now you’re subscribed to my “Page”, you’ll get all the posts I send to your news feed, and best of all, any links to the “Page” go back to my actual website, and not Facebook.com.

Becoming an Admin

To get all the benefits of turning your website into a Page and having the full flexibility of customization, you’ll need to make a couple updates to the section of your site’s HTML.  These meta tags follow a standard called “Open Graph Protocol”, and by following it, Facebook will know how to represent your site inside Facebook.  There are different tags that can specify the title of your site, a main image for your site, and more, but the most important tag you need to add to your site’s section is a meta tag that looks like this:

This specific meta tag identifies the user, 683545112 (which happens to be my Facebook ID), as the admin for your website on Facebook.  To get your Facebook ID, the best way I use is to go to your profile, click on your profile image, and look at the number after “id=” in the URL.  That’s your Facebook ID.  You can also specify multiple Facebook IDs in the content attribute of the meta tag by separating them by commas.

Once you specify this, next to your like button that you just installed you’ll see a “Admin Page” link next to the like button that, by clicking on the link, will take you to what looks like a regular Facebook Page on Facebook.  It’s from there you can post updates to your fans and have them see it in their news feed.  Also, once you’re identified as an admin, any link to the Facebook Page in your own Feed will link back to that admin interface on Facebook.com. (not to the website itself, which is what all other users will see)

For other meta tag identifiers you can use, view the source of this website and look in the section – look for the “og:” meta tags.  You can also read more about it in the developer documentation here.

The Feed

By using this method, you get all the benefits of any normal Facebook Page on Facebook.com.  You just have to install the proper Facebook Social Plugins to get what you want.  For instance, if you want your visitors to see a feed of all items you’ve posted to the feed, install the “Like Box” social plugin, and enter the ID of the Facebook Page you just set up. (to get the ID, go to the “Admin Page” link next to your like button, and it’s the long number in the URL)  Look over on the right of this website to see an example of the Like Box feed.

As mentioned above, you can also post items to your feed.  Click “Edit Page” on your admin Page, and you can set up an RSS feed to import notes into your feed.  I can also post videos, pictures, or anything else, just as I would a normal Facebook Page hosted on Facebook.com.

Importing Your Blog Posts

You’ll notice the “Like Box” on the right that has all the posts from this blog on it.  That’s because I’m importing the RSS for this blog and now ever time a new post goes out all the people that have “Liked” StayNAlive.com via the link above will get all the posts I submit via this blog.  This can be a great alternative to allowing users to subscribe via RSS.

So there you have it – any need to customize a Facebook.com-hosted Page is now moot.  We don’t need them any more.  I see no reason for hosting on Facebook itself if you need full customization.  In fact, all links your visitors see in Facebook will now point back to your own website and not Facebook.com.  When the user likes your website it will now appear in their interests and link back to your website.  That can be good for SEO.  Search results will link back to your website, and hints will show up for all your visitors’ friends, pointing them back to your website.

This, IMO is the ideal way to set up a Facebook Page now.  The Facebook Page hosted on Facebook.com is not the future.  Your website is the future, and Facebook has made it completely possible for you to own this experience.

Are there any reasons you can think of not to use this method?  What other tips do you have?  I’d like to hear them in the comments and I’ll update this post as it makes sense.

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35 thoughts on “Facebook-hosted "Pages" are No Longer Necessary – Here’s Why

  1. Great article, I can definitely see this taking off for businesses unwilling to make the jump to social media. This is the perfect gap bridging tool to encourage brands to become socially active. I am a little worried about the enormous quantity of junk this will bring to Facebook though. If everyone begins adding the like interfaces, the pages section of Facebook will explode!

    Like

  2. Jakob, I totally mean it, and it's exactly why I removed all the links back
    to my http://facebook.com/stay page and am now pointing this blog to its
    own, self-hosted Page for this blog. I will keep my existing personal Page
    because I already have a community there, but as for everything new I will
    be doing those from their own websites from now on and not on Facebook.com
    itself. This blog now points there and not to my personal Page.

    I'm sorry if this means less business for you (I do custom Facebook Pages as
    well), but this is the direction Facebook is going.

    Like

  3. Hi Jesse!
    I really respect you for doing it, since it is always important to eat your own cooking, next step must be to delete it?.
    I love and welcome all these changes, since it gives us a lot more options, to create cool applications for our users (that I can't go into further details with.)
    Our main focus is on SMB's and I strongly believe that it is more important to have an updated Page on Facebook, than an updated website, as a Brick 'N Mortar store and almost everyone with primary income outside the internet (still the biggest part of the world).
    I love the internet (Maybe more than anything) but I am sure that following this example, would be the wrong direction to go for my local hairdresser, that just created her first Facebook Page. Be careful not to be narrowminded as a firstmover 🙂

    Like

  4. I think what you're doing is a mistake. A simple website with Social
    Plugins will always be a wiser choice than a Facebook Page hosted on
    Facebook.com will be. You'll get better SEO, and a site you have full
    control over that will last beyond just Facebook. I'm definitely not being
    narrowminded – I practice what I preach and this is based on firm
    experience. There is no reason to host a Facebook Page on Facebook.com any
    more, especially for small business.

    Like

  5. […] Facebook-hosted “Pages” are No Longer Necessary – Here’s Why | Stay N’ Alive Jump to Comments This, IMO is the ideal way to set up a Facebook Page now.  The Facebook Page hosted on Facebook.com is not the future.  Your website is the future, and Facebook has made it completely possible for you to own this experience. via staynalive.com […]

    Like

  6. I still say that it is just another traffic source, not a “Pagekiller”. I have looked around your page and can see less than 100 sharing your stuff, while over 1000 is following you on your Facebook Page. If you remove the Page you are after my mind killing the 2-way social communication, that is so vital in this social media age.
    IMDB, bigger blogs (You) and newsites is a perfect place to implement the Like button, since they don't have any interaction with their users, I agree that if they haven't implented these Facebook featues, they are sleeping and I agree that they can kill their Facebook page today (because it is actually just a reader for their RSS feeds).
    But for businesses that needs to communicate with their users, as ex. my company Pagemodo.com, we get a lot of feedback from our users on our Facebook wall and since we really take care of our users, it is very important for us to keep the contact to us, as simple as possible. We provide Mail and a payed easy to use forum, but for a lot of users it is a lot easier to write a note on our wall, these users would never create a supportticket and just leave our shop with a bad experience and telling it to all their friends, I mean our wall and user count is the most honest testimonials you can get.
    If you have any suggestions on how we and business like us, could kill our page, I would love to hear it, but untill then, use the social tools as an extra traffic source and to create trust on your website, because they are really great!.

    Like

  7. Jakob,
    Although I like Facebook pages, Jesse is dead on correct! Especially after the lessons we've learned regarding anything on Facebook…
    1. We don't own it.
    2. We don't control it.
    3. It can be changed at any time.
    IMHO, investing in your website is totally justified and especially if you can use the power of Facebook to compliment and enhance your reach.
    Jesse,
    Love your thought-leadership. Thanks for the insights and tips. Great stuff!
    Jody
    http://www.webmarcom.net

    Like

  8. There is one situation I can think of where it may not be ideal –
    advertising. I've been told by some at Facebook that it has been proven
    that Facebook advertising has shown more effective when it links inside
    Facebook. If you plan on any advertising, you may be more effective with a
    Facebook.com-hosted Page. However, you should also weigh that with whether
    that's worth giving up control to Facebook or maintaining that on your own.
    I think more an more, especially the way Facebook is trending to span the
    entire web, we'll see people care less and less where things link on
    Facebook and people will be willing to leave the site much more.

    Like

  9. There is one situation I can think of where it may not be ideal –
    advertising. I've been told by some at Facebook that it has been proven
    that Facebook advertising has shown more effective when it links inside
    Facebook. If you plan on any advertising, you may be more effective with a
    Facebook.com-hosted Page. However, you should also weigh that with whether
    that's worth giving up control to Facebook or maintaining that on your own.
    I think more an more, especially the way Facebook is trending to span the
    entire web, we'll see people care less and less where things link on
    Facebook and people will be willing to leave the site much more.

    Like

  10. Wow… there is so much here to take in and not just your article Jesse, but the comments. I'm going to have to print and really read in depth. I'm a firm believer in having your own online real estate – webiste/blog and using social networks as an add-on (I have personally seen a few clients / colleagues have their facebook page closed for no reason – a few came back but some lost it forever…) and specifically because you have not control over the networks nor do you 'own' the traffic.
    Thanks so much for the great info/opinions everyone!

    Like

  11. Thanks for sharing! This article really has helped me out, I'm keeping this one for my records 🙂 This concept is a great idea in Facebook's part but I think it will take a while for businesses to get used to. I like the fact that you can personalize your page more so through this type of avenue with different themes and/or layouts , really exciting stuff to look forward to.

    Like

  12. I tried this for a while, but ended up switching back to have a real Page (actually, I use an Application wall as a page, but same principle) for a couple of reasons.

    1. With a real page, you have a presence on FB that you don't have with this method. Only you can see that admin page, your users cannot. And users *want* to see you on Facebook, not just to have their stories in your feed. They want to be able to go to your Page and see only your stories, going back in time as you published them.

    2. Loss of Fans. I already have several hundred fans/likes/whatever on my existing page. I can't transfer those. And I'm not going to start over. This is a deal-breaker for most people, to the point that I had to modify Simple Facebook Connect to allow it to use pre-existing Pages for this sort of thing.

    That's the major problems with the idea. Yes, it works for a new site. For a site that's already established, it's unworkable.

    Like

  13. Jesse, I have never liked importing an RSS feeds into facebook, they don't always render properly (iframes/embeds etc) and clicking a link end up on facebook's note page NOT your blog.

    Clicking on your Google Reader blog post link (in the top social plugin) brings you to facebook's note of your post (http://www.facebook.com/notes/stay-n-alive/goog…). I would recommend a feedburner summary feed..

    I use posterous which auto-posts a rich snippet to facebook but the full post can only be read (and tracked) back on my blog. There should be something similar available for general feeds, if not facebook should add it along with multiple feed support.

    Like

  14. Chris, which plugin are you seeing it link to the Facebook note for the
    feed? The “Subscribe” link should take you to Feedburner already. There
    are WordPress plugins that will do what Posterous does – that's what I would
    use if that is the functionality I was looking for I think.

    Like

  15. The social plugin that is at the top of your sidebar (just under community). I assume those links were added via the RSS feed (to facebook note) method you described.

    There seems to be a lot of solutions for wall snippets (posterous, wordpress etc) but if *facebook* is serious about moving things away from fan pages they should have a native feed method which is almost exactly like the facebook share snippet.

    Like

  16. Jesse great post now when you say “Now, if I put that at the top of the website, a like button appears, and my website is now a Facebook Page” are you putting it into each post or into the Head of your html? I thought about doing this but it would be a pain on every post to add I thought – is there a wordpress plug it to automate it?

    Thanks.

    Like

  17. Chris, I'm doing it for both – one covers the website as a whole and one
    basically turns each post into its own Facebook Page. You can just do it
    for the entire website though if you choose. Stay tuned – I'm going to do
    another post where I'll try to cover some of the cons to doing this. I see
    mostly advantages, but there are some disadvantages.

    Like

  18. Hello.
    I guess you use the “entire website like button” to send news to people who like the website, and “specific post like button” just to viralize your articles right ?
    Don't you have some people confused about that, or not doing it twice?

    Like

  19. Actually, I'm wondering: is it possible to use only “specific-post like button” but gather every user in a single application and send them a single message?
    That means:
    – having one button per article, to make it viral
    – having one single place to manage everyfan, to send them alerts
    Do you know if it is possible ?
    Facebook tell us to link the meta to the applicationID but I don't know what for… Maybe it may help to do it?

    Like

  20. OK I guess I don't see why a snippet wouldn't work just as well (I *think* only a snippet of your full post actually gets posted to the users feed) in addition to allowing you to track analytics via your blog (vs facebook).

    How do I post content to *your wall*?
    Where do I go to see all the FB conversations (including comments)? (similar to an existing fan page wall)

    Although I agree fan pages are no longer “necessary”.. I think they still add value and can be used in conjunction with like buttons and social gadgets on your own web pages. There are a couple of gaps that need to be filled..

    You said “..and best of all, any links to the “Page” go back to my actual website, and not Facebook.com” which is fine for the posts *you send* to my news feed but the “autopost” via an RSS feed (to facebook note) doesn't go back to your actual website. Some automatic facebook provided RSS feed support for external pages would be nice.

    I'm looking forward to your cons post.

    Like

  21. OK I guess I don't see why a snippet wouldn't work just as well (I *think* only a snippet of your full post actually gets posted to the users feed) in addition to allowing you to track analytics via your blog (vs facebook).

    How do I post content to *your wall*?
    Where do I go to see all the FB conversations (including comments)? (similar to an existing fan page wall)

    Although I agree fan pages are no longer “necessary”.. I think they still add value and can be used in conjunction with like buttons and social gadgets on your own web pages. There are a couple of gaps that need to be filled..

    You said “..and best of all, any links to the “Page” go back to my actual website, and not Facebook.com” which is fine for the posts *you send* to my news feed but the “autopost” via an RSS feed (to facebook note) doesn't go back to your actual website. Some automatic facebook provided RSS feed support for external pages would be nice.

    I'm looking forward to your cons post on this topic.

    Like

  22. Thanks for this nice post, Jesse. I had starred it in my reader and found it useful. I have recently installed Otto's SFC plugin to FB-enable my WordPress blog. I find it simpler than to use FB's iFrame plugins. Will keep reading your posts on this to gain further insights. Thanks again.

    Like

  23. […] In fact, Pages may become footnotes in the scheme of things. Jesse Stay seems to think so in his Facebook-hosted “Pages” no longer necessary post. The Facebook Page hosted on Facebook.com is not the future.  Your website is the future, and […]

    Like

  24. Wow… there is so much here to take in and not just your article Jesse, but the comments. I'm going to have to print and really read in depth. I'm a firm believer in having your own online real estate – webiste/blog and using social networks as an add-on (I have personally seen a few clients / colleagues have their facebook page closed for no reason – a few came back but some lost it forever…) and specifically because you have not control over the networks nor do you 'own' the traffic.
    Thanks so much for the great info/opinions everyone!

    Like

  25. I still say that it is just another traffic source, not a “Pagekiller”. I have looked around your page and can see less than 100 sharing your stuff, while over 1000 is following you on your Facebook Page. If you remove the Page you are after my mind killing the 2-way social communication, that is so vital in this social media age.
    IMDB, bigger blogs (You) and newsites is a perfect place to implement the Like button, since they don't have any interaction with their users, I agree that if they haven't implented these Facebook featues, they are sleeping and I agree that they can kill their Facebook page today (because it is actually just a reader for their RSS feeds).
    But for businesses that needs to communicate with their users, as ex. my company Pagemodo.com, we get a lot of feedback from our users on our Facebook wall and since we really take care of our users, it is very important for us to keep the contact to us, as simple as possible. We provide Mail and a payed easy to use forum, but for a lot of users it is a lot easier to write a note on our wall, these users would never create a supportticket and just leave our shop with a bad experience and telling it to all their friends, I mean our wall and user count is the most honest testimonials you can get.
    If you have any suggestions on how we and business like us, could kill our page, I would love to hear it, but untill then, use the social tools as an extra traffic source and to create trust on your website, because they are really great!.

    Like

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