How to Replace Your RSS Feed Automatically With Facebook’s Like Button

As I seek to make this blog more and more a part of the social networks you participate in (I call this “From Fishers to Farmers” – something I speak about in my talks), I’ll be documenting my progress along the way. I just showed how I’m doing this with Facebook’s Frictionless Sharing on this blog (just click through to the blog, and click the link over on the right to start adding these posts to your timeline). There’s one more piece though which I think is dwindling. Some call this the “RSS is Dead” argument. I actually talked about the RSS Subscription problem here. What’s happening is the subscribers to RSS feeds such as the one on this site, through analytics sites such as Feedburner, are either slowing or diminishing.

This process is natural as more and more people receive their news on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and away from sites such as Google Reader or traditional RSS Readers. Those tools simply aren’t social, and much less interesting than a typical social network. Therefore I argue content owners need to be looking towards more social ways of distributing their content. I’m doing this specifically on Facebook with an app called RSS Graffiti.

Enter RSS Graffiti and Facebook Open Graph


RSS Graffiti is a Facebook app (it also integrates with Twitter) that will apply any RSS Feed to a Facebook Page you specify (see why I say RSS isn’t dead?). The cool thing about it is on Facebook I can make any website a Facebook Page.

On this blog, if you view the source, do a search for “og:url”. This, and a series of other meta tags (og:site_name, og:description, and og:image, as well as fb:admins are all useful for this) tell Facebook that this URL is also a Facebook Page. To register it with Facebook, just make sure the “fb:admins” tag is in place and lists the id of your Facebook Profile as the value, and go to Facebook.com/Insights to register your URL.

Once you do this, your Blog is now a Facebook Page as far as Facebook is concerned. Now all you have to do is add a Like Button Social Plugin to your website as you see at the top of this site above, and people can “like” your website! Seriously – click through to this blog and go click “like” at the top!

Here’s where it gets cool though – now that I’m listed as an admin of that URL, I can send posts to the fans of that URL. Every person that clicks “like” above I can send my articles to. It’s the same as subscribing, but much more social!

How to Create Your Own Social Distribution Channel Using Facebook and Open Graph

Here’s what you need to do to make this happen:

  1. Add the following HTML within the tags on your website or blog – fill in the “content” sections with the appropriate values for your site or blog:

  2. Go to Facebook.com/Insights and click “Insights for Your Website” (the green button in the upper-right) – enter the domain you specified from the “og:url” meta tag above, and click on the “Get Insights” button. Your site is now registered (and you can go back here to see stats around your domain!).
  3. Now go to apps.facebook.com/rssgraffiti/ and find your website on the left (it will be under the name you specified in “site_name” above). Go there, and add your site’s RSS Feed. Save it, and it will automatically start posting content to your Facebook Page for every post you make! 
  4. Now you just need some subscribers. You’ll do this with a Facebook Like button, just like you see at the top of this blog. Go to developers.facebook.com/plugins – click the “Like Button” link. Now, just fill out the form – be sure to add the URL you specified in the “og:url” tag above! Click the “get code” button, and now copy and paste that code where you want your like button to go!
If you perform the above steps you should have everything you need to allow your site’s visitors to subscribe to your site through a simple Facebook “like”. Now, when they click “like”, not only do they subscribe to your site, but their friends see it too!
If you want to take this further, you can add the above tags to the other pages on your site, with an og:title tag to specify the title of articles. This will allow you to customize how Facebook sees each article on your site as it shares it out to the fans of your website. If you want to get more specific, be sure to see the documentation of the OpenGraph Protocol over here.
What about Google+ or Twitter? As I mentioned, RSS Graffiti supports Twitter, so you should be taken care of there if you wanted to add a “Follow” button at the top of your website. However, there’s nothing for Google+ at the moment. I think Google would really benefit from either allowing apps to publish to at least Google+ Pages so apps like RSS Graffiti could do something similar with the +1 button. Google+ currently allows you to tie +1 buttons (through Page “Badges”) to Google+ Pages, and if they just allowed apps to publish to Pages you could theoretically do the same with Google+. Maybe if they allow that I’ll post how to do that here as well.
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