A ‘dummy’ writer’s guide to Facebook App Development

Facebook Development for Dummies
Facebook Development for Dummies

So I’m a writer. A digital writer. Not just because digitalism is the latest fad, but because I enjoy it. I am a self proclaimed geek and my job requires me to know stuff ordinary writers don’t. At all times I make it a point show my digital prowess in front of my peers. Even before coming up with basic concepts and ideas for apps and other engagement platforms on Facebook, I need to be tuned into all the action that’s happening. This includes knowing what’s feasible and what’s not, or what should be done and what not; and most of all, what’s happening and what’s not. All that comes with practice and time.

But if you’re one of those who really think they need to familiarize themselves with commonly used ‘Facebook’ terms like apps, development, plug-ins and the works, this is the right place. Facebook as a tool, or medium, is as easy as it can get – for one, there’s a guide for everything. Yes, I am referring to this jazz called https://developers.facebook.com – Facebook guys could have easily referred to it as a dummies guide to app development and from this, there’s a lot that us lay-men (and women) can take.

Here are a few interesting take-outs:

  1. Social plug-ins: These allow users to like, register, share, post on their newsfeeds – all, directly from your site, with a single click. With minimal lines of code embedded in your existing site format, you can get your own set of customizable social plug-ins (some of them even show the number of people who’ve liked your page). Also, with these, since your users’ Facebook accounts are synced, you can pull out all the insights that you normally would get on your brand page.
  2. App Center: The Facebook app center has simplified lives of social media enthusiasts by opening up mobile, website and Facebook as platforms for hosting third party applications. As far as people like us are concerned, we can start with knowing the basics about picture dimensions, display locations and the data that can be pulled out from apps. For more details, check link https://developers.facebook.com/docs/guides/appcenter
  3. Open Graph: Now this is the most powerful tool that only a few have been able to harness. It lets you access the complete ‘Facebook footprint’ of a given user. Each and every object (read post, picture, comment or even page) in the social graph has unique ID.

Getting into the Open Graph

For e.g. The ID for Dove’s brand page on Facebook can be obtained by typing this in your browser: https://graph.facebook.com/Dove  (www.facebook.com/dove is the brand page).  The ID you get is 21435141328. You can find out these IDs by using https://graph.facebook.com/<VanityURL> .

Trust me, like all newbies who’ve just made their latest discovery, I tried finding my own ID using my vanity URL as well. When I saw the results, I smirked in total coolness.

Now how does this Open Graph API help you?

Go social with your website

Let’s face it. This is the age of Web 2.0. People are abandoning brand websites and are moving to social media platforms to seek UGC and share information. There’s a shift from ‘owned’ media (a website) to ‘earned’ media (fans on a brand page).

What if all social interactions can be handled on your turf? What if your website is the one place for all conversations? With the Open Graph API, one can create a social experience for users coming to brand website. Allow me to elaborate it by giving a few examples – most of the popular news portals like timesofindia.com, firstpost.com etc use this feature. Using public data from Facebook profiles, the Open Graph gives customized news and article recommendations.

Here’s another exhaustive case study on TripAdvisor, a popular travel planning portal and how it has used open graph: https://developers.facebook.com/showcase/tripadvisor/.

There are lots of other case studies on apps and games that you can read and learn about the possibilities.

Stalk your competition

This is like a magic wand if you want to hack into your competition. With this, you can figure out how a brand is leveraging Facebook’s features on its website.

Let’s sneak into firstpost.com. Type https://api.facebook.com/restserver.php?method=links.getStats&urls=firstpost.com in your browser and this is what you get:

Getting into the Open Graph

share_count gives the number of unique facebook users who have shared Firstpost.com on their profile.

like_count gives the number of unique facebook users who have ‘Liked’ Firstpost.com on the website

comment_count tells us the number of Facebook comments the brand has received.

With this, you would also be well equipped to track the week-on-week performance of your competitive brands on social. Using a little bit of technical deep dive, you can build a dashboard that can enable you to keep an eye on your competition, real time. Check out http://socialbrands.media2win.com, for instance.  This is a gold mine for people like us who’ve got a minimal understanding of numbers.

An Open Graph based dash board

Blog with WordPress and go social: With a couple of clicks, you can make your WordPress site social. It needs no coding. Absolutely. Check: https://developers.facebook.com/wordpress/

Before closing this article, I’ll have to admit that this is essentially all that I could understand and is presumably, just the tip of the iceberg. And now that Facebook has opened doors to Mobile App development as well, there’s a world of things out there that’s waiting to be explored. So the next time, whenever you have the time and patience, try looking under the hood of Facebook – you’ll be amazed at the possibilities.

You can also follow @facebookdevrel, @fbplatform and @fb_engineering for periodic updates on Twitter.

Credit for post -Mandar

 

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