In June 2012 Facebook announced its tighter integration with WordPress (self-hosted) Content Management system by releasing its free plugin “Facebook” available through the WordPress plugins directory.
The plugin allows users of both platforms to automatically post their WordPress posts to their personal profiles and pages they manage, as well as to “tag” (add the names of) pages or friends in the posts.
What Facebook Plugin actually does
The Facebook for WordPress plugin also creates these Widgets can you can add to your sidebars:
- Activity Feed – displays friends’ activity, including likes and comments;
- Recommendations – offers readers personalised suggestions for pages.
- Like, subscribe, and send boxes – customisable with fonts, sizes, options to show Faces.
- Via Plugin settings you can configure the following options:
- Customisable Like, Subscribe, Send – can be added to the top, bottom of the post or both.
- Comments box – allows readers to leave comments that will be published on their Timeline, also includes moderation tools for blog administrators.
- Recommendations Bar – adds a pop up in a corner at the bottom, showing personalised recommendations for other posts that might interest your readers. Reader can “like” posts and add them to their Timeline.
- Social Publisher – the key functionality that helps you publish your new posts as updates to your profile or to your Pages. You can also include mentions of other people or pages and you can configure where these mentions will be displayed.
On paper (or rather on screen) it all sounds pretty exciting. So we couldn’t wait to get it all tested on our sites and see how it really works!
The installation process is quite straight-forward. Just download the plugin from WordPress directory or install directly via WordPress. You do need to make sure you are running WordPress v.3+ though.
You will then need to go into plugin settings to set it up. It’s got helpful screenshots to show you how to get it done. You will need to create your own Facebook App (probably a first one for many Facebook users!) in order to get App keys that the plugin will use. And in order to create an App you will need to verify your Facebook account by either adding a mobile number or your credit card (if you’ve not done so already).
You will also need to authorise the plugin with your Facebook account login in order to enable post publishing to your profile/pages.
I’m not going to re-write the steps here as I think the plugin itself and Facebook Developers Help contain enough information to create a basic App for the plugin to work.
“Main Settings” information will be obtained from completing your Setup stages and instructions provided by the plugin.
Next you would want to configure your Post and Page settings.
Personally I would prefer to be able to choose by Post, by Page or both. However in this first option you will either use social sharing options on both or none. I’ve shown you some of the options below of what the plugin does and how these can be customised to suit your website.
Benefits of using the plugin
- It easily adds social sharing buttons (like, send, share, subscribe) to your posts and pages. You can also add these options to the sidebar. HOWEVER: you could set up these options previously using various other sharing plugins like AddThis, ShareThis or DiggDigg. These plugins also give you more flexibility on where to place social sharing buttons and customisation of styles.
- You can offer customised recommendations to visitors of your blog based on activity of other visitors.This is a very useful option for a blog as it could keep your visitors there longer, getting them to read one post after another. Recommendations bar at the bottom also makes sharing posts easier via Facebook so potentially you could get a greater visibility of your content via readers and visitors. You could get round not using the Plugin and offer similar functionality using Most Popular posts, Most Commented posts, other social sharing plugin and so on but I would say it’s not quite the same and as interactive.
- You can integrate Facebook Comments into your posts, these posts will then be visible on readers’ profile, therefore promoting your content to their friends. HOWEVER: if you previously used WordPress default comments option (and you had comments on your blog), enabling this option will override WordPress comments template. So your old comments, made without Facebook option, will no longer be visible!If you used another plugin to manage your discussions (like DISQUS), then you will now have 2 comments options: via DISQUS and via Facebook Plugin. Personally I think it’s confusing for your readers. Besides, DISQUS already offers Facebook login/integration as well as many other options for those who don’t want to use their Facebook account when commenting.
- You can automatically publish posts and pages to your profiles and pages you manage. You can also mention other people and pages in your posts, which will increase your visibility on Facebook – as these updates will get published to profiles and pages that you mention. HOWEVER: I’ve tested this functionality with 2 different Facebook profiles on 2 different websites. Obviously I followed the instructions several times, but it just wouldn’t publish posts on my profile! Page publishing worked well (twice in my case as I use Networked Blogs to syndicate my blogs). But the only way I could get my profile linked was by mentioning myself in the post. So at the moment it looks like this feature isn’t quite right.
- If you have Networked Blogs or a similar app already publishing your posts to your profile and Page, you would need to decide which option you prefer to use: Facebook Plugin or a Facebook 3rd party App. The benefit of the Plugin would be that you can mention other people and pages, not just yourself and your page. And you can add a custom message when publishing a post for both mentioning of pages and mentioning of people. A bit like doing an update message with a link attached, but through WordPress and this can be scheduled!
The negative aspects of using Facebook Plugin for WordPress
- It slows down your website – Like any other extra plugin that has to query another website before yours is fully loaded this plugin will affect your loading speed. In our test the same blog post fell down from 85 to 81 by just activating Facebook Plugin.
- It overrides WordPress comments – If you previously used WordPress comments, rather than 3rd party plugin, your old comments list and form will disappear if you activate Facebook Comments option (not if you just use other parts of the Plugin). We tested it with Genesis and Themeforest themes, it might be that other premium themes will behave differently.
- The options are somewhat conflicting with each other – If you activate Like, then tick Send, you don’t need to activate Send as the feature will be replicated.
- Open Graph activation didn’t work in the test – It didn’t allow publishing of posts on my personal profile. If you managed to get this fixed, or know why it happened – please share your comments! However Page’s publishing worked. Also I’m left in the dark now as to what will happen to my Apps have I been able to “submit” my publishing action as instructed! I’ll keep trying and will update this post if I have any more information…
I will use the Facebook Plugin for WordPress on TJConsulting blog. I won’t be publishing posts to my Page or Profile with it yet until I figure out the App integration part. Networked Blogs publishes all my posts reliably on my profile and pages and also creates a Tab with a feed of recent posts. On the occasion I need to share a post with another Facebook user – I’ll do it manually using the usual Facebook’s share button under each update. I’ll stay with my current comments’ arrangements that also allow integration with MailChimp for my newsletter subscription.
However you can see new boxes added to Blog sidebar: personalised recommendations, Share this on Facebook. Also below posts and pages you’ll find Like, Send and Subscribe options.
Now it’s over to you. Have you tried the new Facebook plugin? Do you like it? How will you use it? Have you managed to integrate it with your App? Look forward to your thoughts!