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How to Customize your Facebook page

Jon Reed is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Publishing Talk, and author of Get Up to Speed with Online Marketing. Follow him at @jonreed.

Do you need to hire a developer to create a cutomized Facebook page? Not if you do it yourself with FBML.

A Facebook page is a great way to promote your book: you can use it to connect with your readers, encourage discussions around the topic of your book, automatically pull in your latest blog postings, and send updates to your fans.
By default, a Facebook page has tabs for Wall, Info, Photos, Discussions and Boxes, with the Wall tab being the first thing you see. But have you noticed, on some Facebook pages, that there are one or more extra bespoke tabs that don’t come as standard with Facebook? They may contain highly customized content, branded to the business, book, person or product. A bit like a web page, designed free from the constraints of Facebook.
What’s more, you can make your custom tab the first thing people see when they visit your page, before they click the Like button. Use this to draw people in with compelling content, or give them a clear call to action.
For example, on the Facebook page for my book, the first thing you see, before clicking Like, is a customized About the Book tab. This simply has a blurb and table of contents on it, plus a couple of calls to action: buttons branded to match the site inviting you to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk or visit the blog.

I think two calls to action is the most you can get away with here – you don’t want to overwhelm or confuse people. Calls to action for your own page might be different, and include such things as:

  • Pre-order from Amazon
  • Buy the book
  • Download the ebook
  • Download a sample chapter
  • Visit the blog
  • Vist the website
  • Sign up to the newsletter

There’s no reason you can’t change these periodically too. But use this page to tell people what you want them to do. After all, engaging people with endless status updates is all very well – but you do also want people to do something, don’t you? Ideally, to buy your book?
A bespoke page can also be used to draw people in with key content, encourage them to hit the Like button, and can be as simple or as complex as you like. Mine – so far – is just text and a couple of buttons. But you could also embed video, run a competition, sell your books, include an email list signup form, ask people to fill in a survey or simply ask them directly to click the Like button. Take a look at these customized Facebook pages to get an idea of the possibilities:

Create your own customized Facebook page in 5 easy steps

So do you need a developer to do this? Not necessarily, if you know some basic HTML – or have a friend who does. There are various Facebook apps that, esentially, allow you to create your own ‘app’ or custom tab with a bit of HTML. My favourite is Static FBML. This stands for Facebook Markup Language – but ordinary HTML works just fine. Or even plain text if you just want text on your tab. I like it because you can install it on multiple pages and create multiple tabs, all called something different.
1. Install Static FBML on your page, and create a new ‘box’. You can no longer, in fact, use these apps as boxes on your page – but you can use them to create tabs, which is what we will be doing.

2. Once you’ve created your custom box, it will show up in the list of your page’s apps when you visit the admin interface (click Edit Page under your page’s profile image to see this).

3. Click on the Application settings for your new app and click add to add it as a tab to your page.

4. Click on Edit on your new app to amend or update your HTML content at any time.
5. Finally, make your new tab the first thing people see, before they hit the Like button. Higher up your admin page there is a box called Wall Settings. Click on Edit to expand this, and you will see that you can select the default landing tab from a drop-down menu.

And that’s all there is to it! You now have a customized Facebook tab. The hardest part, if you’re not at all techy, is the HTML code itself. You may be able to get your publisher or a friend to help with this. Or you may simply cut and paste some code from elsewhere, such as the embed code from your YouTube video, or the email newsletter signup form code supplied by your email service provider, if you use email marketing. Failing that, there are plenty of resources online to help you learn a bit of basic HTML. Try www.w3schools.com as a starting point.
Good luck – and let me know how you get on, or any examples of great customized Facebook pages for books, authors or publishers you’ve come across that you’d like to share.
Find out more about marketing books with social media on Jon Reed’s workshop “Introduction to Social Media Marketing for Publishers“, 5th November, London.

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Jon Reed

Jon Reed is a content writer, author, screenwriter, lecturer, blogger - and the founder of Publishing Talk. He was previously a publisher for 10 years. Publishing Talk aims to help new and emerging authors write, publish and sell books. Advice is available via the blog and our masterclasses and membership programme. More...