Last Wednesday, Facebook announced that it will close the final curtain on FBML Static Page apps as of December 5. Here’s the official statement:
“We removed FBML in July of this year so any FBML code that was being used in the Static FBML Page app would have stopped working at that time. However, the Static FBML Page app is still able to render plain HTML. On December 5th, we will remove the Static FBML Page app and any Static FBML tabs you had installed on your Page will disappear. To replace any Static FBML tabs you may be using, we recommend you either host your own content and create your own Page tab or search the web for ‘Static HTML Facebook Page Tab’ to find a replacement.”
You may or may not recall that FBML (Facebook Markup Language) was the original scripting language used to create special landing pages – referred to by the now archaic term “tabs” – such as the “Welcome” page on your business Facebook Page.
Facebook put FBML on life support in 2011 when it switched to the use of iframe technology to build tab pages. (HTML used in static FBML apps still worked, however.) Now, Facebook is pulling the plug entirely, which means any FBML apps you have running will be gone for good.
With the advent of Timeline for Pages, tabs went the way of the albatross, and were replaced by the term “apps.” Neither can you select a special page for non-fans to land on when they visit your Page. Now, everyone goes to the timeline.
Tabs are gone, landing page options are gone, and FBML will soon meet its final demise. These factors lend themselves to the larger question of whether apps are important any longer? Or, should we focus strictly on providing quality content in the timeline.
I see it as a both/and scenario.
Apps Perform a Necessary Function
Even though their importance may be diminished, apps still provide a necessary service. According to Facebook, cover images – the large billboard-like images at the top of the Facebook Page (You do have one of those don’t you?) – cannot be used for promotional purposes, but for branding only. Apps provide a healthy balance in that they can be used for promotional purposes.
Take, for example, Intel’s Facebook Page. The company has 12 apps running that promote everything from its Ultrabook to Angry Birds to special deals to jobs. However, as you can see – and this applies to every Facebook Page – only four are showing (they appear just beneath the cover image). You have to click the small “arrow” icon located to the right to see the others.
Here are some suggestions as to how you can use apps:
- Welcome page - While the “About” page serves this function to some degree, a well-designed page can sell the brand’s unique value proposition in a more aesthetically pleasing manner that retains the brand’s character, color and logo.
- Special promotions – Consider Intel’s Ultrabook app. At the time of this writing it is being used to promote the “Ultrabook Race,” which is an Intel version of the CBS television show Amazing Race. Brands can use apps to promote contests, pop-up stores, events and other unique marketing campaigns.
- Photos – The photo app is standard on everyone’s Facebook page, so you might as well make use of it by creating albums.
- Jobs – Are you hiring? Why not promote jobs on your page similar to what Intel did.
If you’re wondering how to pull this off, there are a number of Facebook app providers that make it easy. A shortlist includes companies like Tabsite, Shortstack Labs, Wildfire, NorthSocial, Tabjuice, Lujure and Payvment. If cost is a concern (and when is it not), most of these companies offer apps at very affordable prices.
And what about FBML? If you still have some static pages that use it, you will need to transition to the use of apps, which is another reason I recommend the companies listed above. They have done the grunt work necessary to keep up with Facebook’s ever changing demands. Alternatively, you can create an app yourself, but good luck with that.
Focus on the Timeline
All that being said, due especially to the fact that you can no longer drive visitors to a specific landing page, the timeline takes on greater importance and is where you should expend the bulk of your energies. By introducing Promoted Posts and Offers, Facebook has focused its attention on finding ways to maximize timeline’s value from an advertising standpoint.
This article – 10 Strategies for Effective Facebook Posts – which comes from Practical Ecommerce is a guide on how to make the best use of timeline.
One thing is certain where Facebook is concerned: one never knows what changes may come. If I were you, I’d keep a watchful eye on Facebook’s developer blog. The company has promised developers that a 90-day advance notice would be given prior to any changes being made, so it’s one way to stay informed.
So, let us bid a fond farewell to FBML. We loved you once, and well.