Facebook Connect and Your Business

Posted by admin 18/01/2009 at 12h11

If you are about to socialize your app and you’re wondering which API to use and which network to connect, you’re not alone. Facebook’s API alone has grown into a behemoth and now MySpace is on the verge of making their API public. Throw Twitter’s API, Ning and any one of 20 plus other sites and the combinations make any developer want to curl up into a fetal position and start weeping. What to do??

Well, start slim. When OnlyMusicVideos.tv approached us to help them connect their site into Facebook, the only option was a full on application that appeared on the Facebook Canvas. Now there are much easier and cleaner options. Introducing Facebook Connect, a much cleaner way to integrate the power of Facebook without the user ever leaving your site.

What Can It Do?

Several things. The most important of which, is allowing your app to authenticate a user via their Facebook credentials. This allows users the ability to log into your application via Facebook and pull their information from their FB profile into your application (according to FB rules, obviously). So what exactly does this mean? Simple. Every Facebook user now has an account with your app. If a user can login to FB, then they can login to your application and take advantage of your features. Plus, you can now update the user’s profiles (via news feeds, stories, status updates, etc) with information from your application/business.

How Do You Do It?

There are several ways. The simplest is through FB’s own Javascript Library. You can read through the full documentation and tutorials at the Facebook Connect Developer Wiki, but the basic instructions are:

  1. Add some JS and a single HTML file (xd_connect.html) to your website. This JS will connect to FB and allow you to parse out FB’s custom HTML tags (called FBML) and pull down and session information that is pertinent to the current user (like whether they are logged in or not)
  2. If they are logged in redirect them to the normal logged-in version of your site and add a new Account/User to your app with the Facebook Id that is passed to you. This will allow you to connect a FB user into your system. You may need to alter your DB slightly to hold the facebook id. Then your done.
  3. If they are not logged in you should display the FB login button that will trigger a popup and allows the user to login through FB. Once they login, FB will redirect them back to your site will updated session details. At this point you can just follow through step 2.

That’s it, your connected to the web 2.0 world.

Now What?

Well, that’s up to you. Just because you connected to a social network doesnt mean all of the Internet are going to come running to your site. It does make it much easier, but you still need to get out there and promote. Utilize the services that you are connected to. Create groups and invite all your employees and fans of your products to help generate traffic and awareness. Even your offline marketing needs to show that you are connected through the particular networks that you are integrated with. Send an email blast to your current customers that they can now connect with their FB profile (you might want to make an easy way for them to connect their current account with their FB account). The power of a social network isnt that there are a lot of people on there, it’s the speed at which information can zip through the network and generate instantaneous traffic and feedback.