Is It Worth Integrating Facebook With WordPress?

In June 2012 Facebook announced its tighter integration with the 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 the Facebook Plugin Actually Does
The Facebook for WordPress plugin also creates these Widgets that you can add to your sidebars:
* Activity Feed – displays friends’ activity, including likes and comments.
* Recommendations – offers readers personalized suggestions for pages.
* Like, subscribe, and send boxes – customizable with fonts, sizes, options to show Faces.
* Via Plugin settings you can configure the following options:
– Customizable 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 personalized recommendations for other posts that might interest your readers. Readers 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!

Plugin Installation
The installation process is quite straightforward. Just download the plugin from the 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 authorize 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.

Plugin Settings
“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 customized to suit your website.

Benefits of Using the Plugin
1. 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 customization of styles.

2. You can offer customized recommendations to visitors of your blog based on the activity of other visitors. This is a very useful option for a blog because it could keep your visitors there longer, getting them to read one post after another. The 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.

3. You can integrate Facebook Comments into your posts. These posts will then be visible on readers’ profiles, therefore promoting your content to their friends. HOWEVER: if you previously used the WordPress default comments option (and you had comments on your blog), enabling this option will override the WordPress comments template so your old comments, made without the 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 the 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.

4. You can automatically publish posts and pages to your profiles and the pages you manage. You can also mention other people and pages in your posts, which will increase your visibility on Facebook – since 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 and although I followed the instructions several times, it just wouldn’t publish posts to 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.

5. 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
1. 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.

2. It overrides WordPress comments – If you previously used WordPress comments, rather than a 3rd party plugin, your old comments list and form will disappear if you activate the 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.

3. The options can conflict with each other – If you activate Like, then tick Send, you don’t need to activate Send because the feature will be replicated.

4. 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 publishing worked. Also, I’m left in the dark now as to what will happen to my Apps. I’ll keep trying and will update this post if I have any more information…

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