How the hell to make a Facebook page

August 26, 2009 / I wasted a few nights of my life so that you don’t have to.

If you haven’t tried to make one this post might seem a little odd. If you have then you probably know what I’m talking about.

The problem

Say you want to make a Facebook page, and you’re a Facebook regular. You look at your own profile page—you know how it works, after all, from back-to-front—and you think, “I’ll just follow the links and prompts and I’ll make myself a Facebook page.” Odds are it won’t be that easy. I don’t know why this is and I don’t care. You probably don’t either. So that’s why I’m going to tell you some things that took me way too long to find out—the kind of time that is now lost forever, never to be regained, and surely to be intensely regretted if Facebook is superceded by some other proprietary system entirely within the next 18 months.

The basics

These are the basic steps:

  1. I started by reading over a few of the links at “How to create and manage Facebook Pages.”
  2. Visit “Create a Page,” and fill out the form to create a page.
  3. Once you’ve created the Page (don’t publish it yet), an “Ads and Pages” button appears at screen bottom, next to Applications.
  4. Click through to Ads and Pages → Pages.
  5. Add anyone else you want to have admin access using Admins → Add in the right column (you can select from your Friends list or add by e-mail address).
  6. Modify your other page settings to suit and then begin adding your content.
  7. Some specific things you might want to configure:
    • If you want to add an RSS feed to your Page’s Wall go to Edit Notes → Edit Import Settings → Import a Blog.
    • To allow your Page’s fans to add their own photos and tag photos that you or others submit go to Edit Photos → Edit Settings → Allow Fans to Add Photos | Allow Tagging.
    • If you want to create sidebar links to Favorite Pages then visit the pages you’d like to link add and select Add to My Pages Favorites.
    • You will then need to go to your Boxes tab and drag Favorite Pages so that it displays in sidebar.
  8. You can get further help at the rather weird Facebook Pages / Public Profiles page.

So now your have your Facebook Page. If you’re happy with this and you feel done then have a great day, and I’ll catch you later. For everyone else, your troubles are just beginning.

The sidebar

So how do you change the sidebar? What if you’d like to add a little list of additional links. What if you’d like to add some free-form text? Chances are that the Page Edit options don’t offer you any clues. If you are like me then you probably had an page of someone else’s that you were using as model of what’s possible. You might—after an inordinate length of time (you’re like me, remember) realise that a Facebook Application must be how the cool kids are doing this.

I tend to think of Facebook Applications as third-party products that look bad and typically don’t fit in very well to their neuva-Windows 3.11-Facebook-blue-grey surroundings. My reference page’s sidebar just had a list of normal-looking links, and a nice little section header. It looked like any other section of the sidebar. I never guessed that it was being produced by an Application (instead of just being part of the Page Edit options), nor did I even dream that it was a Facebook Application that is not part of your page by default, and there’s no way in hell I knew it was called Static FBML. But there it is, folks. This is what you want. Every Facebook Page should have this as part of the Edit Page options—when I set up my page back in May, 2009, Static FBML a.k.a. Add Some Basic Shit to My Sidebar was a nowhere to be found.

Okay, so you want to get Static FBML. How? Alright, it’s not that hard, I’m exaggerating. You go to the Apps page, and type in a search for static fbml. For you, it will pop up right away as the only possible answer. For me, I got the interminable waiting graphic, then those annoying little red boxes reporting some error that goes way over the popup’s border—for ages and ages, even when I gave it a rest and came back later to try again… over several days. Anyhoo

Choose that.

You can add it to your page by selecting Add to my Page → Add to Page (next to the Page you want to add it to in the box that pops up). The application should now appear when you click on “Edit Page.” You can configure it as you would any other default region of the page. Your Static FBML app appears as one instance by default, below your default apps in the Edit admin area. One instance is equivalent to one sidebar box. The option to add another instance is inside the edit area of the first one. Go to Edit FBML → Add another FBML box.

Navigating the edit options

One of the most confusing things about Facebook Pages to me is that not all of the options to edit something are available in the Edit area (i.e. when you click on “Edit Page” under your Page’s profile pic). I’ve found that sometimes the best way to get to what you’re looking for is to scroll to the bottom of the page you’re on and click the “Help” link in the footer, and then perform a search there for the app or edit option that you need.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are often several ways to accomplish something, often because there are multiple apps that function in a certain way or accomplish a given task. But within the interface there are also multiple pathways to the same Edit options even if the place where you edit something doesn’t always look the same. I find this confusing, but others may simply find it convenient.

Regarding ‘boxes’

Everything on Facebook looks like a box, so it might take you a while to figure out what the Facebook UI is referring to when something is labeled Boxes with a capital “B.” It’s the Boxes tab, which (at least on mine) appears after Wall, Info and Photos at the top of the main content area of the page. One thing you will want to know is how to move something (such as a Static FBML box) to your sidebar, or make it into an additional, custom tab. When you create a Static FBML box, for instance, it adds it as a box to the Boxes tab. To move it to your sidebar, go to Boxes and click on the pencil icon in the top right of that box’s title bar and select “Move to Wall tab.” To me, this does not make any sense. I think it should say “Move to sidebar.” But there you go. That’s how you get it there.

I think that whenever you create content for your page with a third-party/add-on app it generates it as a Box for you and puts it under the Boxes tab. You can then move it between tabs or to the Wall/sidebar. At least, that’s what I’ve observed so far.

More to come?

I’ll edit this page for accuracy and/or to add new tips as I discover them. If you’ve read this far and can add/correct or otherwise share what you know then by all means leave a comment and I’ll update the page. Hope this helps you other poor sods out there who have to waste brainspace on this. Hey, there are worse things, let’s be honest. I mean, at least it’s not MySpace… [shudder]

2 responses

  1. Lydia

    Not afraid to be servicey – I love it! And the flippant tone makes it go down that much easier…

    August 27th, 2009 at 9:03 pm #

  2. Adrian Cooke

    Lydia: I am here to help.

    August 27th, 2009 at 10:20 pm #

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