The Landing Page – A novel by Johanna M. Johansson

This is obviously not going to be the length of a novel, but it will definitely be much longer than what any blog guru would advise a blog post to be.

I shall try and keep it short and punchy whenever the story allows, bear with me!

So. I’m the intern. Hooray!

The task I was given was to customise Hot Tin Roof’s Facebook fan page.
“Easy” you think – because that’s what I thought. As a member of the so called “digital generation” and especially benefiting from seeing the social media landscape take shape I thought this was going to be a piece of cat. Sorry, cake!

I was wrong.

It’s a minefield out there. Be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

I’d say the most common pitfall is to look at what other companies have done and assume the same approach will work for your company. When comparing yourself to others don’t forget your company is completely different.

So, bearing that in mind, hold your breath and dive into the social media pool, take a good look around and see what other companies are doing. Be inspired by the “dos” and steer clear of the “don’ts”!

Remember, talent borrows – genius steals! Steals and adapts that is. A word a lot of marketers might want to throw up on by now, but true nonetheless.

At the end of the day, nobody likes a copycat, but everybody admires the person who manages to take someone else’s concept that worked in an it’s-alright-I-guess-nothing-special-though kind of way and turn it into something absolutely amazing.

But to go back to the start, the very FIRST thing you do before anything else: set your objectives.

Why are you creating this page? What’s its purpose? What are you hoping to achieve? The answers to these questions will then pave the way towards your content and interaction strategies.

A B2B company like Hot Tin Roof will not expect massive customer engagement, but will use the page as a tool to drive traffic to its own website and also, show that they are out there playing the field and keeping up with trends.

So where do you begin? I can with great confidence state that the process will be different for each and every company. First of all, it depends on whether you already have a fan page that needs an upgrade or if you’re starting from scratch with a blank canvas.

In this case, we started off with a seemingly trivial thing – Hot Tin Roof’s profile picture.

Let me tell you this: in the world of social media nothing should be considered trivial. What picture do we want? Do we go with the logo or use illustrations that are well known and associated with our brand? What size does it have to be so the thumbnail image doesn’t get cropped? It’s all in the detail!

After much debate we chose one of the illustrations from Hot Tin Roof’s website, a blue megaphone. By positioning it facing right it looks like the status is “coming out “ of the megaphone and the colour also matches the Facebook blue. Do have a look, it’s lovely.

After having settled on the profile picture I moved on to customising our own tabs, which was when I found out that Facebook has its own coding language, FBML (Facebook Markup Language). If you have a basic understanding of HTML (or any other coding languages for that matter) FBML won’t be a problem. If not: STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER.

Not a programmer? There’s a quick fix to that! Put together the design in Photoshop (or any graphics editing program of your choice) and just simply upload the image. BOOM – you’re done.

No particularly elaborate documentation on how to build your landing page or any other customised tabs seems to exist. There are a couple of websites, such as mashable.com and numerous blogs that provide you with the basic guidelines but none of them have seem to manage to cover all of the basics. However, there are things you will discover as you go along.

Allow me.

Below you’ll find the main things I’ve come across which hopefully will make someone’s life a lot easier.

Jo’s Facebook Fives:

1. Style it up.
If using CSS you have to load it externally but different browsers will treat this differently. What you can do, to make it as simple as possible (simple is good!), is to inline the styles directly into the HTML. If you insist on bringing in a separate stylesheet make sure of the following:

– the file must have the extension “.css”
– only use the style rules, not the style tags
– must be a plain text file

The benefit of using CSS is obviously the flexibility in applying and making changes to your design using a stand-alone stylesheet.

2. Mix and match.
You can mix FBML and HTML as much as you like or simply convert HTML into FBML.

3. Online it is!
You can’t upload your own videos onto the page, they have to be embedded via Youtube, Vimeo or similar video hosting sites. (Not pleased with this, Facebook make it happen!) Same thing with images, they must also be hosted online. I suggest you host your images on Photobucket instead of Flickr. Flickr is not always compatible with Facebook.

4. Dimensions with intentions!
This is one of the most basic tips I can give you but equally crucial.
Obey the given dimensions like you’ll never get to eat pancakes again:
Profile picture: max width of 200px
FBML tabs: max width of 520px
Mind your margins!

5. App-mania!
When it comes to applications, do your research! It might be time consuming but oh so worth it! You will soon discover that the descriptions always make apps sound amazing – but in reality they don’t work.

The most annoying thing is probably that all the files you bring in to the customised tabs have to be hosted on a web server as opposed to on your computer. And a final word of advice: bear in mind that different browsers read code differently!

And then it all changed…

By the time my internship at Hot Tin Roof had come to an end (my very last day, ironically enough) I found out that the FBML applications will no longer be available and customised fan pages will from now on use iFrames.
What a slap in the face! But. That is the nature of the digital landscape. It moves quickly, ruthlessly and usually without warning!

Good news is that the switch from FBML apps to iFrames won’t have any effect on your fan page. The FBML tabs will still work in the same way, you can edit them in the same old fashion, you just can’t add any new ones (as of March 11 they claimed, however I had a go at this and I was adding away! Liars)!
Which ultimately means that this novel was not in vain.

So. Finally. What have I learned except for all of the above?

1. Facebook still needs a lot of work.
2. Facebook will not replace the need for websites. (Yet.)
3. I love Facebook.

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