Facebook fan pages are an excellent way to gain online visibility. Not only you are you able to utilize the brilliant social-media environment that quickly spreads word-of-mouth referrals, but you are also able to do so for a fraction of the cost of pay-per-click advertising.
Unfortunately, developing your Facebook fan page using only the tools Facebook provides leaves your page with a somewhat plain interface. Prior to February 2011, individuals and businesses who wanted something fancier spent a fortune to employ independent, custom Facebook page designers who used FBML (Facebook Mark-up Language) to create designer fan pages.
Do-it-yourself fan page creation services provide a variety of Facebook templates with clear, step-by-step instructions customizing them. These services also provide easy website navigation and intuitive publishing directly into Facebook applications. Some companies give more emphasis to providing a variety of Facebook layouts, whereas others focus on making your fan page interactive with tools such as a map, video, contact form or RSS feed from your blog.
In our review, we tested each service by creating tabs within fictitious fan pages using the tools that each company provides. The following is a list of criteria we used in our evaluation process.
In addition to providing tools for do-it-yourself custom fan pages, these services provide a form of web hosting. They allocate a certain amount of space to store your designs on a server and make sure your tabs stay live on the internet for a small monthly subscription. They provide a number of packages to meet the needs of individuals, small businesses, corporations and third-party designers. Most services let you create several, if not an unlimited number, of tabs within your Facebook page.
Most services provide a number of tools, or apps as some services call them that help you make the most of your Facebook fan page. All the services we reviewed offer a method for creating what's called fan-gated or reveal page content that directs potential followers to click the Like button at the top of your page. Some reveal-page content offers coupon codes or other incentives. Additional tools include the ability to add your Twitter feed, a photo collage or background music to your Facebook page.
Ease of Use
The web interfaces of these services should be easy to navigate, and they should provide clear instructions for using the tools. The best services also offer a smooth publishing process.
Although all the services we reviewed provide WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) design, some also cater to people who know some programming code. Most services expect you to know how to use Photoshop or another similar graphics application that will let you create JPEG files, but some provide templates with images that you can use for a variety of purposes.
Help & Support
The best services we reviewed provide helpful user guides or tutorials and frequent blog posts that teach you how to use their services and give you ideas for developing beneficial Facebook pages for your special-interest group or small business. These companies also let you submit inquiries by online forms, phone, email or Facebook messages.
The inexpensive, do-it-yourself creation tools available today only scratch the surface of the potential that Facebook fan pages present for the marketing efforts of individuals and small businesses. In addition, most of the services we reviewed offer either a trial account, or you can sign up for a full ground-level account for free.
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