Facebook may increasingly be on the receiving end of criticism related
to its stance on privacy, but the world’s largest social network is
still one of the top places to reach consumers online.

With more than 400m registered users globally, Facebook is the world’s largest
social network, and publishers looking to stay connected with their
users and acquire new users have plenty of Facebook tools at their
disposal to do just that. Here are seven of them.

Facebook Connect

Facebook Connect is a group of APIs that permit publishers to access Facebook data and interacting with key Facebook features. It is commonly used to allow users to log into a site using a Facebook account.

Best used for: reducing registration/login friction, allowing users to associate their Facebook profiles with their profiles on your service, allowing interactions on your site to generate Facebook updates.

Example: Disqus commenting system.

Facebook Platform

Facebook’s core platform enables publishers to build applications that live on Facebook. While the most popular Facebook applications are social games like Farmville and Mafia Wars, publishers can also build applications that facilitate user interactions directly from within Facebook.

Best used for: building branded experiences through applications.

Example: TripAdvisor’s Cities I’ve Visited application.

Facebook Pages

Facebook Pages are, put simply, Facebook profiles designed specifically for businesses, products and well-known individuals. Facebook Pages look like normal profile pages, but also offer additional features, including analytics.

Best used for: providing a central ‘hub‘ for your ‘fans‘ on Facebook, pushing updates and content on Facebook.

Example: New York Times Facebook Page.

Facebook Share

Adding Facebook Share buttons to a website allows users who are also registered on Facebook to share content they like with Facebook.

Best used for: enabling user-based content sharing/promotion.

Example:
CNET News.com.

Social Plugins/Widgets

Facebook offers a collection of plugins, or widgets, that make it easy for publishers to embed certain Facebook content on their own websites. For instance, the Facebook Like Box widget displays information about the publisher’s Facebook Page (fan count, recent fans, etc.) and offers a link so that Facebook users viewing the widget can become ‘like’ it with just a few clicks.

Best for: promoting and highlighting your Facebook Page and content on your own website.

Example:
ABCNews.com.

Open Graph

Photo credit: Yelp

Facebook’s Open Graph API is the social network’s latest attempt at making the web more social, and making sure that Facebook functionality and data is the foundation. It gives publishers the ability to integrate Facebook’s data and features into their websites to create Facebook-driven experiences at a level never before possible, even if it has sparked serious security and privacy concerns.

Best used for: facilitating deep cross-site user interactions that take advantage of Facebook data.

Example: Yelp.

Facebook Ads

Facebook’s self-serve advertising platform offers publishers a way to publicize a website or Facebook presence through paid advertising.

Best used for: paid, targeted promotion.

Example: Zynga/Farmville.

Picking the Right Tools

As with every platform, publishers should think strategically when thinking about if and where Facebook fits into a broader strategy. Facebook may harbor a massive audience of consumers, but because just about everyone is competing to reach them, standing out is often very difficult.