NetworkedBlogs: A Great Way to Share Your Blog Inside Facebook

networkedblogs2 In a special series on ways to use new tools to share and distribute content on Facebook, Inside Facebook recently wrote about how to import your blog into Facebook.

For all of you that have already taken this step, it has likely been a great step in sharing and marketing your blog, especially among your extended network within the Facebook community.

If the “Import Your Blog” utility on Facebook has been helpful but not quite robust enough, a new Facebook app called NetworkedBlogs might be the solution for you. Describing itself as a “community of bloggers and blog lovers,” NetworkedBlogs offers Facebook users a more fully-featured way to follow and share blogs, all from within Facebook.

Of course, NetworkedBlogs takes advantage of the power of the social graph — when your friends add the NetworkedBlogs application, you not only get to see what they’re writing and reading, but you get to share with them in kind. Some useful features of the app include:

  • The ability to choose from a list of popular blogs or add your own (the basic feature that Facebook’s blog importer also offers).
  • Real-time news feed and news wall features that display the most recent posts from the blogs that you’re following.
  • The ability to view the highest voted posts across all blogs, including the upvoting offered by popular news aggregators like Digg and Reddit.
  • A “profile” separate from your Facebook profile, that allows you to add a personal touch when marketing your blogs to the growing numbers of NetworkedBlogs users.

By offering this valuable utility to bloggers, NetworkedBlogs is gaining traction within Facebook.  It now has almost 500,000 monthly active users.

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Whether you’re interested in more successfully marketing your blog online, getting a stronger hold of all your social media needs, or building profitable and popular Facebook applications, NetworkedBlogs is a tool that will offer you some insights — let us know what you think!

Kaplan’s QBank Tackles Med Student Market on Facebook

kaplan1It’s no doubt that social gaming is wildly addictive. On Facebook alone, games like Scrabulous, MouseHunt, and Texas Hold’Em have become overnight success stories, gaining popularity and large audiences. Now, businesses are starting to see that they, too, can tap into the combined power of the social graph and game design to win not points, but customers.

The latest story is that of Kaplan, the renowned test prep company that recently released QBank, a Facebook app designed to quiz, rank, and reward medical students in their second year embarking on the journey that is USMLE (US Medical Licensing Exam) preparation.

Since its inception this February, QBank has already gained a loyal following of more than 2,500 Facebookers. This is impressive for such a niche audience since the QBank questions are geared only for second year medical students.

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QBank’s approach is fairly straightforward and anyone can add the app and play. Gaining points is another story — getting to the top of the leaderboard will likely take some serious medical knowledge. If you think you’ve got what it takes to pass the Step 1 of the USMLE, then you can try your hand at the sample questions offered through the QBank app. There are three new timed questions per day and points are awarded for speed and accuracy. The site also offers test takers a common meeting ground and a platform for discussion.

Kaplan’s strategy is smart — they understand how busy medical students are and they are willing to reach out and offer services to their customers on a platform that’s already familiar and widely used. If Kaplan’s test prep is as good as its marketing, there’s no need to worry about results — it’s clear that both the company and its clientele will fare well.

How to Import Your Blog Into Facebook

Inside Facebook has recently written about simplifying how you use Facebook with other social media tools in order to make life a little easier. We’ve discussed merging calendaring by syncing Facebook events with Google calendar and simplifying microblogging by syncing Twitter and Facebook status messages.

For all of the bloggers out there, here’s another how-to that will eliminate the need for you to “re-blog” stories on Facebook. If you’re a blogger that isn’t already linking to your stories on Facebook, you might want to think about it. Here are a few simple steps to increase your web presence by leveraging the power of the social graph. Why not?

How to Import Your Blog Into Facebook

1) In the “Applications” menu (in the bottom bar), choose “Notes.”

2) Under “Notes Settings,” click on “Import a blog”

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3) Type in the URL of your blog and make sure to check the mini-EULA

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4) At the bottom of the preview, click on “Confirm Import”

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And that’s it — your blog is now available to all your Facebook friends and family! Whenever you post new articles on your blog, they will automatically appear on your Wall and in your friends’ News Feeds, driving traffic to your site.

Next step: Integrate Facebook Connect on your blog.

Update: Facebook has since changed Notes such that this method may no longer work for importing your blog.

3 Things All Plumbers and Local Service Providers Should Do to Market More Effectively on Facebook

In this week’s “Facebook Marketing 101″ series, Inside Facebook will be discussing first steps businesses can take to start marketing on Facebook.

joe-the-plumber3Inside Facebook recently wrote about ways for all businesses to boost their internet marketing efforts by increasing their presence on Facebook. We’ve showed you how small businesses, from lawyers to restaurateurs, can use Facebook and the “social graph” to market themselves better. Now, we’ll show you how even everyday plumbers (who haven’t quite achieved the notoriety of “Joe the Plumber”) can start getting online referrals via Facebook to boost business in a bad economy.

Facebook Marketing 101 for Plumbers (and any Local Service Provider)

1) Create a Facebook Page. One of the best ways to increase SEO is with a dedicated page on Facebook. Don’t forget to mention your physical address, your phone number, and maybe a price list for the services you offer.

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2) Publish useful information and rich media on your Page to draw visitors. A “How to fix a runny toilet” video would definitely be interesting to several people with leaky pipes…and when the DIY-ers try and fail, guess who they’re going to call? That’s right… you.

3) When you’ve got your Facebook page set up and put some useful and interesting information on it, let people know! Tell your friends and family and ask them to spread the word. Don’t forget to use Facebook’s Social Ads platform to deliver targeted ads to those in the your geographic area so you can reach out to people outside of your immediate circle of friends.

These quick tips should give you a good start to marketing yourself on Facebook whether you’re a plumber or electrician or any other local operation in need of some social media advertising help. If you’re a small business that’s already using Facebook to get the word out, let others know what strategies work for you!

Facebook Increasing Efforts to Ally with Mobile Phone Makers

20 million people are already accessing Facebook through mobile platforms, but Facebook is stepping up its efforts to land deeper integrations with mobile handset makers around the world.

Most recently, Facebook has been stepping up discussions to integrate its software into a broad array of mobile devices made by Nokia, according to The Wall Street Journal. The WSJ says Nokia has been considering building its own mobile social networking platform in house, but the Facebook deal could supercede those plans. Facebook is also in talks with Palm and Motorola to integrate with their mobile operating systems.

Facebook says the company is “dedicated to working with and developing partnerships with mobile operators and device makers all over the world.”

The mobile social networking space is still in its formative stages in the US, relative to most other markets. MySpace recently partnered with T-Mobile to develop a mobile product for the SideKick, and several others already established in the space include location-based services like Loopt, BrightKite, and Whrrl. And very recently, Google’s new location-based mobile product Latitude has quickly attracted over 1 million people since its launch.

Today, Facebook operates multiple mobile services worldwide:

Facebook has yet to break out active users of its mobile services by country. However, it has been growing by leaps and bounds internationally, specifically in Europe and South America, throughout the last year. Striking deals with major handset makers around the world will certainly increase its mobile growth worldwide.

3 Things All Restaurants and Bars Should Do to Market More Effectively on Facebook

In this week’s “Facebook Marketing 101″ series, Inside Facebook will be discussing first steps businesses can take to start marketing on Facebook.

In a recent post, Inside Facebook discussed several ways for businesses large and small to leverage Facebook and the social graph to market more effectively. While the concept of “Facebook marketing” for small businesses isn’t yet as mainstream as advertising in the yellow pages, it’s not hard to imagine why thousands of restaurants, bars, and clubs are already leveraging Facebook to win new patrons.

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Facebook Marketing 101 for Bars and Restaurants

For restaurateurs who haven’t yet realized how powerful Facebook marketing can be – or for those that are having trouble learning how to use Facebook as a vehicle for claiming new customers – here are Inside Facebook’s three simple and easy tips for engaging with Facebook users to win new customers.

1. Create a Facebook Page! Wasn’t creating your web page a great idea? Well, your Facebook page will get even better SEO results. In a few simple steps, you can advertise your restaurant, location, and hours to a community of over 150 million people – 45 million in the US alone. It’s definitely worth your time and it will take you less than an hour to display some basic information about your business.

2. Make your Page engaging with applications. Show your restaurant’s great ratings by displaying the Zagat application or add a reservations widget through OpenTable on your main page; display a video of the chefs making the house’s special; allow users to click through an interactive menu. The possibilities are endless.

3. Create and promote events online and offline. Let people know about a special Mother’s Day brunch or a regular Friday Happy Hour by sending invitations and ask people to RSVP on Facebook. This can be a great way to increase viral marketing as information about Facebook Events travels through news feeds from your network of friends and family outwards in the greater social graph.

These are just a few basic ways to launch your restaurant’s presence on Facebook and to increase your general visibility. As an example of how one restaurant employs the above methods (and more) in creative ways, check out the spicy flavors of Junnoon.

3 Things All Lawyers & Attorneys Should Do to Market More Effectively on Facebook

In this week’s “Facebook Marketing 101″ series, Inside Facebook will be discussing first steps businesses can take to start marketing on Facebook.

gavelIn a recent post, Inside Facebook discussed 10 ways for businesses large and small to take advantage of Facebook to market their products and services. One professional group that could undoubtedly better leverage the power of Facebook’s social graph is the lawyers and attorneys that are already trying to stake their claim online in blogs and other social media.

Below, Inside Facebook details three easy steps for attorneys to get a great return on time and effort spent on social media marketing through Facebook.

Facebook Marketing 101 for Lawyers & Attorneys

1. Invest in Social Ads. For smaller firms, Social Ads offer a minimally expensive way to deliver targeted ads with practical pay-for-performance pricing. Legal teams can zero in on the region and demographic that they want to reach and deliver ads that are tailored to suit. For example, intellectual property and patent attorneys based in New York may want to expand to the West Coast to generate business in innovative cities. Or maybe a firm that specializes in natural disaster claims against insurance companies would want to drum up some business in South Florida in the post-hurricane season. With Social Ads, this micro-advertising is not only possible, but a good campaign could generate a large viral reaction with only a small initial investment.

2. Create online events or promotions – and don’t forget to ask for RSVPs. Creating events and promotions is another great way to boost viral marketing on Facebook. A mom and pop legal shop, for example, might tap into networks beyond friends and family by defenselawyerincentivizing those closest to them to spread the word about good counsel on Facebook. Something as simple as an appraisal in the form of a Note might be a great way to get the news out within the social graph. Facebook Events with RSVPs that promote offline gatherings are another easy way to gain viral exposure. A small law group might pair an informal “Meet the Attorneys” advice session with a wine tasting at a local restaurant. This is a great way to use social media to market professional events.

3. Create a Facebook page with engaging content. This is the internet, after all. Make sure to include videos, sound clips, and any other rich media that might make your Facebook page more interesting. For example, you can whet the appetites of once and future clients by offering starter legal tips in videos like Hamilton and Perryman do. Or, maybe you want to skip the fun and games and add something more serious — a scheduler, perhaps, to initiate appointments for initial consultations. The possibilities are endless.

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These are just a few ways that attorneys can differentiate themselves and market their services on Facebook. Other things lawyers should consider include partnering with or sponsoring popular applications on the Platform, sending virtual gifts, and of course, using Facebook as a way to communicate with a base of your firm’s biggest fans.

How to Sync Facebook Events with Google Calendar

We’re all well aware of the many web tools that exist to help us make ourselves more social, efficient, effective, etc — Facebook being one of the many. Some of us use so many that managing the tools themselves often requires another utility. It’s becoming increasingly complicated, and as a solution, Inside Facebook recently discussed syncing Twitter and Facebook status updates for all those who want to sync their updates on both sites.

Well, for those out there who use Google and Facebook to manage events and calendaring, here’s another how-to that might not only make your busy lives a little less complicated, but will relieve you of the pain of having to keep up between multiple calendars.

How to Sync Facebook Events with Google Calendar

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1) After you log into Facebook, click on “Events” in the right-hand panel.

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2) Then click on “Export Events” and copy the URL (which you will use later). Make sure you keep the address of the URL to yourself, lest everyone have access to your Facebook events…

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3) Log into Google Calendar and choose “Add” under “Other calendars.” Then choose “Add by URL”

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4) Paste the URL you copied from Facebook and click “Add”

Voila, you’re done! Your Google calendar will now update automatically every time you accept or decline an event in Facebook.

Enjoy being even more organized!

Compete Says Facebook’s Lead Over MySpace in the US Growing

Back in January, Compete.com reported that Facebook surpassed MySpace in total US unique visitors for the first time ever in December 2008. Well, Compete.com just published their new data for the month of January, and Facebook has increased the gap over MySpace even further.

January data shows that US visitors to Facebook have grown by almost 15% in the last 30 days alone, bringing the total unique visitor number to 68.5 million people. By contrast, MySpace experienced a 1.7% decline in January, continuing its slight downward trend over the last year.

Compete also reports a “velocity” number that shows whether a particular domain is increasing or decreasing in overall share of online minutes. It’s clear from the graph below that Facebook’s share of attention has been growing faster in recent weeks.

Nevertheless, Comscore and Hitwise still report higher US visitor numbers than for MySpace than Facebook. The discrepancies are likely due to different sample sizes and ISP sampling pools.

40% of MouseHunt Users Return Every Day – Q&A with fbFund Winner Joel Auge

To gain more perspective on the strategies employed by successful Facebook application developers, Inside Facebook has recently interviewed the winners of the fbFund’s $250k prize. So far, we’ve spoken with WildFire, a brand marketing tool, GroupCards, a collaborative e-greeting company, and Weddingbook, an wedding and events management tool.

This time around, we talked with Joel Auge, one of the founders of HitGrab and creator of MouseHunt, a Facebook game that is not only included in the list of fbFund grant winners but is also one of the most popular and engaging games on the Facebook platform.  Read below to hear some of the unique perspectives of an indie game developer on the Facebook Platform.

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Q: What does MouseHunt bring to Facebook, and what inspired you to start this business?

A: HitGrab was started 2 years before we decided to develop on the Facebook platform. We decided to do so when one of our clients needed a content management system for their website and were using Facebook very proactively to connect to their client base. We saw an opportunity to try something different and designed a simple CMS for their customer relationships and web content through Facebook. They loved it and use it to this day.

Facebook is just that; a great way to develop, maintain and increase your social presence. We fell in love with that idea. To that end, we decided to build a game. Games are inherently social in nature. So to develop MouseHunt on a naturally relational platform seemed like a good idea at the time… and it just really took off. Facebook allows the relationships in the game to happen, while MouseHunt allows those relationships to grow into a team-based, time-based, pass-time that is unlike any other social game.

Q: MouseHunt has become incredibly popular, with nearly a quarter million devoted monthly players. How did you reach this point in less than a year? What methods did you employ to gain traction among Facebook users and to market your app? Is this what you would recommend to the next generation of fbFund applicants?

A: MouseHunt will be 1 year old on March 7th, 2009. Our users (on their own) are organizing anniversary meets all over the world on that day. Australia, England, Israel, the U.S.A., and Singapore are among the countries where MouseHunters will unite to celebrate the anniversary.

I think the main reason MouseHunt has become such a deeply engaging game is because we’ve included our users in the development of the game. We’ve done everything possible, used every method to get them to interact directly with us. The users have access to the development team (and each other) through the forums, videos, and a built-in chat system. We’ve decided to share a large slice of our office lives with them.

MouseHunters have responded by participating in a more engaged way than perhaps any other application on Facebook (our daily engagement rates continue to hover around the 30% to 40% of total MAUs daily). I’d highly recommend that anyone who develops an app wholly involve themselves in their burgeoning communities. It’s done wonders for us.

Q: Can you offer any advice to game developers out there on how to create a really engaging game (that actually makes money)?

A: Coming from a PPC/SEO and web marketing background, we knew from the get-go that we couldn’t rely on advertising to make money from the game. There’s no way the initial traffic would have covered development costs. So our plan involved selling a digital product in-game. We feel it was the best decision for us. The trick was trying to get users engaged enough to come back over and over again… and that’s been our focus ever since the very beginning.

We hired great talent to not only develop the game, but to illustrate the characters/user-interface and participate creatively in the expansion of the game. We really try to focus on quality and creativity. We’ve discovered along the way, that some people play competitively (to sound the horn, or beat their friends’ scores) while others play to collect the artwork. It’s great to give users more than one reason to play.

Q: Among the fbFund winners, there were 3 teams, including yours, based in Canada – and one team based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What insights can you offer to future fbFund applicants that aren’t based in Silicon Valley?

A: First off, I tip my hat to the teams at the Founders Fund, Accel Partners, and Facebook themselves for opening up their coffers to developers all over the world (okay, suck-up time over…). But truly, non-recourse funding is a great way to attract developers to the platform, if nothing else. And once developers see the beauty of creating engaging apps that take into account “relationship” rather than a one-off user experience, I don’t think they’d go back.

So really, I think the geography of the teams working on the Facebook platform has little bearing on their successes. I think the Facebook platform tears down geographical boundaries better than any other distributed information system in the world. Quality will prevail. The MouseHunt social graph expands to players in over 180 countries. And each one of them could develop for the platform themselves if they wanted to. It’s undoubtedly a bonus that 40% of Canadians are on Facebook, because as business owners, Bryan [co-founder of HitGrab] and I are keenly aware of the automatic strength of the people we know in our daily lives who are also Facebook users – but I’m convinced that awareness isn’t necessary to understand the value of this still-growing platform.

Q: What do you think made your app successful in the fbFund competition?

A: Gosh. That’s a tough one. There were countless solid applications I’m sure. Perhaps the difference was in the business model, user engagement numbers, and outright fanaticism of our players. Our users are an undeniable force when it comes to voting for anything. So there’s no doubt that helped. We really do owe a lot of this to MouseHinters globally.

Q: Do you have any specific plans for the $250k from fbFund yet?

A: The money is intended to help continued development on the Facebook platform. We’re using it as such. We’ve hired a few new people to bolster our future plans… and I’ll leave it there… ;)

Q: Where do you guys see the company going in the future, especially with respect to Facebook? What is the next step?

A: We exist currently as a one-hit wonder… and we’re aware of that. Our goal is to keep developing MouseHunt for Facebook, to support our users, and at the same time, develop a solid pack of games in an attempt to go from win to win. We’ve really only scratched the surface of the 140 million users on the platform.

I’ll state it boldly so as to keep myself accountable to my team and to the people I’ve already said this to… I want HitGrab to be the Blizzard entertainment of Social games. Those are hard words to say… But I’d rather aim for the sun and hit the moon, then never have the guts to try. Blizzard has done such a great job in their space. We love how they’ve focused their efforts on long-term user engagement. On making quality rather than quantity. On focusing their craft to a handful of solid titles.

It won’t be easy, but we think we’re onto something stunning with the next game and we’re confident we can bring something new and exciting to social games again. We plan to continue developing on Facebook for many years to come. And as they grow, we intend to as well.

Thanks Joel for some honest and bold answers about what you did to make your company a success.  Best of luck this year!

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