VIDEO: How KTLA.com used Facebook data to help its content go viral

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Through Facebook’s social plugins, businesses are finding new and innovative ways to attract readers and customers.

At the recent AllFacebook Marketing Conference in San Francisco, Jason Jedlinski, the Vice President of Digital Products & Platforms at Tribune Broadcasting, and Jay Budzik, the Chief Technology Officer at Perfect Market, Inc., showed attendees how a Los Angeles TV station found viewers through creatively using Facebook’s data.

Tribune partnered with Perfect Market for ads as well as unique Facebook integration techniques via Perfect Social on KTLA.com, such as making it easy to share a story to Facebook directly from the site, while tagging friends and adding custom context.

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Facebook introduces API for apps and games to create groups for users

Facebook has made it possible for apps and games to create and manage groups for users, the company announced in a blog post Wednesday evening. This was created as a way for game developers to help players connect around clans, alliances, guilds or other game communities, but non-game apps could ultimately find use in the API as well.

With these new groups, users can share content, post updates, create events and poll members, just as they can with traditional groups. However, these groups are created and controlled by a game rather than an individual user. Users can be promoted as admins if the developer wishes.

Many users already create groups to connect with people they play games with. Now with the API, games can facilitate this by inviting players to join existing groups or building the group creation process right into the game. Clans have long been a part of traditional online gaming — especially MMORPGs and online strategy games — and this could help social games be taken more seriously by core gamers. It should be noted that some games already include in-app clans groups, but these were created by the developer and don’t create an external group on Facebook.

In an overview of the feature, Facebook says, “Game Groups help make games more social and engaging by creating another place where users can interact with each other. Group social dynamics help with retention and monetization.”

Groups give users a place to share achievements and tips. When users begin to feel as though they are part of a community, they are more likely to continue playing a game. The notifications generated by Facebook groups could also serve as prompts to get users re-engaged with an app.

Outside of games, some lifestyle applications might want to integrate groups. For instance, an app like Goodreads might want to allow users to form groups around their book clubs. Fitness apps like Endomondo might do the same for running clubs or teams training together. Fantasy sports apps would also seem to have a good use case.

The feature is starting in beta for apps and games that are listed in App Center so Facebook can monitor use and create more guidelines and best practices for developers over time. Developers can get an overview of game groups here and read reference documentation here.

Facebook adds new APIs for pages to manage Timeline, messages

To support the launch of new features for pages with Timeline, Facebook now offers APIs to manage a page’s messages, milestones, About section, apps and posts.

These additions allow page management applications to control important areas of organizations’ Timelines so that page owners don’t have to switch between platforms. Developers anticipated these APIs after Facebook introduced the new pages on Feb. 29.

An important new API gives the ability to manage a page’s messages. This lets page representatives see and respond to private messages users send through the new optional feature for pages. Some organizations might prefer to have these messages incorporated into page management or customer service applications rather than having representatives access them directly from the Facebook page. Software solutions keep things more organized and have other collaboration features that Facebook does not, for example being able to assign tickets to different users.

Another API now available allows apps to manage a page’s milestones. With milestones, page owners can add important events to any date on a page’s Timeline. These stories show up larger than other posts on the page.

Apps will also be able to edit a page’s About section, upload a cover photo, change tab app icons and hide or unhide page posts via the API. Documentation details are available here.

Platform update: ads, passwords, access tokens, more

As Facebook continues to review and approve new Open Graph actions, the social network announced a number of changes affecting developers working on the platform.

Action specs – The Ads API now allows developers to create Featured Stories (previously called “Sponsored Stories”) using action specs rather than by ad creative type. This will make it easier for developers to adapt to new story types when they are launched (i.e., promoting stories about users listening to a song or earning a high score rather than simply “using an app” or “playing a game”). The old Sponsored Stories creative types will be deprecated as of May 1. The company provided more detail in a blog post here.

Test user passwords - Facebook added the option to set a test user’s password now from the Developer App to make it easier for developers to test their mobile apps. Developers can change the password of a test users from the “roles” section of the Developer App.

Access tokens – Facebook reminded developers not to share access tokens between applications to ensure the security of those tokens.

Game Developer Conference – The company will host Facebook Developer Day at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco on March 5. Conference attendees can learn more about developing social games on the platform through tutorials and discussions. More details are available here.

Page insights deprecation – Facebook will completely remove the old page insights from the API on Feb. 15.

New auth dialog – All apps will be able to use the improved authorization dialog on Feb. 15. Developers who haven’t fully configured the new dialog can disable the setting from the Developer App until the end of the month. All apps will be required to use the new dialog starting March 1.

Historical actions - Facebook has taken Open Graph action backdating out of beta. Developers can now make posts to previous dates on users’ Timelines. We covered the change in more depth here.

For more breaking changes and information about bugs, see Facebook’s Developer Blog.

Facebook Platform Update: subscriptions, search, notifications

Developers can now request permission to access lists of users’ subscribers and who they subscribe to via the Graph API. Facebook announced this and a few other changes in a blog post Wednesday.

With read permissions for subscriptions, apps can create more personalized experiences for users. They can also track subscriptions over time. Since Facebook does not offer analytics for users who enable subscribers, people could turn to apps to track their growth. Klout might be another third-party that would be interested in incorporating subscriber data because the company could use this information as another factor to calculate a person’s influence.

Facebook also made improvements to the search function on its developer site. Search results now include bugs and technical Q&A from Stack Overflow. Developers can also filter results by type.

The “manage_notifications” permission is now required to read or manage users’ notifications. The change was announced in July 2011 and migration is complete, according to the blog post.

The social network is in the process of deprecating the old page Insights. It confirmed that the old Insights will be completely removed on Feb. 15.

For information about breaking changes going into affect on Feb. 1, visit the Facebook Developer Blog.

Facebook expands Questions API

Facebook added the option to write structured question posts through the Graph API on Friday.

Applications can now ask Facebook Questions on behalf of users or pages that authorize them to do so. This is particularly useful for page management applications like those from Involver, Buddy Media or Vitrue, which allow admins to write and schedule posts from another platform. Page owners can use these apps to share links or photos, but they have not been able to use them to ask Facebook Questions. With the new write API, developers can now make this an option.

The social network’s Questions product is unique in that it allows users to create polls that other users can add options to. Asking or answering a question generates a story in News Feed. Pages use Questions to promote interaction among fans, but the feature hasn’t caught on among users as Facebook seemed to envision — a company blog post in March 2011 positioned Questions as a way to get recommendations from friends.

The addition of the write API follows the read permissions that Facebook introduced last fall. Questions has not otherwise seen any significant design or functional improvements and is still not supported on mobile devices. When it launched, Questions seemed like it could be a useful plugin for blogs and news sites as a way to get feedback and engagement from readers, but the company has not yet offered this option.

Platform update: infinite scrolling, stream filters, user support, more

Facebook’s latest platform update includes infinite scrolling for the apps and games dashboard and API support for News Feed filters. The company also announced it will require all apps to include a an email address for user support starting April 1.

Developers could benefit from the new infinite scrolling feature on the apps and games dashboard because users will be likely to browse more titles when they don’t have to click a button to load them. This gives apps lower on the list of “Friends Using,” “Recommended Games,” “Recommended Apps” and “Newest” a better chance of being discovered.

The new filter parameter for the Graph API Home connection allows developers to retrieve part of a user’s News Feed. For instance, an app can pull just the stories from a particular friend list. This could be useful now that the social network has automatically created Smart Lists for users and is encouraging them to designate people as “Close Friends” or “Acquaintances.”

Facebook has also decided to start requiring all apps to list a user support email. Developers have had the option to include this in their apps before, but the user support email field will not be mandatory until April 1.

Two breaking changes effective this week are Request 2.0 migration and Requests 2.0 Efficient. The migration from FBML requests to Request 2.0 will be complete on Jan. 15.

The company also announced an improved comments box for mobile, which we cover in more depth here.

For further details on platform changes, see Facebook’s Developer Blog.

Platform update: web insights, app stories, breaking changes

Facebook’s latest platform update includes improved insights for websites, a change in how some app stories are published to Timeline and a few breaking changes.

Insights for websites now tracks and report referrals to the underlying URL from a bit.ly link. Facebook has also added tracking and reporting for URLs within comments.

App stories published using Feed dialog or Graph API will now show in the app’s tab on a user’s Timeline, just as Open Graph actions published from an app do.

The Request 2.0 Efficient migration will be enabled for all apps in the next few days and will be set for all apps on Jan. 15.

Another breaking change effective this week is the getPageInfo method now requires a callback function and no longer returns a value synchronously.

This week’s update reminded developers that app profile pages will be deleted on Feb. 1. As we reported earlier, all traffic will be redirected to the app itself. Also on Feb. 1, the canvas_name field will be deprecated in favor of namespace field.

For more details about these changes and bug updates, see Facebook’s original post.

Reviews and Discussion Tabs Now Removed from Facebook App Profile Pages

The previously announced removal of Reviews and Discussions from application profile pages has now gone into effect.

The removal of Reviews mainly affects developers that solicit reviews for their apps, such as game developers fishing for a five-star rating. By killing the Reviews feature, Facebook is signaling a commitment to surfacing “good” apps only through social discovery.

As for the Discussion tab, Facebook is now encouraging developers to make use of Posts and Comments on their Walls as the best way to encourage conversation:

Facebook’s latest platform updates also reveal a new API for retrieving Page Questions and signal the end of App Reviews and Discussions. The API update follows on a previous Questions modification where developers could retrieve questions asked by users via the Graph API. Now developers can access Questions using a Page.

Facebook also set out a list of breaking changes, including info on the OAuth spec migration, Deprecating Dashboard APIs, removing the Bookmark URL, and updating the FB.Canvas.getPageInfo method so that it must be called with a callback function.

Platform Update: Mobile Hack Day, International Payment Methods for Credits, Privacy Retrieval

Facebook has made several developer-focused announcements over the past few days, including that it has released more free tickets to its Mobile Hack event at Facebook headquarters this Friday. This will give more developers the opportunity to learn about building Facebook-integrated native native and HTML5 mobile apps.

Nine new international Facebook Credits payment methods have been added to make it easier for those abroad to buy Credits. Additionally, developers now have the capability to programmatically check if an app is installed on a Page and what privacy setting a user has selected for an app.

Facebook recently launched a blog specifically for HTML5 developers, and there announced it would hold an all-day Mobile Hack event at the Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto on October 28th. The event will cover iOS, Android, and HTML5 mobile web development for the new Facebook mobile app Platform. It will feature: “technical deep-dives, a Q&A, partner presentations, and an opportunity for you and your team to hack on site with Facebook developer team assistance. At the end of the day, awards will be given to the best mobile social apps.”

Developers can register to attend Mobile Hack for free on Eventbrite, though tickets are limited and will likely sell out the same way the mini-f8 Open Graph Technology Days Facebook held around the country did. They may then begin working on their hack project, as apps don’t need to be built from scratch at the event. The schedule for Mobile Hack is as follows:

10:00am – Registration Open
11:00am – Facebook Platform on Mobile
11:45am - New Features: Social Discovery on Mobile
12:30pm - Lunch
1:30pm –   Partner Presentations and Best Practices
2:30pm -  Native Distribution for Web Apps
3:00pm -  Break
3:15pm -  Open Graph and Mobile
4:00pm -  Q&A
5:00pm -  Dinner
5:00pm -  Hack
11:00pm – App Presentation & Awards
11:30pm – Event Close

There hasn’t quite been a blitz of mobile app development since the new Platform opened earlier this month. The launch partner apps show some promise, but traffic has been slow. Creating a healthy mobile app platform is key to Facebook growing mobile engagement and making money through mobile Credits. Facebook is hoping the new HTML5 resource center and Mobile Hack will give developers the understanding necessary to explore the mobile platform’s viral channels.

Alongside the announcement of initial test of Facebook Credits for Websites, Facebook listed that Credits can now be bought with several new international payment methods. The news benefits developers, as users are more likely to become paying customers if it’s easy for them to acquire Credits.

Many of the new payment methods are online payment solutions for Southeast Asia and South America, which have become important secondary markets for developers. Facebook now supports over 80 payment methods in 50 countries. They new methods include:

  • Axeso5 (Brazil)
  • Join Card (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand)
  • Malaysia OBT (Malaysia)
  • MEPS FPX (Malaysia)
  • MEPSCASH (Malaysia)
  • PayEasy (Philippines)
  • PaysBuy (Thailand)
  • SafetyPay (Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Spain, Austria, Brazil)
  • WebCash (Malaysia)

The Graph API can now be used to determine if an app has been installed on a Page. An HTTP GET request to /PAGE_ID/tabs/APP_ID will return the IDs of any app installed on a Page when used with a Page admin access token, and whether a particular app is installed when used with that app’s access token. This will allow Page management apps to determine what tab apps have or haven’t been installed  on a Page they oversee.

The new app authentication flow allows users to set the widest possible audience for content shared through that app. Now developers can retrieve a user’s privacy selection via the privacy setting table. This way, when apps present users with subsequent privacy selectors, they can default to a user’s previously chosen privacy setting. This keeps users from thinking their existing privacy settings have been changed.

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