How to Build a Facebook App for Your Page

Build a Facebook app to share the many facets of your page

Facebook app icon on a mobile device screen

Pixabay

You can create your own Facebook app for your cause, company, organization, or personal use — by integrating it with your Facebook page. The Facebook Developers platform has everything you need, including all the necessary tools and guides to walk you through the process.

What Is a Facebook App?

Developers build most of the common apps you'll find on Facebook, via the Facebook Developers platform. Thousands of third-party apps are available to use via personal Facebook account that help connect you with other products and services.

An app (not to be confused with the similarly not-quite-a-full-application called an “applet”) is not really an application in the sense that Mac and Windows computer users know the term. Rather than installing a computer application (also known as software and programs) from a disk or a download onto your computer's hard drive, you would use a Facebook app by running within your browser a— which takes up no space on your computer.

For example, if you're using an app to play Scrabble with a friend on Facebook, Facebook stores each move you make on its servers, not locally. The page updates when you log in again or otherwise refresh your browser. This is the core difference between a Facebook app and a conventional application.

What Is the Facebook Developers Platform?

Facebook launched the Facebook Developers platform in 2007, providing a framework that developers can use to create applications that interact with core Facebook features. This meant that apps could share user information with outside applications via an open API (application programming interface).

The Facebook Developers platform provides a set of APIs and tools that enable third-party developers to integrate with the open graph — whether through applications on Facebook.com or external websites and devices.

Why Would You Create a Facebook App?

You might be wondering, what can your business use a game like Scrabble for? Very little, but games are not the only use of apps. Any entity that wants its name shared across a social network can use an app to generate brand recognition.

Consider this scenario: You own a restaurant with its own Facebook page. Many people post mundane comments on the page's posts, and that's about it. The page has a fan base, but not very many customers feel encouraged enough to "like" it.

Now imagine the page having an app that lists menu items — complete with photos that users can select and share. Instead of offering your fans boring status updates or links to your blog, an app can let that them share a more eye-catching view of what they just ate in your restaurant. It's both easy and fun for fans to use, and in this way, you harness the value of social marketing.

Using the Facebook API

The Graph API is the core of the Facebook Developers platform, enabling developers to read from and write data into Facebook. The Graph API presents a simple, consistent view of the Facebook social graph, uniformly representing objects in the graph (e.g., people, photos, events, and pages) and the connections among them (e.g., friend relationships, shared content, and photo tags).

Along with the application directory, this is the most powerful aspect of the Facebook platform for developers.

Two features that Facebook developers often use to broaden their audiences are app invites and posts to newsfeed stories. Both tell Facebook users which of their friends participate in the app.

An invite is an explicit question targeted at friends of the app user’s choice. On the other hand, the newsfeed option simply lets others know that a friend is using an app.

Getting a user to send out invites is more difficult because such invites aren’t always welcome. However, if a user sends them to those who might be genuinely interested in the app, this can lead to signups.

With the right incentives, marketing, and branding, apps on Facebook can spread like wildfire. Follow the instructions below to learn how to build your first one.

How to Build a Facebook App for Your Page (Using Messenger as an Example)

The following steps will take you through the simple steps required to set up an app that will specifically work with Messenger, however there are several other products you can choose from for your app. The following steps also require that you have a Facebook page already set up.

  1. Navigate to developers.facebook.com in a web browser. If you're not already signed into your Facebook account, select Log In in the top right to sign into your account.

  2. Select My Apps in the top right and then select + Create App from the dropdown list.

    Creating an app in the Facebook developers portal
  3. Create your App ID by entering a name in the Display Name field and an email address in the Contact Email field.

    Creating new app ID

    Select the blue Create App ID button when you're done.

    You might be asked to complete a security check by entering a CAPTCHA code.

  4. Facebook will give you the option to choose from four scenarios to help you build your app. You can choose one and select the blue Confirm button at the bottom, or if you'd rather built your app without using one of these scenarios, select Skip instead.

    Facebook developers portal

    For this particular tutorial, we will Skip the scenarios.

  5. Select the Set Up button for a product to start building your app.

    Adding a product to the developers portal

    For the purpose of this tutorial, we're going to select Messenger.

  6. In the Access Tokens section, select the dropdown list under Page to select the Facebook page you want to use.

    Creating an API access token in the Facebook developers portal

    You might have to edit the permissions to grant the app access and generate a token. Select the blue Edit Permissions button > Continue as [Name] > Page checkbox > Next > Done > OK. A string of characters will appear in the Page Access Token field.

  7. Before you do anything else, you must follow Facebook's Webhook setup instructions to create a verify token, which you'll need for the next step.

    You will need Node.js installed on your computer to set up your webhook.

  8. Under the Webhooks section, select Set Up Webhooks and enter your Page URL into the Callback URL field plus the verify token you created in the last step into the Verify Token field.

    Creating new API subscriptions
  9. Select the checkboxes beside the webhook events you want to be delivered to your webhook.

    Facebook recommends selecting messages and messaging_postbacks at the very minimum.

  10. Select the blue Verify and Save button.

    A GET request will be sent to your webhook. If you set everything up properly, your webhook settings will automatically be saved.

  11. Now to subscribe your app to your page, go back to your app's Settings and look for the Token Generation section and select Select a Page to choose your page from the dropdown list.

    Generating a new token in the Facebook developers portal
  12. Back to the Webhooks section, do the same as above by selecting Select a Page to choose your page from the dropdown list.

  13. Select the Subscribe button.

  14. To ensure you set up everything properly test your app by going to Facebook.com or Messenger on your mobile device and sending a message to your page. Your webhook should receive a webhook event, meaning that your app has been successfully set up.

If you're using Messenger with your app, consider checking out Facebook's Quickstart guide to help you build your first Messenger bot.