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Friday, May 7, 2010

Facebook Connect: Plugins to Integrate FB and Wordpress

facebook-connectWhen I first decided it was time to add Facebook Connect to a website, I figured it would be no big deal. Facebook is a social media powerhouse, I figured, so they must have tools to simplify the process. Plus, I use Wordpress! So I was fairly confident that some enterprising developer had already created a plugin that would add Facebook Connect to the blog with a few clicks.

Boy was I naive. Adding Facebook to a Wordpress site is harder than it sounds. I spent days testing out plugins with varying degrees of success. Each plugin had it’s own set of quirks, Facebook features that worked or didn’t, one plugin even shut down the whole site!

Luckily, integrating Facebook was not a total FAIL. After much testing and tribulation, Facebook Connect is now humming along happily. Visitors can login and comment using their Facebook ID, post comments back to their main stream, join the fan page with a single click and a handful of other nifty Facebook features that encourage visitor loyalty and interaction.

Take the benefit of my experience, and read this article before you begin the process of adding Facebook Connect to your Wordpress website. Here are 3 different Wordpress plugins for installing Facebook Connect.

Facebook Connect from

socialble-fbconnectEasily one of the most popular FB connect plugins, Javier Reyes claims his plugin will: Build a community, Login using your Facebook account, Send comments to Facebook profile feed,Invite your friends to the blog community, See last visitors, Facebook share counter, Facebook fan page widget, Facebook comments box, Facebook user email store.

In truth, the plugin looks awesome on his site. And some users claim that it’s working great. However, I tried for three days to force Facebook Connect from Socialble to play nicely with my website. Most often, the plugin would work for an hour and then lead to a blank screen. Every page on the site (both front-end and admin) would just be a white screen. Often, this is a sign of memory issues. But, even reinstalling and turning off every other plugin on the site didn’t make it work.

The final reason that the plugin was a no-go for me is that the developer does not respond to help requests. I don’t expect developers to spend all their time offering up free assistance — especially on an already free plugin. But, the comment area and support forum are full of questions and the developer is conspicuously absent.

(* It seems that just after finishing this article, a new beta version of the Facebook Connect Wordpress Plugin became available. It may solve some of the problems I talked about.)

WP-FacebookConnect by Adam Hupp

wp-fbconnectAdam is a Facebook Engineer, so using WP-FacebookConnect can be a good place to start. The plugin adds Facebook functionality to Wordpress using the Facebook Connect APIs. Features include: signon with your Facebook account; Publish comments to the newsfeed; Comment avatars display Facebook profile photos.

Using this plugin is pretty simple. Install, activate, configure and you’re done. WP-FacebookConnect works well. Users could log in and Facebook avatars showed up in the comments section.

There were a few things I didn’t like, though. One is that the plugin creates a new Wordpress user for each person that logs in via Facebook. In some cases this might be desirable, but it’s not really what I wanted. Second, was that after seeing all the “potential features” of the plugin, WP-FacebookConnect seemed limited.

If your Facebook integration needs are simple and you don’t want to work too hard on the configuring side, then WP-FacebookConnect is a great plugin. I have several clients where this plugin will be perfect.

Simple Facebook Connect

simple-facebook-connectUltimately, Simple Facebook Connect is the Wordpress Plugin I decided to use for my site. Simple Facebook Connect is a modular plugin that breaks down the available Facebook features into separate plugins anchored by a base plugin.

Basically, the base plugin installs FB-Connect on your site and the secondary plugins add bits of code to add whatever Facebook goodies you’re looking for. In face, once you’ve activated the base plugin your website is Facebook Connect enabled and you don’t even need the other plugins. If you’re technically inclined you can now use XFBML tags to add any number of widgets directly into your template.

Here is a list of the currently available FB Connect sub-modules: Comment using Facebook Identity, Share button, User status widget (display your status in a sidebar), Fan box widget, Live Stream widget, Bookmark widget (get your site into the Facebook bookmark bar), Connect widget, Publish posts to your Facebook Application Page (manually, after the post is published).

Simple Facebook Connect was as easy to set up as it sounds and the developer, Otto, is responsive to user queries. He replied to my comment in just under two hours and has an active help stream going on his site.

Each of these Facebook Connect plugins behaves a little differently. You’ll need to judge for yourself what will work best with your current Wordpress set-up. Just remember, all of the developers put a lot of time and energy into making the plugins. So after you settle on a plugin that makes you happy, send a little something to the developer. It’s the right thing to do, but more importantly, it will give them a reason to keep updating and improving so that the plugin you’re using today will still work down the road.


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