Having a Facebook presence is a big thing for any online marketing strategy via Social Media, and this usually involves having a Facebook Page to promote your brand or product.  I’ll assume you already have the prerequisite knowledge of what a Facebook page is, and why they are useful – this post is aimed at those who are now struggling with the next step of actually implementing a page, perhaps due to not having the necessary technical skills to achieve it.  This is where ShortStack comes in.

An introduction to shortstack

ShortStack’s tab designer view, with live preview and widget toolbar.

ShortStack provides you with an interface for creating “tabs” for your page and placing content you want to put into each tab via a variety of “widgets”.  You can then control who is  able to see that content, for example, people who are fans (those who have “liked” your page), non-fans, and admin.

You may have seen an example of this kind of visibility control already, where a landing page is shown prompting you to “like” the page, before you can see the rest of the content, similar to the example to the right.  ShortStack makes this relatively easy and pain free to set up this functionality on your page.

In addition, you can even combine widget visibility with  date/time restrictions.  This is perfect if you want to create coupons or special offers to fans for a limited time, without having to make them available in realtime.

But the power comes from the numerous widgets it provides, and the flexibility of each one.  Every widget has the ability to enable sharing, commenting and control who can see it, as mentioned above.  At the basic end of the spectrum, there are widgets for rich text, links, images and galleries, product templates.  To show the flexibility of even the most basic of widgets, the Image widget, in addition to the core widget flexibility mentioned above, allows you to upload an image from your computer or from a URL, and even edit  it further using an online image editing tool called Picnik.   You can easily make the entire image a clickable link, or create hotspots in the image, allowing different parts of an image to link to different places.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  A quick look through the list of widgets shows that you can quickly add widgets to handle other highly useful things for marketing.

  • Interactive elements like contact forms, newsletter signups, polls, custom forms and promotional campaigns like sweepstakes or voting contests.
  • Social/Media Integration like video from YouTube and Vimeo, Twitter feeds, RSS feeds, Soundcloud, Flickr, FourSquare, Mailchimp Newsletters, each with easy to customise settings that usually just require you to copy and paste a url or username.
  • Additional widgets such as countdowns for events or product release dates, virtual gifts that your fans can gift to facebook friends, helping to promote your page.
And in the event that you want to add additional content that can’t be achieved via an existing widget, you can also easily add plain text blocks, code blocks such as javascript, iframes to external sites, or flash movies.

Getting started with templates

As you saw above, with my “like” us  landing page, I’m not really a designer, so I need all the help I can get when it comes to design and layout inspiration, but thankfully ShortStack comes with a number of templates and wireframes to guide you, giving you a starting point to copy, edit and modify to your heart’s content.  In addition, you can further control the look of your  tabs by modifying the stylesheets if required.

Easy to publish

Once you’ve created a tab, or multiple tabs for your page, you can publish it to your Facebook page at a click of a button.  Assuming you are an admin  for the page you are intending to publish to, ShortStack’s Quick Publish feature will allow you to install up to 10 tabs per page at a click of a button, instantly publishing your changes and making them available in Facebook.

What’s the catch?

As with most of these free lunches, there are limits, and with ShortStack the main ones are:

  • The pages you install a ShortStack tab on can have no more than 2000 fans in total.
  • A tab can only be installed to one page at a time, which is fine if you’re only creating one page, but is annoying if you manage multiple pages, and want to re-use tabs on more than one.
  • In addition your tabs carry the ShortStack branding at the bottom of the each tab and any share functionality and newsfeed prompts will also show ShortStack.
  • Promotion entries can only be emailed to you, rather than stored in a database.
  • No collaboration on tabs or promotions with other users.

There is, as always with this kind of service, a way round it if you are willing to upgrade your payment plan, which comes with white-labelled solutions and database storage for promotions even in the cheapest non-gratis plan at $30 a month.

In conclusion

ShortStack makes it easy to create Facebook pages without requiring any coding ability, which means I can concentrate my efforts on improving my design skills. 🙂

There’s no denying it is a powerful tool for non-technical users to get their branded Facebook pages published.  However, it’s at this point I would have to wonder about value for money.  Depending on the type of pages you are managing and who your target audience is, it’s quite possible that you have a high number of fans/impressions, but low sales conversion.  For this kind of page, the cost would represent a significant ongoing expense.  I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments below, and if you are using ShortStack’s paid plans for your brand/business needs.

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