Yesterday, Facebook launched a new social plugin for website owners called the 'Recommendations Bar.' To be honest, this one took me a little while to wrap my head around. Doesn't Facebook already have the Recommendations BOX?
Yes, yes it does ... it's right down there on the sidebar of this very blog. So what's so different about the Recommendations Bar? Let's find out!
The Recommendations Box vs. the New Recommendations Bar
The Old Recommendations Box
Let's start with the existing Recommendations Box, a plugin you can install on your website, and one that has been around for quite a while. Essentially, it displays personalized recommendations to users based on all the social interactions with URLs from your website, and the users' friends' activity. The plugin has the ability to display personalized recommendations to visitors whether or not that user is logged in to Facebook, and for Facebook users who are already logged in, the plugin gives preference to/features content that the user has already interacted with. Simple enough, right?
The New Recommendations Bar
The newRecommendations Bar is also a social plugin you can install on your website or blog to help website visitors discover new articles based on what other people in their network are reading and sharing. Sounds just like the Recommendations Box, right? But, wait ... there's more!
In addition, the Recommendations Bar also allows users to like content and share what they’re reading with their friends -- functionality not available directly through the Recommendations Box. Furthermore, the Recommendations Bar is docked at the lower right or left of the screen. When a visitor loads a page on your website, the Recommendations Bar is collapsed by default, and the visitor has the option to ‘Like’ your page. If clicked, a story will get shared to that visitor's Facebook timeline. Then, as the visitors scrolls to the bottom of your page, the plugin will expand, showing the visitor social recommendations of other articles to read on your website/blog. According to a Facebook spokesperson, the recommendations shown to users are based on the content their friends have liked or shared in your app or website.
I walked through the process myself on Mashable's website to understand exactly how it works. This is what I see when I first visit Mashable's article about -- that's right -- the new Recommendations Bar! See the collapsed bar docked at the bottom right?
And this is what appears on my personal Facebook timeline if I click 'Like':
Now, back to the Mashable article. When I scroll down on the page, the Recommendations Bar automatically expands, recommending other articles I might be interested in. See?
Why Is the Recommendations Bar Better for Marketers?
Quite simply, the Recommendations Bar motivates sharing action among your website visitors, giving them more opportunities to 'Like' the content on a page and, thus, seamlessly share it with their Facebook connections. The Recommendations Box, on the other hand, provides no such opportunity for your visitors to share your content through the box. The only action it elicits is getting users to check out other articles/content on your website.
According to Mashable, Facebook has been testing the new Recommendations Bar plugin on sites like Mashable, Wetpaint, and The Mirror. And according to these early tests, Facebook reveals that websites are getting 3x the click-through on stories recommended by the Recommendations Bar compared to the Recommendations Box.
We're not sure whether the Recommendations Box will become obsolete in the wake of the Recommendations Bar -- Facebook has made no mention of this. But if you're interested in installing the new bar on your website or blog, Facebook provides some instruction and documention on its Facebook Developers site. Just be sure to include open graph markup on your articles so Facebook knows how to display them on your website. Failing to do so will result in the plugin showing an error message instead of recommendations.
What do you think? Will you install Facebook's new Recommendation plugin on your website/blog? We're looking into it ourselves.