Facebook has quietly released a new feature in Facebook for iPhone 4.0 update that could create new opportunities for marketers. If users click or enter a URL that uses the fb://page URL scheme and have the official Facebook for iPhone/iPad app installed, the corresponding Facebook Page will be opened in that app. Before the 4.0 and later software updates, fb://page URL scheme links would load a blank screen in the apps.
For example, if you click the link of or enter the URL fb://page/7844589738 in an iOS device that has Facebook for iPhone/iPad installed, that app will launch and bring up t he official Facebook Page for InsideFacebook.com (7844589738 is the Facebook ID of the Page for Inside Facebook). Marketers could distribute URL scheme-linked text via email or mobile site, and users wouldn’t notice the strange URL, they’d just click on a link and suddenly see the Facebook app open.
This new functionality could let marketers instantly bring users to their Page where they can Like it or write on its wall, rather than forcing them to open the m.facebook.com site where they might not already be logged in. Marketers could attach this link to a QR code to promote their Page and gain Likes from iOS device users. The fb://page URL scheme could become even more important if users gain the ability to access Page tab applications from mobile devices in the future.
iOS URL schemes allow specific first- and third-party iOS applications to be launched with special URLs. They can also be used to immediately perform certain functions such as setting a recipient for a new text message, showing directions in Google Maps, or add a shortened URL to a tweet in Tweetie or Twitterific. However, if the user doesn’t have the corresponding app installed, neither the app or a browser version will load.
Previously, URL schemes could be used to open a specific photo album, Event, or user profile in Facebook for iPhone. With the latest major Facebook for iPhone and iPad software updates, official Pages and Places Pages can now be opened with URL schemes as well. Page use the “fb://page/[Page ID]” URL scheme while Places use “fb://place/[Place ID]”.
There may be a URL scheme suffix that allows the info or wall tab to be loaded specifically, though none of the logical suffixes I tried worked. Android devices have their own URL scheme, and some developers have found ways to open user profiles in the Facebook for Android apps, though I haven’t seen a solution for opening Pages.
Facebook for iPhone/iPad has 52.3 million daily active users and 92.7 million monthly active users according to AppData, many of which stay logged in on the app at all times. This creates a large audience that can utilize the Facebook Page URL scheme to quickly gain access to a Page from a logged in state, allowing them to Like it or leave a wall post.
iOS app developers could use the Page URL scheme to send their users out of their app and to their Page so they can gain Likes. Similarly, marketers could distribute a Page URL scheme as an “iOS only” link to gain Likes.
In the physical world, marketers could also tie the URL scheme link to their Page to a QR code and display in their brick and mortar store or distribute through print materials. Users could then scan the QR code to launch their Facebook app and Like the Page. This could become a way to speed up in-store promotions where users who show they’ve Liked a business’ Page get a discount or free gift.
Those trying to take advantage of the URL scheme functionality should be sure their audience is likely to have an iOS device with the Facebook app installed. Otherwise providing a standard browser link that’s accessible across devices and to those without the Facebook app is a safer bet, even if it means users may have to log in to Facebook again before they can Like the Page.
Facebook recently launched its mobile app platform that allows users to access canvas apps built in HTML5 from their mobile devices. Page tab applications cannot be accessed from mobile yet, judging by the fact that some Page tab app developers such as RootMusic have begun building in HTML5. Once Page tab apps are opened to mobile, Page URL scheme links could become a powerful way to drive traffic to them as well as helping Pages gain Likes.
[Thanks to Sam Cornwell for the tip]