How to Activate Social Reading for Your Blog

[NOTE: This feature is no longer available within the Facebook WordPress plugin. It was taken away almost as soon as it was launched. There were whispers that it was simply being tweaked, but at this point it would appear that it’s not coming back.]

You’ve likely seen activity from your Facebook friends using the Washington Post or Yahoo! readers. Whenever they read an article on one of those websites, a story is automatically generated on Facebook. No need to like, it’s completely automated.

Ever wish you could implement that functionality for your own blog? Me, too. I’ve never seen it for small sites like mine, though, so I figured it was a pipe dream.

Well, all you need is a WordPress site and you can add “Social Reading.” Facebook released their official plugin Facebook for WordPress that includes the following functionality:

Page and Post Features
All of these features are easy to enable via checkboxes on the Facebook settings page.

  • Post to an Author’s Facebook Timeline whenever they publish a new WordPress Post or Page.
  • Mention friends and Facebook Pages. This posts to their Timelines as well as lists them on the WordPress Post or Page.
  • Post all new WordPress Post or Pages to a specified Facebook Page.
  • Like, send, and subscribe buttons can be enabled in a click and are fully customizable.
  • Facebook Comments, including full SEO support.
  • Open Graph Protocol integration.
  • Recommendations bar, which allows users to click to start getting recommendations, Like content, and add what they’re reading to Timeline as they go.

All of these features are easy to enable via the Widgets settings page.

  • Activity Feed Box. This shows the Facebook user the activity that their friends are doing on your website.
  • Recommendations Box. This shows the Facebook user recommendations of pages they should visit based on the actions their friends are taking on your website.
  • Like, send, and subscribe buttons.

Much of this functionality existed before through third party plugins. But the one that excited me most was the Recommendations Bar, complete with Social Reading.

Install the Plugin

There are two ways you can install the plugin:

  1. Search for Facebook for WordPress within the WordPress plugin directory (if you don’t see it there now, try the next option)
  2. Go Here to download the plugin. Then click Add New Plugin and then Upload from your WordPress admin.
Install WordPress Plugin

Configure the Recommendations Bar

Once you’ve activated the plugin, you’ll need to configure it. Click on “Facebook” on the left hand side of your WordPress admin.

Facebook for WordPress Configure

The first thing you’ll need to do is create an app and provide the App ID, App Secret and App Namespace.

Facebook for WordPress Main Settings

This is easier than it sounds. Much easier. Go Here and click “Create New App.”

Create new App Facebook

Create a name for your app and click Continue. You’ll need to submit a Captcha for security purposes and then you’ll be presented with a page like this:

Create Facebook App

The two things you’ll need to copy and paste into your plugin settings are your App Secret and App ID, mentioned earlier.

As shown in the screen grab, you’ll need to enter your domain as well as your site URL in the places noted.

Finally, you can (should) add an icon to look more professional. Also consider editing the logo as well to the left of the icon. In each case, these images are square.

Okay, one more thing. After copying and pasting the App ID and App Secret into your Main Plugin Settings, you’ll need to activate the Recommendations Bar. Just check the checkbox in the plugin settings:

Facebook Recommendations Bar Settings

How Users Add Social Reading

At the very bottom of your blog posts, you’ll now see the Recommendations Bar.

Facebook Social Reading

You’ll note that Social Reading is off by default, which makes sense. Your readers will need to add the app (that you just created) to enable Social Reading.

When they click Social Reading is Off, they’ll get the following Facebook window prompt to add the app:

Facebook Install Social Reading

Now when such a user reads your content, a story will be generated on Facebook News Feeds, Tickers and the user’s Timeline:

Facebook Social Reader Activity

Monitoring Installs

Want to know how many people have installed your app? Click on the Insights link…

Facebook for WordPress Plugin Insights

Here you’ll be redirected to a Facebook Insights page for your app that will give you information like New Installs, Lifetime Installs, Monthly Active Users, Content Shared and more…

Facebook for WordPress Plugin Insights

Note that this data tends to be delayed a day or two.

Try It Yourself!

That’s it! It may seem complicated, but it’s really not. You don’t need to be a programmer to create your own Social Reading app thanks to the Facebook for WordPress plugin.

Will you be using this plugin or activating Social Reading? Let me know below!