Competitions and Coding

Last time we had a look at the basics of creating a Facebook presence for your business through Page setup, connecting with relevant Pages, using Facebook Insights and Facebook Ads. In this post, we’ll have a look at how to run competitions.

Risk vs Reward

Running your competition without a third party is very risky. Since Facebook tightened up their rules fairly recently to stop Page owners from using Facebook to run their competitions, there have been some pretty confusing rules that have come through, and rules are constantly being updated and refined, the last update being on 11 May 2011.

Do’s and Don’ts

In the tiniest of nutshells, here is what you can and cannot do for a competition or promotion:

  • You cannot use any of Facebook’s features or functionalities as the only prerequisite to enter people into a competition. That means you that someone ‘Liking’ a post or comment, uploading a picture, posting something from your company’s Page in their status update or anything that runs on Facebook features is not allowed to be used on its own as entry into a promotion or competition.

This means that in order to enter a promotion, simply clicking on ‘Like’ on your Page cannot be the only prerequisite to entering. It can, however, be one step in the process. For example, they may need to click ‘Like’ and then go to another tab and fill in their details on a custom sheet.

  • Competitions must be run through third-party applications or a custom FBML/iFrame tab. There are a few options regarding third-party applications that will run the promotion for you for a monthly fee, the most popular being the Wildfire app, starting at five US Dollars per campaign plus 0.99c per day.
  • A custom Facebook tab that has been developed specifically for your business is the other option. It is best to get in contact with a web development studio if you would prefer to not use a third-party app that charges a monthly fee. This may be a good idea if you are planning on running a promotion for a long time.
  • You cannot notify winners through Facebook. They must be contacted via another channel, whether that is email, a phone call or a tweet.
  • Contrary to previous rules, the latest updates state that you need not apply for written permission from Facebook to run a promotion, nor is there a minimum media spend threshold. These documents can be viewed at here and here.

Practically Speaking

Browsing around Facebook, you will definitely find tons of guys running competitions outside these guidelines. Barring one or two major shut downs, Facebook has been keeping pretty quiet about the competition guidelines, and it seems that they are enforcing it only once a Page has overstepped other boundaries as well. For example, SocialRealtors, a Facebook Page with 47 000 Fans, was closed without warning by Facebook. The reason, however, had more to do with copyright issues than running competitions. It does, however, creates a handy legal lasso for Facebook lawyers.

At the end of the day, creating a custom FBML/iFrame page that aligns with your branding and allows you to flex your creative muscles while thinking of a marketing strategy may be a very good exercise for your company. Integrate that into your other social media channels, such as Facebook or even the new kid on the block, Google Plus, and you could really be on to something.

Best of luck.


To Like Or Not To Like, That Is The Question

According to the latest info from Google, the most visited website in 2011 is… wait for it: Facebook. What a surprise. The social network juggernaut beat YouTube for first position again, clocking in a staggering 880 million unique visitors. That means about 8% of the planet’s population has logged into Facebook so far this year. So, what does this mean for your business?

You can’t afford not to  have your business on Facebook. This is the place where you get in contact with your customer. This is where you can ask them questions, get honest feedback, see what they like and don’t like about your product or service.

HOW? Go to the Facebook Create a Page ( and follow the easy steps. You’ll probably start a Company, Organisation or Institution. Enter your company name, select the category of business, and you’re off.

The thing to remember is that Facebook is a social media platform. That means it’s about interaction. Dialogue. This is not a one-way street. This is not the place to start a Page and only post what you think. The whole idea is get a conversation going. It also means that, just like moving into a new neighbourhood, it will take a while for relationships to develop. First you nod and wave, then have a little conversation and pat the dog, and finally invite them around for a braai. Facebook works the same way.

HOW?  First you sort out some interesting content – something that adds value for a visitor. Then, you say hello on a few other related Pages. To do this, first click ‘Account’ in the top right corner, then select ‘Use Facebook as Page’ from the drop-down menu. Your new Page should be listed there – just click on the ‘Switch’ button, not the Page name. Next, search for some related Pages by typing in certain keywords in the search bar in the centre at the top of the page.  For example, if you are in the music business in South Africa, search for ‘SA Blues Society’ or ‘SA Music Is Lekker’. Click on their ‘Like’ button on their Page. Now, your Page should ‘Like’ their Page. This means that you will receive their news, and they will receive a notification that you have ‘Liked’ them, which means they will definitely be aware of you and maybe even ‘Like’ you in return. If they do that, your news will display in their news feed. And hopefully, someone will ‘Like’ it or comment on it, which sets the social wheels in motion. Awesome.

Your ‘Like’ button is your lifeline. The only way to make sure the right people get your news and updates is by getting them to click on your ‘Like’ button. If someone clicks on your ‘Like’ button, your news will display in their news feed. In other words, every time you post an update or comment on something or ‘Like’ anything, this will display on their news feed on their home page (not their profile page). So if you ‘Like’ Fender guitars’ comment about their new guitar pickups, it will display in all your Fans’ news feeds. If they also ‘Like’ the notification, it will display in all their friends’ feeds, and so forth.

HOW? Getting the right people, people who are really interested in your product or service, to ‘Like’ your Page is the main reason to have a Facebook business Page in the first place. The more visible you are on Facebook, the more people will come and visit and hopefully ‘Like’ your Page. So use your Page profile to ‘Like’ some relevant Pages, post on Page walls and take part in the discussion as much as you can. The Golden Rule to all of this is simple: don’t spam. When you make a comment, make sure it adds something to the conversation. If you spam, you will do your brand more harm than good, guaranteed.

Use the Facebook Insights feature. Insights allow you to track many useful things: how many people are visiting your Page, what pages they are looking at, their demographics, etc. You can, for example, easily use this to gain insights into your target market’s demographics and fine-tune your marketing approach.

HOW? Clicking on ‘View Insights’ on the right hand sidebar will take you to the Insights page. Here you will see information regarding everyone that has come to visit your Page. Later, when you choose to run Facebook advertisements to increase traffic to your Page, you can use this information to customise your ad campaign to tie in with your visitors’ demographics.

Facebook advertisements do work. Unlike traditional and print advertising, online advertising can be customised to a staggering degree. Whereas fliers under windshield wipers and junk mail in postboxes are the marketing equivalent of throwing a hundred darts at a dartboard and hoping one will hit the bull’s eye, online marketing allows one to zoom in on the target and hit the bull’s eye much more frequently.

HOW? In the right hand sidebar, Facebook will create a ‘sample ad’, which will display automatically if you are signed in with your Page profile. Click on your image or ‘Get more Fans’ to start the process, for which you will automatically be asked to sign in with your personal profile again. Once you have chosen your wording and image, you can continue to ‘Targeting’. Options here include having the ad displayed only to people who have friends that already Like the Page, for example. Clicking on the little question marks will give you more information on that particular option. Payment works on a bid system, whereby you will have to compete against other, similar Pages that vie for ad space in Facebook users’ sidebars.

In terms of different advertising models, there are two options to select from. Cost Per Click (CPC) advertising allows you to specify a certain amount that you are willing to pay each time a user clicks on your ad. Many CPC (cost per click) advertisers are more interested in having people click through to their website in order to drive conversions.

Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM) advertising allows you to specify how much you are willing to pay for 1000 impressions (views) of your ad. Most CPM (cost per thousand impressions) advertisers feel that it’s more important where their ad shows up and what it ad looks like. These advertisers are also more focused on spreading brand awareness than accruing conversions.

The best place to find out exactly how this works (it’s a lot less complicated than it seems) is from the horse’s mouth. Clicking here ( will take you to the Facebook help page that explains it all very concisely.

These are the basics of Facebook Pages. There is literally a mountain of information on good practice, both from official Facebook sources and third party writers, scattered all over the Internet. The points I have mentioned here are really just the absolute basic, and there are many other avenues to explore, such as using Facebook Markup Language (FBML), running competitions, tying together all your social media accounts to your website, etc. Please leave a comment if there is something that interests you or has you stumped and I will do my best to address it in the next blog. Thanks for reading.

To Know The Future, You Have To Look To The Past

On Saturday 28 May, Shapeshift moved house. Normally, this wouldn’t be reason enough to write a blog on – a simple email or Tweet would have sufficed. But in this case, I think it might be permissible to indulge in a little reflection.

Humble Beginnings


You see, Shapeshift started as a bunch of techie weirdos and geeks. Ambitious techie weirdos. And it started, as most good reality fairy tales do, in someone’s braai room. Jean-Pierre Mouton, our lead interaction designer, in this case. A couple of old desktops that were running on Windows XP and bubble gum, blue tack, instant coffee and a 56kbps dial-up modem. None of the guys had any real business experience, no real startup capital, no flashy offices and parking spaces. What drove them was a real desire to learn, to do everything to the best of their abilities and a genuine love for the internet and everything rebellious and free it stands for.

Jean-Pierre’s house became a split office / Ricky’s parents’ house, with the boys operating out of the front room. Designing logos and business cards had moved on to actual web design. CorelDraw had given way to Photoshop and CSS. A few bigger clients were picked up, word started spreading slowly. Then, about 4 years ago, the boys (the lady numbers wizard Elizma now included in their ranks) moved to the Durbanville office premises.

It was a big step forward, make no mistake. A reception room with sofas, custom-made built-in cupboards, logos on the windows, aircon and all those little things that make offices what they are. And a big old coffee maker, constantly filling the room with the nostril-tingling

aroma of real coffee, punctuated by loud screams of ‘Fresh pot!’ whenever it got refilled. It was cosy and comfortable and good while it lasted, but with eight full-time members of the team, the time has come for another change.

Hoogekraal Farm lies about 8 kilometres outside Durbanville on the junction of the Vissershok and Contermanskloof Roads. It has the bomb-proof build that real farm houses tend to have, as well as enough rooms for the farmer and his many offspring and townie visitors. Wooden floors and shutter windows, pantries and dining rooms all now quietly buzzing with bits and bytes sent and received.

Sustainable Growth


The growth here at Shapeshift has happened in a very organic way, a model of business championed by pioneers such as Yvon Chouinard from the Patagonia sports company, initiator of the One Percent for the Planet program – an alliance of companies that donate at least one percent of their sales to a network of environmental groups worldwide. In his own words, ‘At Patagonia, profit is not the goal, because profits happen when you do everything else right. In many companies, the tail (finance) wags the dog (corporate decisions). We strive to balance the funding of environmental activities with the desire to continue in business for the next hundred years.’

Shapeshift may not yet have the environmental focus or impact that Patagonia has, but the lines of thought have evolved in a similar direction. There is no real desire to go public as quickly as possible, to shift the direction and impetus of business decisions to a group of faceless shareholders. There is no need to cook the books every quarter to please investors, but rather an honest assessment of the true value and direction we are taking. Where the focus lies, instead, is on producing the products or tools that build value for our clients. As Chouinard notes: ‘If you create a demand, that is unnecessary. In other words, you’re selling to people who don’t need it, but want it: then you’re at the mercy of the economy.’

Why Do What We Do?

We believe in creating websites and tools that people need. It is for this reason that we are investing the time in creating website building platforms such as WebShift for small and medium-sized business. We believe that everyone needs to be able to represent themselves in a quality manner online; that startup businesses and people with innovative ideas should be able to use the digital world to bring their ideas to fruition, and that it shouldn’t cost them a second mortgage. We believe that this is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. And that the web is a space that should hold the ideals of equal access and connectivity in the highest esteem.

For a cup of steaming ‘Fresh Pot!’, drop in any time. Call Ricky on 072 105 7303 for directions.


By Ilze Hugo

If a company doesn’t have a website in today’s tech savvy market, it’s almost as if they don’t exist, says Jean-Pierre Mouton, co-owner and lead interaction designer at web production studio, Shapeshift: ‘A website gives you credibility. Being online shows that you’re reputable, that you’re not a fly-by-night.’But while it certainly helps, just being online isn’t enough. Your site needs to look good and work well too. Consumers are becoming increasingly web savvy and can spot a badly designed website a mile away, warns Riaan van der Westhuizen, a web developer at full-service digital marketing agency, Hello Computer. Just as not having an online presence can be bad for business, a shoddily designed site can also do damage: ‘If you’ve got a brand experience online and the text is too small, it creates frustration for the person interacting with that data,’ explains Mouton. A scrollbar or a link that is broken will irritate potential clients, leading them to assume that dealing with your company will be equally frustrating. A bad website says simply: You’re incompetent.

Speak to the right audience
So, what does a good website look like then? First of all you’ve got to understand who you’re making it for. Identify your audience and what they like – from graphics to types of interactions, content and style of copy: ‘Many designers blindly follow trends without considering whether those design trends actually fit their target market,’ says Mouton. Get a group of people that represent your target market to test a prototype of your website before it goes live says Van der Westhuizen: A good strategy is also imperative: ‘Before even starting the design process you have to develop a site strategy and decide what your goals are for the site – be it sales, brand exposure etcetera,’ says Mouton.

Think sexy looks and smooth sailing
‘When designing a website, you need to communicate a certain set of information to your users. If you don’t lay that info out properly it will get lost or your users will get bored and go somewhere else,’ warns Van der Westhuizen. The site needs to be laid out in a way that makes sense on an interactive level, so that users can interact with it in an intuitive way, says Mouton. One example is to put your search box at the top right-hand corner of the website where your users expect it to be. A user shouldn’t have to work for information. People are lazy, says Van der Westhuizen. ‘Focus on the main points and don’t force more info onto people than they are willing to read – keep copy clear, concise and to the point.’ Layout and colour plays a huge role in a user’s perception of your site, and can be used to visually point people in the right direction – highlighting the most important points and focusing their attention where you want it to be.’

With a content-heavy site, the challenge is to present it in such a way that users don’t get overwhelmed: ‘You have to ask yourself, how do I design it that user only need three clicks to get to the info he/she wants,’ says Mouton. A good designer will also program your site according to web standards and ensure that the site doesn’t discriminate against anyone. For example: You should be able to open it from any browser, be it Internet Explorer or Firefox.‘Beware of trying too many fancy things. Rather stick with what actually works, like menu bars that have words on, instead of pictures,’ says Van der Westhuizen. Another bad idea is fancy flash intros that take too long to load. If you’re a local company targeting middle income users in South Africa, keep in mind that your audience might have slow internet connections, so you can’t have massive videos that take forever to load. ‘When going to a restaurant, people want to see the menu and not read about the chef’s grandmother’s influence on the recipes. You need to know why people come to your website; who your target market is and what the most used internet connection is amongst them.’

The buck doesn’t stop when your site hits the net
Your site should be designed in such a way that you can measure your results continuously – keeping track of hits, seeing where your users are coming from and whether you’re getting the correct audience, after the site is up: ‘With statistics like Google Analytics you can even see which areas of the website somebody’s actually clicking on and which areas are being totally ignored by visitors,’ says Mouton. ‘Websites are dynamic platforms. Always keep in mind that your site will never really be complete because as markets, audiences and technology change, people interact with things differently and you constantly need to measure your results and tweak your website accordingly,’ says Mouton.

There are billions of sites out there and competition is tough. That’s why its hard work to keep your website highly ranked, says Van der Westhuizen. Regularly redesigning it ensures that users don’t become bored with the design and keep coming back: ‘Sites like Kalahari do this once a year.’ He advises looking at a redesign every 18 months. ‘Rather spend more initially and invest in a content management system that allows you to update the site yourself, with photos and content will work out cheaper in the long run.’

Be social or go home
Marketing on the web has changed dramatically: ‘A couple of years ago before the social media revolution we would do search engine optimization to ensure that Google’s bots found your site. That’s still relevant today but, because there are more and more people online, it becomes much more difficult,’ says Mouton. ‘For example, in one country there may be thousands of plumbers who are all competing to be number one on Google.’ With the invention of socially aggregated communities like Digg, Stumble Upon and Reddit, that aren’t ranked by Google’s algorithm, but by internet users themselves, ranking has become social: ‘It’s not bots ranking your site anymore, but people. That’s why social networking integration is so important. If you want to be ranked high on Google today you have to be ‘Liked’. The ‘Like’ button has been the biggest revolution in the social web. If your website is Liked, you are ranked higher, you are more relevant and therefore have a better brand. And of course this translates into hits as well. So marketing yourself online is very much tied around being social, being Liked.’ Also pivotal to your online marketing is a blog – which not only informs your visitors of what’s happening, but also establishes you as a thought leader; generates excitement around your brand and makes you look like an innovator. And if your content is interesting people will read it and ‘Like’ it. Others will pick up on this and it will snowball logarithmically. But of course, not all businesses have to be marketed in this way. Here again you have to ask yourself who are you talking to.’

Social networking is huge and one cannot afford to ignore it anymore, agrees Van der Westhuizen. ‘There are amazing things you can do with Facebook fan pages and Twitter these days. But if don’t know how to manage those things then it’s better to just leave it, as managing them badly can actually harm your brand.’

Choose an A-team
A good website isn’t just something you can slap together or get your young nephew to design because he knows a lot about computers, warns Mouton. The web has become a very specialized industry. Make sure the team you employ has the necessary experience and a proper track record. Ask to see portfolios, enquire about past successes and turnaround of sites. If the price seems cheap, go somewhere else. Says Van der Westhuizen: ‘With cheap options, clients often end up spending more money getting the site redesigned than they would have if they had just gone to a reputable company with a great portfolio the first time round.’ Also be careful of guys who claim to be SEO experts, he warns: ‘There are no magicians out there who can get your website onto the 3rd slot on Google by magic. It’s hard work. You need a website with good content and good links to other sites with good reputations.’

Originally published in High-Flyers Magazine, Issue 17. 3PHXU8TX3RVN.

Death of a Language

Vocabulary is on the endangered species list, syntax has been criminally evaded and grammar has taken a back seat in the national curriculum to more important subjects such as Responsibility Evasion and Facebook Friend Harvesting. What happens when a language flounders, chokes and possibly expires?

Words as Tools
Ludwig Wittgenstein, the seminal philosopher of language, had the following to say about language: “Think of words as instruments characterized by their use, and then think of the use of a hammer, the use of a chisel, the use of a square, of a glue pot, and of the glue. The use of words are as diverse as the function of these tools.” The problem, however, is when one does not know what a hammer is for, what a nail looks like or how to apply glue. The construction falls apart. And the same is true for language. Without knowledge of how to use the diverse tools of grammar, tone, register, syntax and structure, sentence construction falls apart. And with it, the ability to impart information, to communicate.

Par for the Present
In my time as a language teacher, I came across some horrendous language use. I don’t mean kids flicking erasers and calling each other chlorinated maggots, I mean jumbled prose and nonsensical tripe. But that is to be expected from the fidgety catechumens. It is not to be expected, however, from students in tertiary education about to embark on a career. And certainly not from those in the field of business that garner salaries larger than most tropical nations’ GDPs.

I lifted this from a random conversation on Facebook, written by students from an unnamed university in South Africa:

“Eish a neva ending debate coz n0bdy iz hapi blck or whte. Cnt we al just get al0ng “

Sadly, one needs a Enigma machine to decipher this. Or R2D2. I guess what the Facebooker meant to say was:

“Eish! This is a never-ending debate, because nobody is happy – black or white. Can’t we all just get along?”

One more, just for fun:

“I loved de show, it ws hot, nd im so neve gone buy steves cds or go 2 hs shows, he must be band out of sa!”

Which, when translated from English to English, means the following:

“I loved the show! It was hot! I will never buy one of Steve’s CDs or go to his shows – he must be banned from SA!”

“Band” is not “banned”. And Mr Hofmeyer uses backtracks, just for the record. Similarly, “too” is not “to”. And “your” is not ”you’re”. The latter two errors slip into many emails that appear in my inbox. The primary problems is not the amount of deciphering needed to understand exactly what is meant, but rather that meaning is completely altered, and not always for the better. Take the following example of accidental rampant sexism:

Woman without her man is nothing.
Woman, without her, man is nothing.

Punctuation could even change the course of history:

Ann Boleyn kept her head up defiantly an hour after she was beheaded.
Ann Boleyn kept her head up defiantly; an hour after, she was beheaded.

Of course, not everyone is a budding Hemingway or Steinbeck. And neither does one need to be, just to send an email to a client. Small mistakes will creep into the most scrutinised of copy, in spite of our best efforts. But language is made for communication, and lack of one will lead to lack of the other. The devil, as they say, is in the detail.

Need a little bit of clarification?

And just FYI

Queue Are Code

I’m not going to start this blog with something like: ‘You must have been hanging out in a cave for years if you haven’t heard of QR code’. Sarcasm is no way to start a polite blog post. I’m not going to say: ‘The ubiquitous prevalence of QR code signals a paradigm shift’ or some such linguisticarrogant (my word and I’m keeping it) drivel. What is true, however, is that those little boxes of black and white bitmaps that look like they were copied off the walls of Mayan ziggurats are everywhere.

From Vehicle Manufacturing To High Art

QR Codes or 2D Codes (or even Square Codes to the really nerdy amongst us) have been around since their initial use in Japan for tracking vehicle parts during the manufacturing and shipping process. In 2007, Italian artist Fabrice de Nola used them in his oil paintings and photographs, and soon the Pet Shop Boys and DJ Spooky were using them to connect audiophiles to websites ranging from music single downloads to information on Nauru, a South Pacific island. Since then, countless artists and institutions of all sorts have dabbled in QR code. Billboards, t-shirts, magazines, guerrilla marketing and business cards have all been done.

The Singularity

The real jewels, however, are those campaigns that manage to tie together different social media platforms to create a truly integrated experience. One such company is the Brazilian alternative to Amazon, called Editoras Online. They pasted QR code stickers all over a city, which took users to a website that drew live content from tweets with the word ‘Love’ or ‘Hate’. 200 sentences were selected each week to be published in a hardcopy book, which was sold on the Editoras website. An art, marketing and guerrilla interactive campaign, all rolled into one.

Tying It All Together

QR code is here to stay, as its quadrupled usage over the last year has shown. The challenge is not on whether to use QR as part of your campaign or not, but rather how you can tie QR into the existing social media channels, and then finally connect with a product or event in the physical world. Stickers leading to websites with locations and coupon or other rewards… a digital treasure hunt that rewards players (‘consumers’ and ‘users’ are just wrong) with real-world value: now we’re talking.

Create your own QR code.

Some great ideas on QR marketing.

And for those who like their commandments with a little less fire and brimstone.

Video Content & Crowdsourcing

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece on the rise of social media and viral campaigns, which featured Conan O’Brien and the Old Spice Man and their innovative use of the Web 2.0’s interactivity to promote themselves and their products. Of course, the big boys also get to the party at some stage, and Google recently came up with a brilliant idea.

Google has launched a slew of new applications over the course of the last month, everything from the well-known image recognition application Google Goggles, which functions like a combined camera and encyclopedia, to the little-known but very useful WonderWheel. The question is: how could Google create an advertising campaign that would showcase all their diverse applications while still maintaining fresh creative content? And do so cheaply? The answer is, of course, crowdsourcing.

The Solution

Step up Google Demo Slam. Anybody makes a video showcasing how one of the apps is used in everyday life, and each week two videos compete for the most votes, until the final winner is chosen. No cash prizes, no gimmicks. Only a glimmer of glory and bragging rights at the nearest high street coffee chain go to the winner. Google, on the other hand, are the clear winners. Massive exposure for their apps, massive doses of creativity from all angles, and all for free. Maria Sharapova even got involved, for crying out loud.

Here’s what Corey Christiansen, creative director for M80, the social media company that Google outsourced the project to, had to say:

“As far as Google’s objectives with Demo Slam – Google makes thousands of free technologies, but a lot of people don’t even know about them. We thought organizing the world’s most creative tech demo battle would be a great way to help educate people about what’s available and the many uses for each technology.”

The Future

So here’s the naked truth: we’re all advertisers. We’re all marketing machines. Like Jack London said between dog sled races and taming the wild: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Everyone has a webcam or camcorder, free video editing software and a YouTube account. Pick your target, and then go clubbing.

Go have a peek: