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.

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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 (http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php) 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 (http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=864) 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.

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.