All Articles Marketing Brands & Campaigns Don't be a Facebook failure: Unlock the viral potential of social media through contests, comments and sharing

Don’t be a Facebook failure: Unlock the viral potential of social media through contests, comments and sharing

8 min read

Brands & Campaigns

This post is by Jim Belosic, co-founder and president of Pancake Laboratories, the creators of ShortStack, an application built on the Facebook platform, which offers affordable, white-label tab design that includes contests, commenting, sharing and many other easy-to-use features.

Many Facebook failures begin with businesses following the old adage “build it and they will come.” That strategy is a holdover from traditional website design, and often leads companies to design a static, noninteractive informational page on Facebook that ends up being ignored.

Don’t: Rebuild your website within Facebook

Maybe you’ve only recently decided to approach Facebook for your business, or maybe you’ve gone through the process of creating a Facebook page weeks ago.  In either case, you’re probably wondering, “Where are my fans?” and “Where’s my ROI?”  Chances are, you’ve already made a Facebook faux pas; you’re either failing to connect with your fans, or as is more likely the case, you’re serving your visitors with nothing more than a static, rehashed site you’ve hosted for years on your company’s domain.

If either of those scenarios sounds familiar to you, those 520 pixels of Facebook gold you have on your hands are being squandered.  While failing to connect with visitors is an issue, duplicating your existing website on your Facebook page can be downright deadly. Google isn’t exactly fond of copycats, and depending on how you’ve structured your site, your SEO efforts and Google Pagerank could be at risk.

You can do so much more than rehash existing content on a tab.  You’re on Facebook — take advantage of its features by focusing your content on the social aspects of your business.

Do: Build uber-fans through socially engaging your visitors.

Ask yourself, “What is it people DO on Facebook?”  Your visitors aren’t mindlessly watching television advertisements; they’re actively engaged with their social experience and bouncing from page to page at a rate I’m sure we’re all too familiar with.

The obvious answer to the above question is that people love being able to show off to their friends, and they’re looking for any chance to do so. Showing off is a key part of the social experience, and it’s to your advantage to empower your visitors.

The Facebook platform enables page admins to give visitors something to show off in a variety of ways, some of which are easy to do:

  1. Using a tab-building service to socialize your design by putting in a comments section powered through Facebook’s social plugins.  This keeps your visitors’ information private, and allows them to reach out to you on your company’s own content rather than just a wall.  Empower them by recognizing their importance and responding with a personal reply.
  2. Let users share your content, not just your page. Place Facebook’s various social plugins directly on the content itself, and let visitors show off by being the harbinger of interesting videos, images and products.
  3. Run a contest directly on your Facebook page, make certain you enable all of the social discovery tools you can on it, but make sure the prize is worth the time to enter.  Visitors will be thrilled at the chance to win something good, and they’ll seek value in being the distributors of information by sharing the contest with their friends, but be careful with what you offer; a bad prize is often worse than no prize at all.

Interactive contests, commenting and sharing turns your Facebook presence into a vehicle to interact with users, gain loyalty, build your brand and increase awareness, but without these capabilities, a social media presence isn’t social at all. While you develop your Facebook efforts, make sure to focus on ways users can interact with your tab by including features that ensure your message gets passed around and talked about.

Don’t: Create content you wouldn’t share with your own friends, co-workers and family.

Name the industry, and you’ll inevitably have someone say, “If you don’t love it, your customers won’t either.”  Trite, yes, but true nonetheless.

Would you share another company’s birthday wishes to its senior accountant?  How about the new mission statement they posted (barring anything rather wacky, of course)?  Probably not.

Now, would you share that same company’s announcement that they’re offering a 60% coupon for the next six hours to celebrate their 60,000th Facebook fan?  Toy and clothing company Kidrobot did just that, and now I’m actively watching to see what they do when they hit 70,000 fans.

Do: Ask yourself, “Would I share this?”

Go ahead, browse your Facebook page, mouse over your wall posts and ask that question for each piece of content you’ve spent time trying to make even the slightest bit viral. This is the most important question you can ask and it will guide your Facebook tab design and content.

Traditional website content does not translate well into the social media universe. While an in-depth history of your company or a case study might be a great resource on a traditional website, your Facebook page must engage an audience with current topics and interactive contests.

One of the most interesting phenomena to be observed on Facebook is when users create new posts on their friends’ walls.  Not only are these posts highly relevant to their recipients, but they’re also coming from trusted sources.

This trust point is a big one, and it’s the primary reason I wouldn’t recommend attempting to connect one-to-one in a visitor’s own space. Instead, you should be using tools provided through Facebook’s social plugins to get your fans to do all of the sharing for you, letting you rely on the social graph to spread the word.

Don’t: Give up your goods without something in exchange.

You might be tempted to run a coupon campaign in a tab on your Facebook page, and it’s pretty clear that this can be a great idea.  The question to answer, however, is, “How do you plan to connect with that visitor after they’ve used your coupon?”

If you’ve allowed anyone at all to grab your coupon, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to connect with visitors over a period of time and build that social relationship you’re looking for.

Do: Turn “non-fans” into “fans” to build an effective Facebook presence.

A custom tab placed on your Facebook page has the ability to distinguish between “fans” and “non-fans” and can be used to build an audience through enticing visitors to “like” your Facebook page.  When Facebook loads a custom tab, several pieces of information are passed along to the server that takes care of serving your tab’s contents, and this “fan”/”non-fan” status happens to be one of those pieces.  It may seem like a small piece of information, but it can be used in a big way.  Throw some conditional statements around this little guy and you’re on your way to growing your audience through asking for a “like” in return for your content.

Whether you’ve built something yourself, or are using a third-party design application, a Facebook tab can easily restrict contests and giveaways to people who “like” the page. This feature gives Facebook users an incentive to “like” the page, and results in a rapid increase in a page’s like count. Since Facebook users who “like” a page are automatically shown that Facebook page’s status updates, growing your fan base like this allows your company to build an audience who will receive your messages regularly. Capitalize on your contests and giveaways by using this “fan” and “non-fan” distinction effectively, and build an audience of thousands of Facebook users for the price of a few T-shirts.

Don’t: Avoid building your Facebook presence because of a lack of time or budget.

Creating compelling content, building your fan base and maintaining your connections with your fans can be a pretty daunting task to begin with, and many companies choose to build custom Facebook tools to support these efforts.

Going through the hassle of hiring Web developers, or managing a development project of your own, can provide enough frustration to crush your ability to really connect with fans and visitors.

Do: Use effective design tools

Unlike traditional websites where design price tags run in the tens of thousands of dollars, social media design is a rock-bottom bargain. Facebook’s adoption of iframe apps opens up an entire universe of possibilities for the Facebook tab. By using iframe-based applications, you can integrate maps, newsletter content, Flickr galleries, YouTube feeds and e-commerce shopping carts with ease. Using iframes on a Facebook tab can harness the power of interactive media sites by integrating many features into a single, professional, multimedia-powered Facebook tab.

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