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    Facebook Contest Rules: New Guidelines You Need to Know

    Last updated 3 years ago

    Sweepstakes, promotions, and contests are popular social media marketing tactics on sites like Facebook. Spend any amount of time using social media and you’re likely to see all sorts of contests and giveaways. You may just want to try a contest to promote your local business!

    But, before you jump in, don’t just copy what you see another brand doing, because they may not be in compliance with Facebook guidelines. In fact, there have been a variety of fake contests and scams to hit the site recently. That’s one reason why the site recently updated their official guidelines for all promotions, contests, sweepstakes, etc. that use the site. Here are a few important points to be aware of:

    Get An App for That, or Go Offsite. The site now requires that all promotion on Facebook be conducted via Apps, using a Canvas Page or an app on a Page Tab. If you don’t want to use an App to run your promotion, consider running it on another site like your website or blog, and simply have contest participants like your Facebook Page as a part of that contest.

    Use the Allowed Functions. There are only three Facebook functions you can use as conditions of a Facebook contest registration or entry, according to the site. These include:

    • Liking a Page
    • Checking into a Place
    • Connecting to your App

    So, for example, you can’t create a contest on the site requiring people to post photos to your wall. You can, however, require that participants like your Page and check into your Place, as well as do other actions or activities that take place outside of the Facebook environment.

    Create Non-Facebook Entry / Voting Method. According to the guidelines, you can’t use a Facebook feature as the way to enter or vote in a contest. For example, the act of liking a page cannot be the entry mechanism – so no more “Just like our Page, and you’ll be entered to win!” If you wanted to do a promotion for people who liked your Page, you’d need the app you use to offer a way to enter, such as through providing an email address.

    Communicate Contest Notifications Outside of Facebook. You are not allowed to use any Facebook features to notify winners, including chat, posts or messages. So, make sure you collect an alternate form of communication information from all participants, such as an email address, so you can communicate with winners outside of Facebook and comply with this guideline.

    Use Proper Disclosure. The guidelines specify that all promotions using the site must release Facebook by the contest participant, specify that the promotion isn’t associated with or sponsored by Facebook itself, and tell participants that they are giving information to the parties running the contest rather than to Facebook.

    Don’t Use Facebook’s Intellectual Property. You can’t use the site’s name, logos, etc. in your promotion, other than to fulfill the proper disclosures that your contest isn’t associated with Facebook.

    Consult with a Legal Expert. Facebook is very clear that simply complying with their guidelines doesn’t necessarily mean that your contest or promotion complies with the necessary legal requirements. In fact, the site notes that: “Promotions are subject to many regulations and if you are not certain that your promotion complies with applicable law, please consult with an expert.”

    Make sure you read the Facebook guidelines in full before conducting a contest using the site, so you are aware of all the official guidelines, and consult with a legal professional if you need advice on creating official rules, terms, eligibility requirements, etc. to ensure the lawfulness of any contest or promotion.

    Have you ever conducted a social media contest? What creative ideas have you used to get fans and followers excited about your brand using Facebook, Twitter, or your company website? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments!

    Note: This post does not constitute legal advice on conducting a contest, promotion, sweepstakes, etc. Always consult with a legal professional if you need expert advice.  

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    Visualizing the Social Media Universe

    Last updated 3 years ago

    In the fast-growing, ever-evolving social media universe, there are countless websites, services, and trends to keep up with: Just how big is Facebook compared to other social sites? Which sites have the most users? How high is mobile usage on these sites?

    The creative minds at JESS3, an interactive data visualization company, have put together a helpful infographic that paints the picture of the “Geosocial Universe” to give you a sense of the social landscape.

    Interesting Facts
    Along with visually conveying the geosocial universe, the infographic shares some interesting facts:

    Mobile Devices: There are 5.3 billion mobile devices, with 880 million of those being in the Americas and 2.6 billion in Asia and the Pacific region. But did you know there were 333 million mobile devices in Africa? Mobile use is growing worldwide, and more and more people are using social tools on their mobile devices, an important factor to consider in your online marketing strategy.

    Communication: Skype is the largest social site in terms of users, weighing in on the top of the infographic with 663 million users. This social tool helps users communicate with individuals or focused groups of people through tools like chat and video chat, rather than incorporating a broadcasting approach that sites like Facebook and Twitter use. It’s important to realize that there are a variety of communication models that the social universe incorporates.

    Email: Email is still an important, powerful player in the social landscape. If you combined the user base of the three top email platforms in terms of number of users – Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Gmail – you’d get a user base of 830 million, outranking communications giant Skype. So, don’t overlook the power of integrating email in your social media marketing programs.

    As the geosocial universe continues to evolve, new players will emerge, and the giants in the space will continue to grow. What do you think about the state of the geosocial landscape? What’s do you think this infographic will look like next year? Share your thoughts, ideas, and predictions in the comments!

    About the Author               
    Tiffany Monhollon writes about social media, marketing, and local business success as the lead blogger for ReachCast, a service that helps local business owners develop their Web Presence.

    HOW TO: Create a Foursquare Special for your Local Business

    Last updated 3 years ago

    When Foursquare launched its Merchant Platform, it enabled local businesses to claim their business on the platform, allowing them to have more control over their Foursquare listing and provide better content for mobile consumers.  According to Mashable, over 250,000 businesses have joined Foursquare’s free business platform.

    But many local businesses are still left to wonder: why would customers want to check-in to my business on Foursquare? What’s in it for them?

    A special, of course!

    The attraction of Foursquare for many local consumers is the ability to take advantage of the specials being offered by businesses in their area. Customers can view specials when they “check in” to a business– and often get extra rewards for bringing friends, checking in multiple times, or becoming the “mayor” of a business.

    Types of Specials

    To offer a special, first you need to know what the different types of specials are on Foursquare. Some of these are pre-existing, like the Mayor special, but Foursquare has recently launched new varieties of specials that local businesses can take advantage of.

    Swarm Special – This type of special rewards “swarms” of people who check in to your business at the same time. You can set the number of people required to unlock your swarm special, as well as how many times the special can be unlocked, or redeemed, in one day. For instance, you can offer free beverages when 10 people check in to your restaurant. 

    Friends Special – Many things are better with friends, and specials are no different. So why not offer a special for customers who check in together, like a free appetizer for the table or a 15% discount on accessories to facilitate loyalty and word of mouth?

    Flash Special – A Flash special is basically a “door-buster” deal offered to customers who arrive and check in at a certain time. A freebie or discount can help you drive more foot traffic during slower times of the day.  For instance, a mid-afternoon “happy hour” deal is a great way to offer a flash special. 

    Newbie Special – If you want to entice new customers to try your business, offer a special just for “newbies” – or customers who check in to your business for the first time.

    Check-in Special – To keep customers coming back for repeat business, try offering a general check-in special that gets unlocked every time someone checks into your business. A small discount might be just the trick to bring a Foursquare customer back again and again, and to tell their friends about your business, too.

    Loyalty Special – This is similar to the check-in special, but rewards customers after a specific number of check-ins. That means customers have to check in at your business a few times before they can unlock your special, so make it good, like a free drink on every 5th check in to your coffee shop.

    Mayor Special – Being the mayor of a business is something to brag about, and should come with perks. So, offer your mayor – the person who has the most check-ins to your business in the past 60 days – something extra-special, like a free dessert with every entrée.  

    Creating a Special

    After you’ve claimed your venue on Foursquare, you can start offering specials to your customers. It’s important to understand what your customers want from your business in order to determine the type of special you want to offer, and for how long. Follow these steps to create a special

    1. Visit and select Manager Tools>Campaigns>Start a Campaign>Add a Special.
    2. Select the type of special you want to offer (e.g., Swarm, Friends, Mayor, etc.)
    3. Define the parameters of the special, if required. For example, if you are creating a Flash special, you need to define how many customers can get the special and what time of day you want to run the offer, like the first 10 customers who arrive after 3 p.m.
    4. Write a description for your special. Foursquare gives you 200 characters to write a message to your customers, like “Thanks for coming to Java’s Coffee Shop. Get a free pastry with the purchase of a latte.” You can be creative with your special, as long as it follows the general parameters of a “good” special.
    5. Add any fine print or restrictions to your offer, like, “Can only be redeemed between 3p.m. and 7p.m.”
    6. Click “Create Special” to finalize your special. If you have multiple locations, you’ll need to select at which one(s) will run the special. You can have different specials running at different locations, or a single special across all locations.  

    To make sure everyone benefits from your specials, teach your employees how to recognize and fulfill the special. Foursquare provides an employee flyer you can print and share with your staff. In addition, don’t forget to market your special to your customers via an in-store flyer, Foursquare window cling, social media, email, and more.

    Which type of Foursquare specials is your local business going to try? What are some creative ways your local business is using Foursquare specials to reward customers and increase business? 

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    About the Author
    Tamara Farley helps equip small business owners with information about local online advertising, social media marketing, and more as a blogger for ReachCast and ReachLocal


    Bing, Facebook & Social Search: What it Means for Local Business Marketing

    Last updated 3 years ago

    Recently, Bing, the world’s second largest search engine, announced they are making search more social with a Facebook integration that will both put social elements directly into search results and incorporate them into search algorithms. Essentially, Bing is now positioning itself as a search engine that can help you use your friends to make decisions you are using search to find information about. For example, you could use input from your friends on which sweater to buy, what dentist to choose, or where to go for lunch. By integrating with Facebook, the world’s largest social network, Bing can now use a wealth of personally relevant information to enhance its search experience.

    This move supports the “decision engine” differentiator Bing is trying to establish between it and competitor Google. The jury is still out on whether this deeper Facebook integration will increase search volume on Bing, but one thing is certain: it places even more weight on the value of social in search. Google has already begun to integrate social signals into search; now, there is even more urgency to address the social element in the search experience.

    So, what is Bing Social Search, and how does it work?

    Bing users who choose to log into the site via their Facebook account will be able to use the social search feature. Here are some of the key features:

    • Updated Algorithm: If your friends have liked a Facebook page, that will positively affect Bing social search rakings for any search query you type. So a page or website that would show up on page four of regular search could now show up on the top of your search results. For example, if you search for a local florist and five of your Facebook friends liked the website of Joe’s florist, their site will rank higher in your personal results.
    • Search Results: In social search, Bing will display the profile pictures of up to three of your Facebook friends who have liked a page that shows up in your results.
    • Popular Content: When a website shows up in Bing results, the popular content (like pages, posts, or recipes) on that site will be featured under the website’s search result.
    • Social Messages: In addition to seeing what friends are liking and sharing online, search results will display recent Facebook messages from companies a user searches for on Bing.
    • People Search: Not only will Facebook accounts be featured in the results for specific people, but searches of content related to their profile could also show up in results,
    • New Bing Toolbar: For users, this essentially makes the Facebook Like button universal. Whether or not a website has installed the Like button on their page, users will be able to like any web page using the Bing toolbar. Users will also be able to update their Facebook status, share content, and more, directly from the Bing bar.
    • Facebook Sharing: Users will be able to easily share content like images, videos, and products with Facebook friends with Bing.

    Check out this video for more details on how it works:

    Why Is Bing Social Search important for local businesses?

    In its promotional materials, Bing is emphasizing the importance of Social Search for consumers who want to make savvy decisions about what to buy and what local businesses to choose. The company has also noted that they will be incorporating more social signals (think Tweets, checkins, etc.) into their algorithm. As Social Search continues to evolve and become widespread, the emphasis on social integration may well become the standard across the search landscape. That means the building blocks of a solid Web Presence – search discovery, social discovery, brand engagement, and online reputation – will all play an even greater, integrated role in local online marketing:

    • Search: Companies with an active social presence will show up higher in organic search results as algorithms begin to directly incorporate social likes and shares.
    • Social: Businesses creating content for fans to like and share on sites like Twitter and Facebook will boost both search and social discovery.
    • Brand Engagement: Building a thriving online community for your business will help your brand beyond just having a presence on popular sites like Facebook and Twitter, because all the social signals fans and followers create will play a vital component in search engine optimization, too.
    • Reputation: Business reviews on third-party sites will remain a critical element of your Web Presence, but social signals such as Facebook Likes will also factor into how consumers see your online reputation – and whether or not they see your brand at all.

    Having an integrated approach to building a Web Presence that focuses on developing all of these elements is vital to marketing your local business online. That’s why local businesses that start applying a holistic approach to online marketing now and continue investing in Web Presence Optimization will be ahead of the game.

    What’s the future of social search for your local business?

    Related Resources

    About the Author               
    Tiffany Monhollon writes about social media, marketing, and local business success as the lead blogger for ReachCast, a service that helps local business owners develop their Web Presence.

    Google Places Optimization: Reviews, Videos & Images

    Last updated 3 years ago

    In the first part of this series, we covered optimizing the basic information in your Google Places Page listing, underscoring the importance of complete, accurate information. Now, we’ll focus on optimizing your page with reviews, videos, and images.

    1) Request Reviews – Google places pages with more quality reviews tend to perform better in local search, because reviews are an important factor in ranking with Place Search. So, a focus on getting positive reviews for your business is an important way to boost your overall search discovery as well as your Google Places SEO.

    You can ask happy customers to leave reviews on your Google Places page itself, and your page will pull in reviews from third-party sites review sites like Yelp or CitySearch, or even from the review tab of a ReachCast page. So, asking social fans and followers to leave reviews and putting up a sign or passing out cards to request reviews for your business are best practices that many experts recommend. You can also link to review sites from your website or Cast page to help generate more online reviews for your business.

    2) Upload Images – The web is an increasingly visual medium, so showcasing the life of your business through images is an important part of building a successful web presence for your local business. On your Places page, you can upload up to 10 images. The official Places Help center says to stick within these photo specs: 1MB, 1024 x 1024 pixels, and the following file formats: JPG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, BMP.

    If you want your photos to show up in a particular order, make sure the most important photos are highest in size and quality the site will accept, since Google Places will list your images in order of size and quality.

    In addition, Google recently announced that in select cities, it will be accepting applications for free 360-degree image photo shoots inside local businesses to showcase on Google Maps. Businesses will also be able to use these professional images on their place pages. You can learn how to apply for business photos from Google Maps on their application and FAQs pages. Here's a video about the new program:

    3) Add Videos – You can upload up to five YouTube videos into your Google Places listing using the “Add Video” section of your account details. First, you need to upload your videos to YouTube, since that’s the only video site Google Places supports. Then, simply copy and paste the video links into the video section and click “Add Video.” A thumbnail of the video will then be displayed on your Places page.

    You can upload videos from any account onto your page, but it’s a good idea to stick to videos that are either created by you or are about your specific business, like customer testimonial videos or news clips you’ve been featured in. Not only does adding videos to your Google Places Page help you share more about your business with potential customers, it can help set you apart from the competition as well.

    Start Optimizing!

    Have you claimed your Google Places Page yet? If not, there’s no time like the present. Once you’ve claimed your listing, make sure to optimize it for search discovery by paying careful attention to the details and covering all the basics. Here are some resources to help you start optimizing!

    Related Resources

    About the Author              
    Tiffany Monhollon writes about social media, marketing, and local business success as the lead blogger for ReachCast, a service that helps local business owners develop their web presence.

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