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A heap of recent social media research studies have shown that users Pinterest are more likely to make purchases (and for more money) than any other social network. These findings are great news for retailers, but a scary pants nightmare for Facebook.

The “Like” network’s past attempts to have commerce opportunities for brands (known as f-commerce) have found little success.  And since going public in May 2012, Facebook has struggled with a way to show investors a viable monetization strategy. Take that, combined with all the reports about Pinterest’s power to encourage sales, and you must imagine that Facebook is trying hard to catch its breath.

This year, Facebook seems to alternate between breathing in a paper bag and showing the world its increasingly “pinteresting” functionality. Here’s what I’ve seen of the latter thus far:

1. Fan page cover photo. Unveiled in February 2012 as part of the new Timeline for Pages, this was the first sign that Facebook started to embrace the power of evocative photos. No longer could brands use a landing page for fan-gated content and carefully crafted sales copy. Now it was up to business to upload an image that would encourage likes and prompt fans to share the page with others.

2. Pinned posts. Pinned posts were also part of the brand page overhaul. Now, where do you think Mark Zuckerberg and crew got that verb “pinned” from? I’ve brought this eerie similarity up before, but it worth revisiting in the context of this list.

3. Revised EdgeRank algorithm. Facebook uses a formula called EdgeRank to decide what posts get seen in users’ news feed. That’s right– not all posts go to all fans. The Social Network has just recently tweaked the algorithm to allow only the most engaged posts to appear. Think about what posts typically do well for you. I know that photos and inspirational quotes in image blocks do extremely well in terms of likes and shares for my clients. Funny that those posts are similar to what you see on Pinterest, huh?

4. Updated photo albums. I noticed the changes to this earlier in the month. Photo albums used to have small thumbnails on top with a description on the bottom. With this recent update, the photos are considerably larger and have hover capabilities. The album title and description are now centered and appear above the photos. A quick view to a Pinterest board (click this hairstyles board for an example) will reveal great resemblances between these two galleries.

Photo Album on Sierra Tierra Marketing Facebook Page

Photo album on my Facebook fan page. Note the album description now is above the photos.

5. Collections. Here’s where Facebook’s strategy begins to shift from pretty pictures to getting  fans to spend money while on brand pages. A select group of brands (many of whom do extremely well on Pinterest) have been given access to Collections, a way to format image posts to foster sales on its fan pages.

6. Want button: This feature, currently in test mode with the “collections” brands, taps into the “I lust for that” vibe of Pinterest but also encourages sales from (or on) Facebook. If a user sees a product in a collection that she absolutely must have, she can click “Want” and tell her friends why it’s on her shopping list. (Note: I have gone to several collections and a “Like” button appears where the “Want” should appear.)

It’s a matter of time before we see more ways that Facebook tries to literally capitalize on the current pinning frenzy. What Pinterest-esque feature should Facebook try next? Or should Facebook halt its pursuit of Pinterestifying its site?

Headline photo credit: istockphoto.com

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On a crowded exhibit hall floor, it’s hard to for businesses to attract attention. Your booth could rent a popcorn machine or hire a celebrity lookalike to pull in visitors — as many do. But do those stunts bring in meaningful traffic to your booth? How often do those booth visitors stick around, look through your merchandise, or ask your team meaningful questions?

If your business is already active on Twitter, consider using this platform to bring more qualified visitors to your booth. It’s certainly a more cost-effective way to drive traffic. And with strategic planning beforehand (along with the help from the five tips below), you can use your 140 characters to maximize the number of signups, leads, and potential brand evangelists at your event.

1. Find Out If Attendees Are Active On Twitter

A key way to determine the “socialability” of the conference is to hunt down a conference hashtag. Why is this important? Because if you add the hashtag to your tweets, it will be seen your followers in addition to conference goers who are following this hashtag. Without this hashtag, you’ll just be tweeting to your followers — many of whom will be hundreds of miles away from the exhibit hall.

Your conference host should have a good sense of the Twitter usage of its market. Two weeks before your conference, check the conference Website or Twitter account. Has an official hashtag been set up yet? If not, search Twitter or Google by using the name of the conference in quotes, the year, and the word hashtag. Here’s a search I did for a BlogWorld, a conference I will attend in June.

Searching for the BlogWorld East Hashtag

Using Google to find a conference or event hashtag

Once you get the hashtag, type it in Twitter or your favorite Twitter app to see if potential customers are already tweeting with the tag.

Be sure to also keep an extra eye on your competitors’ tweets during this time. Are they talking about the conference? If so, are those tweets getting many retweets or replies? What are those responses saying?

If not much activity is sparked prior to the conference, you may wish to save your contest for a more active event. If there is indeed buzz, than carry on with at least the next step.

2. Determine If Your Tweeps Are Mobile

Tweets from the International Reading Association 2012

Tweets from International Reading Association 2012 Conference (#IRA2012)

About half of all Twitter users use a mobile application to tweet. For a booth marketer, that means potentially one in every two tweeps may not have a handy way to show you a contest tweet, take and upload a photo to win a prize, or use a hashtag from the conference floor. If hashtag activity has begun for your conference, see from what devices people are tweeting. If you find folks are tweeting primarily from iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, or Android applications, you’re in luck. If the majority of tweets hail from the Web, a Twitter contest might not bear fruit for this conference … but keep it in your toolkit for an upcoming event.

3. Hook The Prize Back To Your Business

iTunes, iPads, and Starbucks gift cards are often popular prize giveaways at conferences. But they’re really the equivalent of that popcorn and Elvis impersonator I talked about earlier on. When your winner is  jamming to her newly purchased Jack White album or is nursing that tall soy chai, do you think is she going to be thinking about you and the products or services you represent?

Think about a prize that a winner will value,  remember you by, and perhaps purchase for or recommend to a friend.

4. Make The Contest Simple

Conferences are a busy time for both attendees and exhibitors. If the contest takes you more than 140 characters to explain, it’s too complicated for your information-overloaded attendees. An easy-to-enter contest also makes it easier for you to administer and choose a winner.

5. Offer a Wrap Up

Be sure to follow up your contest by announcing the winner. A happy winner could very well retweet your message to share her glee (and your username) with her followers. And thank all those who entered and who chatted with you about the contest.  A goodwill gesture like that might just overcome a tweep’s disappointment of not winning a prize!

What Twitter contests or promotions have you used at events? Which ones were successful? Which ones failed to reach its desired goal?

Photo credit: iStockphoto

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