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Within mere days of Facebook relaxing its fan page contest rules, six companies came to market with tools to manage timeline promotions. How do these new products stack up?

There was only one way to find out. I held my first Facebook timeline contest and ran it through all six contest tools. Let me guide you through the tools as I experienced them.

My first stop was Shortstack, a product I’ve lovingly used for years. Its “Contest/Like Importer” was available to me as a paid subscriber of its services. (The importer is currently not available to Shortstack users with a free plan.)

I simply picked the fan page and post that hosted the contest then decided what data from the post I’d like to be downloaded. For example, if I had a contest that required an entrant to “Like” a post, I could tell Shortstack to just give me a download of the likes of that post. (My contest was a “leave a comment” type, so I got the tool to just download the comments.) This data download feature is handy if you need to sort entrants, check for duplicate entries, or share the entries with your colleagues.

If you’re stuck on whom to pick as a winner — or you’ve promised entrants that a winner will be chosen at random — you can have Shortstack pick a name out of a digital hat by choosing its “pick random winner” button.

It wasn’t the right time for me to think about a winner — so off I went to tool number two: Tabsite. The Timeline Contest App is available with basic functionality to folks like me who have a free plan. (More options are given to those who have paid plans.)

The download process is somewhat similar to what I’d just seen earlier with Shortstack, but what caught my eye here was Tabsite’s ability to create the contest post directly from its Website.

I then hit Woobox, a company like Shortstack and Tabsite that offers all sorts of neat features for Facebook pages. The good news: Woobox offered a downloadable list of contest entrants to both paid and free users. The not-so-good news: the contest functionality was not as intuitive as the ones offered by Shortstack and Tabsite. Truth be told, I couldn’t figure out how to use the tool without constantly referring to the directions.

Needing something easier, I moved on to Contest Capture, a free tool created by EdgeRank Checker. It provided a simple download of entrants’ likes and comments and didn’t require me to sign up for EdgeRank Checker in order to use the tool (although it did ask for my Facebook credentials).

The final two tools in my research were the easiest to use. The first of the two was the free “Facebook Flash Giveaway” offering from Rafflecopter, an app I typically associate with blog contests. The Flash Giveaway didn’t offer a download of folks who’d liked or commented on my contest post. The focus on this tool was simply to pick a winner at random.

Fanpage Karma’s “Good Luck Fairy” was run on a similar premise — it waved a wand and chose a winner at random.

The “Good Luck Fairy” gets a thumbs up for being the option out of all six tools that didn’t require access to my Facebook account. All I had to do was paste the URL of my contest post and click “Identify winners.”

While I like the simplicity of the tools from Rafflecopter and Fanpage Karma, I recommend an old standby, Random.org, to select a random number. Not only can you use it for Facebook timeline contests, but you can pull it up for blog giveaways, door prizes at speaking engagements, or any occasion when you need to choose a number without bias.

So which tool should you use? If you less than a handful of entries, a simple option like Contest Capture, Rafflecopter, or Fanpage Karma might work just fine. Photo contests or general promotions with a hearty amount of entries might fare better with the more sophisticated tools (Shortstack, Tabsite, Woobox).

Use this tool comparison chart to examine other factors before you run your next Facebook timeline contest.

Facebook Timeline Contest Comparison Chart

Which tool seems best suited for you?

Headline photo credit: iStockphoto

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Last week, Facebook modified its guidelines on running fan page contests. The new rules have opened up many more opportunities for companies to run more spontaneous contests, but they have not done much to give businesses more qualified leads or return on investment.

Facebook’s New Rules: A Primer
If your business has dutifully followed Facebook’s promotional guidelines that stated no contest activity was to be held on your fan page wall, you might be pleased to know that Facebook now permits some timeline contest activity. “Like this post,” “Leave a caption,” and “Upload a photo to our wall” contests are currently allowed according to Facebook’s recent page guidelines.

You may also require contest entrants to use Facebook’s message functionality to send you their entry. This type of contest entry won’t do much for increasing page engagement, but it does allow fans to send more personal or sensitive responses.

Contest Actions Allowed Under Facebook Promotional Guidelines

Note that contests that ask entrants to “share this post” are still not allowed under these updated guidelines.

What the New Rules Mean for Your Business
The change for some contest rules allows your fan page to instantly increase engagement levels. Want to have fun on a Friday afternoon? Post something like, “You want a 6-pack of our sugar-free cookies? Click ‘Like’ and one of you will get them!”

(According to Facebook, you’ll also have to post terms and eligibility requirements — along with a statement that releases Facebook of any liability or affiliation with the contest. This is a requirement for all contests, regardless of contest type or location on the fan page.)

Contests on your timeline (or wall) are also great for instant feedback. Need more ideas for a product name? Want to break an office standoff on the best logo for an upcoming service? Ask away with a “Leave a comment” type contest. Want to see how fans use your product or service — and perhaps use such photos for future marketing purposes? Ask them to take a photo of them in action and upload the pic to your fan page wall. (Note: Facebook prohibits fans from tagging themselves in content in which they are not physically present.)

The One Night Stand vs. Long-Term Relationship Pull of Contests

Maybe you seek the “one night stand” feel of quick wall contests. But as I explain in my ebook on Facebook contest strategy, your goals for running a fan page contest should be something more long lasting for your business.

Brand awareness is certainly a sustainable goal, but is hard to achieve with timeline contests for two reasons. First, the “share” mechanism is not allowed to be used in a timeline contest. That makes it impossible for fans to spread the word about the contest. Second, timeline contests cannot require that a non-fan become a fan in order to win. So your contest will not entice any new fans to “like” your page in order to receive messaging from your business.

Gathering market feedback is also a great goal of a contest. As mentioned earlier, you can request feedback rather spontaneously on the wall of your fan page. But if you want to ask fans a series a questions or ensure that fans are in your target market, that’s hard to do with a wall contest.

Adding entrants to your email list is also a tough task on a wall contest. Think about how you’d do that — you could ask entrants to leave their email address in a comment. But let me tell you, I’m out there online, but I’d have to be eligible to win something major — we’re talking a brand new Chevy Volt driven to me by Lenny Kravitz — for me to leave my email address on a public Facebook fan page.

You could ask entrants to message you with their email address, but then you’re left with the tall task of compiling and entering all the addresses into your email client.

Apps: Long-Term Relationship Builders for Your Contests

If you prefer the long-term relationship outcomes of your contests, Facebook’s contest rule changes will mean very little. Companies such as Shortstack, Tabsite, and Woobox continue to offer affordable, mobile-friendly options for contests that appear as an “app” or “tab” on your fan page. With these contests, you can easily upload contest rules, require an email address, and ask a short series of questions to gain market feedback, qualify your leads, and segment your email list.

Admittedly creating an app takes more time and might seem to take the “fun” out of hosting a contest, but these apps provide your business with much more than a quick click of the like button.

If you want to learn more about creating a Facebook contest that focuses on solid business goals, download my ebook “How to Create a Winning Facebook Contest Strategy” — a free gift to all my email subscribers.

Headline photo credit: Flickr CC/Pascal  

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LinkedIn is a network that you should visit daily for professional development — whatever your employment status may be.

What that said, is your LinkedIn profile ready to be seen by others? Here are ten suggestions to give you instant LinkedIn cred.

1. Upload a decent photo

Your LinkedIn profile photo sets the tone for everything else a viewer will experience on your page — just like match.com or Instagram. Except LinkedIn isn’t match.com or Instagram. It’s the world’s largest professional network. So that means:

  • No blurry photos
  • No photos of you cropped out of a group shot
  • No photos of you at a ball park (unless you’re gunning to work for one)
  • No avatars
  • And for goodness sake, no selfies! (That’s mobile camera speak for self-portraits.)

If you don’t have money for a professional photographer, get a family member, roommate, or neighbor to take your photo against a solid colored wall. Try a few standing, then some sitting down. Get a few with a formal shirt, a few with a “business casual” top.

Or consider the low-cost approach I took: bartering with a photographer for your services or product. This was by far the best deal I made in my first year of business!

2. Your headline = you, not your job

The headline of your LinkedIn profile is highly searchable. I know that no one on LinkedIn (or Google for that matter) is looking for “founder of Sierra Tierra Marketing.” So I list something more search-friendly that speaks of what I do on a daily basis — and for which people may want to hire me. “Social media consultant specializing in analysis, strategy, and instruction. Author | Speaker | Educator” paints a much better picture of who I am and how I can help potential clients and agencies with social media marketing.

3. Make your summary shine

Don’t let the positions in the “Experience” section do all the talking about your professional abilities. Many recruiters and potential clients won’t take the time to scroll that far without incentive.

How have you excelled at your job? Why do you often get promotions? Why did that last person tap you on the back (or send you an email) with “NICE JOB!”? Find common traits and spell it out in the summary, preferably with numbers or percentages of related increases (of sales) or decreases (of expenditures).

4. Update your most recent job

Even if you’re not actively looking for employment, review what your most recent entry is under “Experience.” Do you have a new title? New responsibilities? A recent accomplishment that speaks of your professional prowess? Be sure to list those here.

5. Add visuals to your experience

LinkedIn allows you to upload images, documents, and videos to each job you list under “Experience.” Why not liven up that section with visuals that show the greatness of which you’re capable?  If you’re a graphic designer, professional organizer, or landscape artist, show off your most stunning accomplishments. If you’re a storyteller, community activist, or professional athlete, use video to show your work in action.

6. Join more groups

At times LinkedIn might not seem like it, but it is considered by many to be a social network. Demonstrate your ability to network with like-minded professionals by joining LinkedIn groups. Look at your coworkers’ and competitors’ profiles to see which groups they’ve joined — pick the best of the bunch you find there.

7. Follow some influencers

By following LinkedIn “influencers,” you give viewers a sense of which thought leaders you respect — whether it be President of the World Bank Jim Kim, industrial psychologist Dr. Marla Gottschalk, or Nancy Lublin of DoSomething.org (or all three). Influencers regularly post to LinkedIn, so you’ll also be able to comment on and share articles that are meaningful to you.

8. Follow your own company

It’s surprising how many employees do not follow their own company’s page on LinkedIn. Where’s the company pride, people? Seriously, show that you’re a proud team player and affiliate yourself with your current employer’s page.

9. Select skills and expertise that you want to be endorsed for

There is a ton of controversy over the value of LinkedIn endorsements. But you know what? They’re here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. So use them to your advantage.

Make sure that you list only the skills for which you want to receive a thumbs up. Hide skills that will not speak well to the place you are now and the path you wish to follow in your career.

10. Edit your contact information

Where to edit your contact information on your LinkedIn profile

Did you sign up for LinkedIn with your work email address? Is that address still valid? It would be a shame for you to do the nine previous steps and then have a potential client or recruiter write to an outdated address.

What else do you want to know about LinkedIn? Ask away!

Headline Photo Credit: Flickr CC

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Do you yearn for something to tell you how to “be better at Facebook?” Look no further than Facebook Insights, the analytics platform built into all fan pages. Facebook provides these stats at no charge — all you need to do is click, read, and use the data to improve the performance of your fan page posts. Insights can help you with the following improvements to your Facebook marketing.

Optimize the times you post to your page

Insights can show you when your fans are active on Facebook. Let me use my business fan page as an example for this and all examples that follow.

According to my Insights, my fans are on Facebook every day of the week pretty much after 8am. That is a mammoth block of time — but I will consider the peaks of the “times” graph to better publish my posts for the widest possible audience.

When Are My Fans On Facebook?

I’ll also take into consideration where my fans are from — Facebook Insights also provides this information. Because I’m based in Boston, a lot of my fans are from the Greater Boston area. But there is significant representation from the West Coast, which is three hours behind me. So I play with an East Coast/West Coast timing schedule to catch these two important regions.


Uncover how fans discovered your fan page

By examining the data from “external referrers,” you can determine which Websites tempted readers to check out your Facebook page.

I see that my fan page got a lot of visits on August 1 and 14.  I got a lot of new visits to my Website on the 1st as a result of a book giveaway I was hosting. Most likely these new Website visitors wanted to learn more about me via my Facebook page.

On the 14th, my article on Twitter etiquette was not only tweeted out by a very generous Twitter influencer, but was also syndicated by the popular blog Social Media Today. My guess is that readers on my blog and Social Media Today were thinking, “Who is this Lisa Kalner Williams person?” and went to my fan page for answers.

My lesson here — I should continue to write about topics business owners and marketers are interested in. These readers will peruse the articles on my site, hopefully sign up for my newsletter, and then scoot off to further connect with me on Facebook.

Understand which posts get fans to do more than just “like”

When a fan is happy about what you post on your fan page, she will click the “like” icon. If she’s happy about what you posted and wants to learn more, she will click on a link or photo in your post. Facebook Insights has just made it easier to see which posts your fans found “clickworthy.”

According to this “engagement” column, it looks like my post about “4 Toxic Mistakes Business Make on Facebook” intrigued fans. Insights allows me to click through to get further details on that post.

Minimize posts that fans don’t like

Until Facebook launches a “dislike” button, fans currently show their displeasure of a fan page message by hiding a post — or unliking your page.  These actions are called “negative feedback” and are spelled out for you in Insights.

Evidently, I ticked off two fans on June 24. To be honest, I’m stumbling as to why that happened. The day before I had posted a video tutorial on how to set up saved searches on Twitter. I didn’t pay to have it bombard fans over and over — all of this post’s reach was organic.  And I thought the post itself was pretty innocuous.

Perhaps there was too much black space in the accompanying screenshot of the video. In any case, I know that I can’t be all things to all people all the time — otherwise, I’d be a robot, not a human being engaging on a social media platform.

If it’s clear to you why fans unliked your posts, be sure to avoid posting something similar in the future.

See fan page data the way that works for you

Not only does Facebook provide the graphical representations that I’ve shown in these screenshots, but it also allows you to download your page’s Insights as an Excel or CSV file. These files give tons more information and can be modified and sorted according to your preferences.

What questions about Facebook Insights do you have for me?

Add a comment and ask away!

Photo Credit: Flickr

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Like learning a new language, mastering Twitter isn’t just a matter of learning key terms. It’s also about understanding the culture in which these terms are used.

I am often asked the following four questions about Twitter culture and etiquette. Take my answers and apply them to what you and your business do when you tweet.

1. Should I follow every one who follows me?

Think of Twitter “follows” as valentine cards at grade school. You don’t want to be the person who gets all the valentines but gives none in return. Know why? Because it isn’t social — and you’re engaging on social media when you’re on Twitter. Being “cool” was fine in school — but on Twitter it really only works for celebrities. (I’m still waiting in vain for Lenny Kravitz to follow me back.)

Take a moment to look at the follower’s profile. Does she have a profile photo? Is it PG rated? Does she have a seemingly normal bio? Then show her your “social side” and follow her back.

When I tell this to my students and clients they bristle with, “But I don’t really want to read what she has to say.”

Ouch. Here’s the deal: you’re on Twitter, the greatest social listening tool on the planet. Want to know who loves vegan cupcakes? Buys purple eye shadow? Is renting a one bedroom apartment in Boston? Your answers can be had by listening to and searching for appropriate discussions. The best way to systematically look for these relevant discussions is to create saved searches and Twitter lists.

If your business is on a hunt for those vegan cupcake lovers, saved searches will help you wade through Justin Bieber squeals and reflections on coffee to concentrate on the terms that are most meaningful to you.

With Twitter lists, you can divide your listening of followers by categories. A real estate agent on Twitter might divide his followers up by “local folks,” “vendors and contractors,” “former clients,” “coworkers,” and “competitors.” When he needs to engage with former clients, he can simply click on that respective list and begin listening — without interference from coworkers, contractors, or anyone else he’s followed or established a list for on Twitter.

So yes — in most cases, give a reciprocal “follow” to be social. Then use saved searches and Twitter lists to listen to them only when appropriate. (I’ve created tutorials on searches and lists on YouTube to get you started.)

2. When I follow a new person, I often get a direct message from that person that tells me to follow them on Facebook or go to their blog. What’s that? Should I do that with my Twitter account?

That message is called an automatic direct message (an “auto DM”). Many Twitter apps provide this functionality so that users can tell their new followers about their other online channels.

This type of automation flies in the face of social etiquette. If I just met you at a conference, I wouldn’t immediately ask you to come with me to my office or home. That invitation would most likely happen once we got to know each other and mutual trust and respect were established.

The same rule applies on Twitter. Let your tweets gently hint at the great content you have on your Facebook page, blog, or other social channel. If your new follower finds the content there of value, he will check it out on his own accord.

3. Do I have to answer every reply or mention I get?

My sweet Lenny Kravitz has over four million followers. It would be nearly impossible for him to answer all the tweets that include @lennykravitz.

If your follower base is in the millions, I’d say it’s not worth your time to reply each time your username is mentioned on Twitter. If your base is substantially smaller, chances are mentions of you will be correspondingly fewer. So take the time to be social and engage with those who’ve taken the time to find your username and put it in their tweet.

4. If someone retweets something I posted, how should I respond?

If your posts are getting retweeted, congrats! That means that you are sharing messages of value on Twitter.

Try these two ways to give thanks to those who’ve taken the time to share your tweet (and thus give you extra exposure). The quickest way to give someone thanks is to “favorite” their retweet of your message. The favorite function is usually indicated with a star icon either underneath or to the right of a particular tweet.


Example of how to favorite a retweet on Twitter

If you wish to give a more personal thanks, send a direct message to that person. Again, don’t use the DM to tell the retweeter to check out your other stuff. Just use the message to send a meaningful thanks for the extra legs that person gave your tweet.

What other Twitter culture questions would you like me to answer for you? Ask me in the comments section! 

Headline Photo: iStockphoto

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