Google Isn’t Worried

The success of Google+ will be one part Google genius and one part competitor shortcomings. 

FACEBOOK – The One Trick Pony 

Facebook is the most pervasive social network to date because it changed how we connect with each other in a way we never could have imagined.  I look at my Facebook Page and it’s like a time capsule of my life and relationships.

Unfortunately, Facebook does not give us much control over the content we consume.  The famous Facebook algorithm determines what posts are interesting to us.  Then there are a few simplistic ways to tailor our feed.  We can select people as “Close Friends” or decide on a friend-by-friend basis whether we want to view all, some, or just important posts.

Facebook hasn’t realized that we’re not always in the mood to read the same types of things.  Personally, I like to read news and tech articles in the morning.  By the afternoon, I’m in more of a Bravo TV and People magazine sort of mood – with a sprinkling of friends and family throughout the day.  The bottom line is that I love to research new social media trends, but not at the same time that I’m stewing over how stupid the Kardashians are.

Our Facebook news feed preferences are pretty static.  Facebook figures if you like to read the news in the morning, then you better like reading it in the afternoon too.

Google+ Circles gain an edge in this arena.  They let you filter your feed so whether you’re in the mood for Social Media, Technology, or trashy celeb gossip, you can switch from one to the other fit your mood.

TWITTER: A Disorganized Mess of Incredible Information

Twitter fanatics will crucify me for saying this… but Twitter is a mess.   It suffers from severe disorganization and Google+ is capitalizing on it.  Half my Twitter feed is filled with people’s comments to each other.  They’re out of context unless I click on the post to explore further and let’s face it… 9 times out of 10 I just don’t care.  I don’t want to see people’s comments unless it’s organized as a thread under a post that I find particularly interesting.

Twitter is one big guessing game (which to me, can often be a timewaster).  There are no thumbnails or article descriptions.  I can’t see photos unless I click on the link and my only clue as to whether I’ll like an article is the 140 character hook posted with it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do find a lot of interesting stuff on Twitter, but sometimes I have to wade through a fair share of garbage to find it.

Google+ understands that we are visual people.  I want to see an image and an article blurb before clicking on a post.  I want the comments and responses to be organized in a thread below so I know if I’m adding to the conversation or just repeating something that’s already been posted.

The great thing about Twitter is that it’s so public.  The awful thing about Twitter is that it’s so public.  Twitter is an amazing resource because you can follow so many different people with so many different interests without having to be friends.  This makes for an amazing resource, but it also might limit what you want to share.

A few months ago I found myself interviewing for a new job.  I had to fight the urge to retweet Howard Stern or reply to anything that could appear unprofessional to a potential employer.  With Google+ Circles I can post publicly the topics that I want to discuss with the world and more privately on ones that are just guilty pleasures.

Google Genius

While Google+ Circles are the answer to most of Facebook and Twitter’s shortcomings, Google’s genius makes G+ a force to be reckoned with.  G+ offers the most control along with the most intuitiveness of any network available.  Plus, Google is standing behind its commitment to integrate the tools so they can all be accessed in one place.

Google+ is becoming more and more integrated with Gmail.  Whenever you receive a G+ notification, you can intiate hangouts from chats and comment and +1 posts from your email.

Google Local is now officially a G+ feature so while you’re sharing funny cat videos with your friends, you can easily look up reviews for local pet stores.

If you own an Android phone, you can allow your photos to be automatically uploaded to the site (a huge timesaver) and then edit them right in Google+.  Hangouts are better than Skype because you can involve multiple people and share your screen all while wearing a pirate hat and… it’s all free.

Events are far more organized and easier follow with than a Twitter.  Plus they can support tons of photos.  Just check out this transcript from a weekly #GardenChat on Twitter and try to make sense of it.  Then compare it to a Google+ fruit tasting event at Andy’s Orchard.

It’s only fair to compare G+ to its social network competitors.  But while G+ has improved upon a lot of it’s competition’s shortcomings, it’s important to see that Google comes to the table with a lot of innovation that the other networks had never considered or attempted.  Say what you will about the Google+ following, their organic growth will continue to build and integrate into the tools we already use every day.  It won’t happen overnight, but it’s bound to come. 

Afterall, it’s Google.  What’s the rush?

This blog is part of a week long Google+ series.  To read more about G+, choose any of the blogs below:

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FINALLY! Google+ Strategies for Businesses

This is the blog businesses have been waiting for!  I am going to tell you exactly what strategies you should use on Google+.

Remember when businesses first started joing Facebook?  No one knew quite what they were doing so they mostly just spammed fans with promotional posts.  So it’s no surprise that barely a year after the launch of Google+, businesses still aren’t clear on how to use it.

Where does Google+ fit into your social media marketing strategy?  Think of it this way.   Your website is the professional face of your company.  It hosts a lot of information, but it’s not particularly interactive.  Your Facebook Page waters down that information into conversational posts.  Twitter takes engagement to a different level as an real time customer support tool.  Each network should build itself around a different angle or facet of your business to build familiarity and excitement around your brand.  Let Google+ take your audience behind the scenes of it all.

Give your viewers an exclusive G+ experience that they cannot get from your other social profiles.  If Facebook represents your brand’s image, then let Google+ reveal the company and culture behind it.

So how do you break down the fourth wall (so to speak)?  Let’s take a look at some strategies by industry.

  • Fashion: Fashionistas would die for the chance to join a Google+ Hangout with Christian Louboutin and ask him directly about his inspiration! Fashion fans are hungry for insider information about their favorite designers and upcoming trends.  Reveal exclusive images of patterns or fabrics being considered for upcoming lines and get their feedback.  Give sneak peaks of what’s coming and they’ll pledge their loyalty to your G+ Page.
  • Retail: Retailers have some of the most loyal fans!  Share photos of your engineers or design team working on upcoming products.  Share sketches and mock ups and bring viewers in on the process of how it travels from concept to completion – all while building enthusiasm for upcoming products.
  • Food and Dining:  What does it look like in the kitchen on a busy Saturday night?  Foodies would love to see videos of their favorite restaurant’s head chef creating that night’s special.
  • Art: Museums should regularly feature Curator Hangouts, where art lovers can ask questions about current exhibits and the specific artists or pieces on display.   I would love if galleries gave a behind the scenes look at where artwork is stored when not on display or posted video of a gallery going from blank walls to a newly launched exhibit in fast motion.  Give first looks at newly acquired artwork before it even goes on the walls!
  • Tech Companies:  Set up G+ Events for new product launches and let your fans share the first photos and reactions in one place in real time to amplify their excitement!

These strategies are just a start so use them as a launching pad.  Google+ is still considered somewhat of an underground social network.  It’s the perfect place to make your fans feel like “insiders” with rare glimpses into your business that they won’t find anywhere else.

I know I only covered a handful of industries, so feel free to submit others in the Comments below or on my Google+ Page and I’d be happy to offer some strategies for those as well.  What ideas would you suggest for Google+ business pages?

This blog is part of a week long Google+ series.  To read more about G+, choose any of the blogs below:

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Join Google+ … Before Your Fans Leave You on Facebook

Before I offer some Google+ strategies for specific businesses, let’s talk about why your fans are getting sick of your Facebook and Twitter Pages.  There is a big difference between an incredible brand and incredible social media.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because a page has a massive following that their social media is all that exciting to their followers.

Initially, social media was an opportunity for brands to show a little personality and interact directly with their customers.  But just like anything else, brands went from not having a clue how to do that to perfecting it to the point that everyone follows the same formula and posts are starting to look remarkably similar.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look at posts about the 2012 Olympics by some top brands.

Olympics Facebook Posts

Don’t get me wrong, some brands still feature a unique social media persona.  Applebee’s Lunch Decoy is pretty darn clever and show’s a sense of humor you don’t always see on brand pages.  But just for fun, visit a handful of Facebook pages and count how many times you see the following posts from the past week: Caption Contest, Fill in the Blank, Open-Ended (but mundane) question, sweepstakes, or the celebration of a weird holidays like National Cheesecake, Chocolate, or Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Retailers are especially guilty of falling into a routine of formulaic posts that get plenty of Likes and Comments, but more so because the brand itself is so beloved – not because the content itself is all that interesting.  As you read through brand posts, start asking yourself, “If this was a small no name brand, would anyone respond to this content?”

In a weird sort of way, these are the types of posts that fans have come to expect on Facebook.  They’re easy to Like and comment on and there’s an unending stream of sweepstakes and contests.  Unfortunately, they’re also easy to tune out after a while when you see the same repetitive content in your News Feed.

Google+ is an opportunity to return to the foundation of what draws your clients and customers into Social Media Marketing in the first place – Authenticity and transparency.  In my opinion, exclusivity is key to Google+ strategy.  Offer an experience that fans and potential followers can’t get on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or your website.   One strategy is to remove the veil to reveal a behind-the-scenes look at your business, your products, your employees, and more.

Tomorrow’s blog will offer some industry specific strategies and content ideas that you can start implementing on your G+ Page right away.

This blog is part of a week long Google+ series.  To read more about G+, choose any of the blogs below:

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Go on a Google+ Binge

Google+ IconCome along with me on a Google+ binge!  Starting last week, I opted to make G+ my primary social network.  This network is superior to its competitors in so many ways, but suffers from one big drawback…. none of my friends are on it.  Because of that reason, I’ve been reluctant to dive in headfirst.  Now that I’ve embraced it completely, I can’t get enough.

As part of my G+ binge I will be posting a series of G+ related blogs over the next week or two addressing:

  • Google+ strategies for different businesses and industries
  • Why G+ isn’t a powerhouse… yet
  • The G+ Wishlist!  Which features are we dying for Google to roll out
  • The best of G+: Which accounts should be in your Circles

Here’s how you can binge it up on Google+ with me:

Fill your calendar with G+ Events:  Scroll through the endless list of public events on G+ and find one that floats your boat.  Whether it’s watching the Full Moon at the Golden Gate Bridge  or joining the NASA Mars Rover Landing Party  you’ll there really is something for everyone.  You’ll get an opportunity to share photos and comments with others who are either physically at the event or just following online – all in real time.  Some of the most amazing 2012 Olympics photos I’ve seen were posted to the Opening Ceremonies Event Page Worldwide Watch Party.

Opening Ceremony G+ Event

2012 London Olympics

Achieve Super User Status: Google Local is alive and well and teaming with Zagat to review and score local businesses.  As a Super User, your reviews will be marked as a such and carry more weight, meaning you get to influence the search rankings in your area.

Start by reviewing a lot of Google Local listings.  I’ve read that 50 is the number to meet, but I’m not entirely sure.  It’s also important that other people Like your reviews so make sure you include some really useful tips.  The more you review, the more likely it is that you’ll get some Likes.

G+ TIP: If you find any inaccuracies or missing information in a listing, click on the button to review the listing, then click “Edit Business Details” in the bottom right hand corner of the pop up.  That will allow you to suggest alterations to Google. 

Editing G+ Local

Google Plus Local

Embrace the Circle: The best part about Circles is your ability to filter your stream by different topics and groups of people.  When I want to see what’s going on with the people closest to me, I click on “Friends and Family.”  When I want the latest and greatest in Social Media, I’ve got a separate circle for that.  If I just want to be surprised, I click on my “Daily Dose of Interesting” Circle.

The point is that no matter what I’m interested in or if I want to interact with close friends or virtual strangers that share my interests, I can easily bounce from one group to the next.

G+ Tip: Check out the sliding bar at the top of a filtered stream.  This lets you control how much content from that particular Circle appears in your Home stream.

G+ Slider

Spread the Word: Let’s face it.  The only reason not to be on G+ is that a good chunk of your friends haven’t migrated over.  Convince one other person to go on a G+ binge with you.  In the meantime, circle me and that will be at least one more friendly face for you to connect with.

What are you waiting for?  Get your binge off to the right start by letting me know what your thoughts are about Google+.  I want to know what you like, but also what’s driving you nuts.

Happy Binging!

This blog is part of a week long Google+ series.  To read more about G+, choose any of the blogs below:

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Your Business Needs a Twitter Page When…

Twitter has been making headlines lately for breaking news stories and celebrity feuds, but businesses are still unclear on how it might fit into their online strategy.  Twitter can be a powerful tool for marketing, customer service, and industry research.  Here are 5 reasons Twitter might be a good fit for your business:

1. You want more people to visit your website
Your Twitter bio is a perfect place to add a link to your website.  Anyone who’s intrigued by your tweets can easily click the link to learn more about you.  Not a bad way to drive more traffic to your site.  If SEO is important to you, consider adding your Twitter feed to your website.  Search engines love sites that update their content regularly.  A Twitter feed is one way to do that.  As you regularly tweet, using keywords from your industry, you’ll simultaneously be refreshing your site with the keywords that people will use to search for your business.

2. You want to attract a larger market
Whether you sell your products and services locally or worldwide, Twitter amplifies your reach.  You can even narrow down your search geographically to find people talking about your industry nearby.  For example, a CPA could specifically search people using the keyword “taxes” within a 15 mile radius of where their office is located.

Of course, it never hurts to build widespread brand recognition.  This is fantastic for businesses who sell their products online, but also beneficial to businesses that are locally driven.  It’s no secret that online reviews can make or break a business.  Each person that you connect with on Twitter is a potential brand advocate.  Even if they don’t live close enough to become a customer, they can post wonderful things about your customer service or your level of expertise on your Social Media Pages and even online review sites.

3. Customer service is important to you
Consumers love using Social Media to talk to businesses directly when they have questions.  They are likely to tweet you with questions about your products or services because it’s easier than dealing with automated customer service phone lines.  Twitter also makes it easy to know when people are talking about your business specifically.  What a great opportunity to target and interact with people who are mentioning your brand.  You can thank people for kind words and address any bad reviews.

4. You want to be a leader in your industry
Tweet about what you know best!  People will follow you because you are an interesting resource for the topics relevant to your business.  Using hashtags and keywords, you can start or join conversations about the topics most relevant to your business.  You can even use Twitter to search specifically for questions about the topics you know the most about.  Imagine introducing people to your brand by answering their questions about your industry.

5. You want to learn more about your industry
Using hashtags and keywords, you can find tweets about the topics that are relevant to your business, ask for advice, and exchange tips with other tweeters who are knowledgeable about your industry.  You can learn what’s happening in your industry from businesses all over the country.  You instantly have access to a far reaching pool of industry leaders who are quick to talk with you about their experiences.  Gain insights into industry trends, pitfalls, and tested advice.

Twitter can be an incredible marketing tool for businesses who understand how to use it to their advantage.  Knowing what Twitter can do for your business is the first step in making it part of your Social Media Marketing strategy.

Your Parents Were Wrong About Strangers

I finally tried out Pinterest and it assured me of two very important things. 1) I have an incredible sense of style, and 2) consumers will trust a stranger much more than they will a business.  Let’s rewind a little.  Pinterest is a site that lets you collect all the things you love and organize them in one place under themes of your choosing.  I pulled together several home décor items I’ve been coveting online and in minutes could see my kitchen and family room coming together.   I was thrilled when strangers appeared out of nowhere to Like, Comment on and Repin many of the items I found.  Much to my husband’s dismay I now have an army of online strangers that agree with my choice of yellow plates.  I had stared at these items online for weeks, but it wasn’t until a horde of strangers told me they loved my choices that I decided to pull out the credit card.

Consumers don’t trust businesses because they don’t have to anymore.  Instead they turn to friends and strangers on Social Media to get the real scoop.  It’s completely changed the way businesses should market to their audience.  You need your customers and fans to talk to strangers about your business and create a spotlight on your brand. This happens when businesses spark a conversation and then promptly hand over the reins to their followers.  Your marketing is much more powerful when it comes from a customer or stranger, rather than your business itself.   We trust the picture of a restaurant’s food that someone posted on Foodspotting more than the description listed on the restaurant’s website.  We’re more likely to visit the mechanic that’s been visited by hundreds of people on Foursquare than the one who promotes an oil change deal on Facebook week after week.

People will trust what strangers have to say about your brand, but you have to give strangers encouragement to post photos of your products and talk about your services.  Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Take the sales pressure off your Followers!  If all your posts start with “Buy this…” “Check out that…” “Visit this…” then you’re not staying true to your brand.  If you talked to a customer that way in real life, they’d be out the door as quick as possible.  Social Media is no different.  Use interesting posts that are 
    relevant
     to your brand without continuously trying to sell your brand.  This is much more fun for followers and allows them to let their guard down and get to know you a little better.
  • Use contests to encourage fans to talk about your brand, post pictures of your products, and share them with strangers.  Modcloth is promoting a wedding themed Pinterest Contest to encourage fans to create collages inspired by the Modcloth brand.  They are cross-promoting the contest with #wedding and #Modcloth hashtags and Facebook posts.  It’s a perfect combination of giving your current fans an opportunity to become brand ambassadors while spreading the word to strangers like wildfire on multiple social networks.
  • Let people know about your Social Media Pages!  This may sound obvious, but you’d surprised at how many people do not have all their Social Media icons listed on their website, forget to add them to their business cards and never mention them to anyone who steps foot inside their business.  If the people who already love your business don’t know you’re online, how can you expect them to turn strangers into customers?

Strangers are the key to promoting your business online.  Whether you like it or not, your future customers don’t trust your business as much as they trust strangers.  The best way to foster word-of-mouth is to create outlets for people to talk about your brand.  Give the reins to your followers, but point them in the right direction with interesting posts, occasional contests, and continuous interaction.  What they have to say about your brand is much more powerful than anything you could post about yourself.

7 Resolutions to Make your Social Media Kick Ass in the New Year

It’s that time of year again!  Time to take stock of our businesses and establish goals for the year ahead.  Whether you’re determined to drive more sales, boost clientele, or expand your market, it comes back to a commitment to get the word out.  Social Media Marketing is not only the norm now, but is becoming more and more sophisticated and complex by the day.  No need to worry!  These Social Media New Year’s Resolutions will keep you on the right path all year round.

1. Post regularly and consistently

A lapse in posts is a kiss of death to your Social Media Marketing.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.  When people find a Page that no one has posted on in weeks (or worse, months) and sometimes several months, they assume it’s no longer active and move on.  You’re better off not having a Social Media Page than having one that’s inactive

2. Lay off the sales pitches

Social Media is not meant to be a billboard.  Social Media is meant to be… well… social.  It’s an extension of your business.  If someone were to walk into your store or office, you wouldn’t go straight into a sales pitch, would you?

A continuous stream of self-promotion may attract some of your current clientele but does little to generate new followers (aka new business).   Even your most diehard fans will get bored with uninterrupted posts about sales, products, and pleas to come visit.

3. Keep it interesting to keep them coming back

Figure out who your demographic is and what interests them, and then post about that.  Say you own a children’s store.  Your target market may be interested in more than your new shipment of stuffed animals.  They may be interested in healthy recipes for the kids and fun activities that keep them moving.

This may be a good opportunity to take on the role of educator.  Share interesting facts and resources.  Pretend you own a winery.  You could post interesting facts about the history of wine, feature articles about the proper way to taste wine, make wine pairing suggestions for specific meals.

4. Acknowledge your fans

Social Media is not a one way street.  Elicit fan posts with questions, polls, competitions and more.  Respond to every comment promptly.  When you build relationships with your fans, you’re also arming them to be your biggest evangelists.  Consider this:  Every time a fan comments on your Wall, it appears in their stream for all their friends to see.  Talk about word-of-mouth!

5. Market your Social Media Pages

Unless you have an extremely well-known brand, people will not just FIND your Social Media Pages.  This is the year to develop a strategic web strategy and attract new followers.  Mention your Pages in online forums, share the links whenever possible, and incorporate them into your other marketing efforts.

6. Claim your business Google+ Page

Google+ is expected to grow exponentially in 2012.  Don’t get left in the dust.  If you’re not ready to commit to Google+ just yet, try posting something once a week for now just to stay in the game.  This way you’ll be able to transition quickly when you’re ready to jump in with both feet.

7. Measure your results

All the time and effort you put into your Social Media Marketing is worthless if you don’t know how many people you’re attracting and whether they fit into your target market.  Learn how to make Facebook Insights work for you.  This also may be the year to invest some time and money into a dashboard or hire a Social Media Marketing firm, even if it’s just to measure your results.

A few things you should be measuring: Am I posting at the right times?  Am I posting enough?  Am I hitting my target market?  What posts do people click on?  What posts do people ignore?

Commit to these 7 Social Media Resolutions and you will have a successful marketing campaign.  The biggest commitment, however, is time.  Earmark the time needed to fulfill each resolution.  Figure out which resolutions you can realistically make the time for and hire someone to do the ones you can’t.  It’s that simple.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Franklin Park Library.

Avoid Facebook’s Bad Side… Use an App – Facebook Sweepstakes: Part 2

Everywhere you look, businesses are advertising a new Facebook promotion.  We offered up a variety of contest ideas in our last webinar, Keep the Holidays Jolly with Social Media Marketing

These promotions are a Win Win.  Fans get the opportunity to vie for prizes and interact with their favorite brands, while businesses grow their fan base and engage in a fun way with their customers. 

What most people don’t realize is that there are very strict Facebook Promotions Guidelines. Ignoring these rules can turn an opportunity into a nightmare if Facebook suspends or deletes your account for violating Facebook Terms of Use.  Facebook apps have been designed to make your promotions look polished, while keeping you out of trouble. AppBistro lists promotion apps from several different creators at different price points.  Shortstack offers a free account option to get you started.  A good app and a basic understanding of Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines will keep you out of hot water.

This is NOT a Facebook promotion!

All of Facebook’s Rules come back to a single idea:  They do not want to be associated with your promotion!  In other words, make it abundantly clear to your entrants that Facebook does not sponsor or endorse your promotion.  Find an app that takes care of the fine print, like clearly stating that the info being provided is for you, not Facebook.

Your Wall is not the place for a promotion

You can’t simply post a promotion on your Wall or ask Fans to post photos or comments to your Wall as a condition of your contest.  Facebook considers this as using “Facebook features or functionality” to participate in your promotion.  Apps can create a special tab for entrants to do things like vote or upload photos so that it’s not directly on your Wall.

No “Liking” Allowed… or is there?

Let’s face it, the primary goals of a Facebook promotion are both to grow and engage your fan base.  Facebook says you CANNOT ask Fans to Like your Page in order to enter your promotion.  However, you CAN ask people to Like your Page in order to view more information about your sweepstakes.  Apps with a fan gate will require entrants to Like your Page in order to view the content on the promotion tab and then enter.  This way, you still get those new Likes without breaking any rules.

Don’t let certain words get you in trouble

Most apps give you the option of customizing text to explain your promotion.  Think very carefully about the wording of your promotion.  Facebook even differentiates between “contest” and “sweepstakes.”  If your winner is chosen entirely by chance, like a random drawing, then you’re holding a “sweepstakes.”  If your promotion requires any kind of skill, like playing a game or submitting photos, then you’re holding a “contest.”

Did you know that the word “Wall” falls under Facebook’s copyrights and trademarks?  When advertising your promotion, or writing the text for your contest app, play it safe and avoid using words like “Wall” and “Like” in association with your contest.

Collect Email Addresses!

When Facebook says they don’t want you to use “Facebook features or functionality” in association with your promotion, they are referring to more than just Likes!  You cannot notify your winners by posting on your Wall, their Wall, or even messaging them through Facebook.  You have to find an alternative way to announce the winner, like sending an email or calling them.

The rules surrounding Facebook promotions can be intimidating, but don’t let them dissuade you from coming up with your own promotions!  Contests and sweepstakes are an incredible way to attract new Fans, interact with your customers and make your Page a little more fun!  A simple app will help you avoid any pitfalls and remove a lot of the guesswork.   If you’re STILL unsure about what’s right or wrong, send us an email and we’ll point you in the right direction.  

Don’t miss out on Part 1: Nothing Says “Happy Holidays” like Free Stuff!  Facebook Sweepstakes

Nothing Says “Happy Holidays” like Free Stuff! Facebook Sweepstakes: Part 1

Nothing makes the holidays merrier than free stuff!  With the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, businesses are looking for inventive ways to catch your attention.  Facebook sweepstakes and contests are a Win Win.  Not only do you get a chance to win prizes just in time for the holidays, but businesses can get your attention during the busiest shopping season of the year. 

Here are 5 Facebook sweepstakes and contests to cover everyone on your shopping list and even spread some holiday cheer with others.  Don’t delay!  With the holiday’s just around the corner, some of these sweepstakes end very soon!

Amazon

 Sweepstakes ends December 6th

Amazon has something for everyone and they’re hoping that their sweepstakes is too good to keep to yourself.  The Win With Friends Sweepstakes will not only award winners with incredible prizes (like the Kindle Fire), but let’s your friends share in your winnings.  When you enter the sweepstakes, you’re given the option to name 3 friends who will also win prizes if you win.  This is a Facebook sweepstakes done right because they offer their fans a sought after prize and a huge incentive to spread the word.

Ghiradelli

Sweepstake ends December 25th

Ghiradelli designed the ultimate chocolate lovers sweepstakes – a chance to win a year’s worth of chocolate.  Not only does a grand winner walk away with $500 worth of cocoa goodness, but they give you a chance to win prizes daily in a countdown to Christmas.  Ghiradelli made my list because not only did they find the perfect prize for their customers, but they offered an incentive to check their Page daily for a new opportunity to win.

Black & Decker

Sweepstakes ends December 18th

Here’s your chance to win any of the items from this year’s Black & Decker Holiday Gift Guide with the Match-and-Win Game.  Every day until Christmas, visit their page and attempt to uncover 2 matching squares and win some primo tools!  Black & Decker also came up with a smart way of encouraging you to tell your friends about them throughout the holidays.  Normally, you can play the game for one chance to win daily… but if you share the game with a friend, you’ll get two shots at winning.

Petsmart

Sweepstakes ends December 24th

You don’t have to be a pet owner to appreciate $10,000!  Petsmart’s Holiday Gift Grab is less about chance and more about skill.  They place 3 presents on your screen and point out one that you should keep an eye on.  With the speed that those presents start spinning and swapping you’ll lose the right box in a blink of an eye, so pay close attention.  If you pick the right box at the end, you win!  The Grand Prize is $10,000, but there are tons of other pet giveaways.  They give you 10,000 reasons to check back and play daily.

Home Depot

Voting ends December 14th

Home Depot’s contest is a special one because it truly personifies the holiday spirit of giving.  Their Gift of Good tab features photos of 9 military families who could use a little help.  One very lucky family will win $20,000 of much needed home services.  Click on the photos to read the family’s story and cast your vote for the family you’d most like to receive the prize.  Home Depot did a wonderful job of letting us know where their priorities are.  This is my favorite Facebook contest I’ve seen in a long time because just one click lets you do something very kind for a deserving family.

When it comes to the holidays, Facebook contests and sweepstakes are a fun way for customers to snag some incredible prizes and even spread good cheer.  They can help businesses interact with their fans during the most important shopping season of the year while building their fan base for the year to come. 

When it comes to setting up your own Facebook sweepstake or contest, be sure to follow Facebook’s strict rules or you could risk having your Page suspended.  If you’re thinking about creating your own Facebook sweepstakes, read tomorrow’s blog,  Facebook Sweepstakes: Part 2, for some guidelines to keep yourself out of hot water.   

What Does Klout Say About Your Lowered Score?

The last two weeks produced a flurry of articles angry and frustrated over the change in Klout scoring.  Klout measures your Influence.  Your score gauges how many people will see your tweets or posts and how likely they are to do something because of it (such as Like, Retweet, or Comment).  On October 26th, announced a new algorithm to measure scores.  When scores dropped 20-30 points, the fallout was incredible.  I began seeing headlines like, “Who cares about Klout” or “Does your score really matter?”  Read through some of the 1440 Comments following Klout’s blog.  Users threaten to close their accounts, arguing that the scores affect their livelihood.  One gentleman even suggested that it was a conspiracy between Obama and Zuckerberg.  The pure and unadulterated outrage over lowered scores means that Klout matters… a lot… to a lot of people.

Klout’s advice

Reading through the Comments, you’d be surprised to learn that many people saw their score increase.  This new scoring method might be a good thing if you just knew what the score was based on.  Reading through blog comments and responses from Klout, one thing is pretty clear – they are intentionally not revealing those secrets anytime soon to avoid people gaming the system for a good score.  Instead they hinted at a few guidelines to point you in the right direction.

  • Klout says it will only rate you on the Social Networks you influence.  They posted, “We measure influence equally on every network. We care about your influence over your audience — not the network you influence them in.”  In other words, if you think removing networks you don’t often use from your Klout profile will help you, think again.  This also means that Twitter does not get preferential treatment.
  • Currently, Klout determines which topics you are influential in, but soon will let you add topics as long as others can vouch for your influence.  This will be a huge change in scoring because this may be the first time you can directly affect your gauged influence.
  • You can link your Google+ account to your Klout profile, but it doesn’t affect your score… yet.  Klout suggested that in the next week or two, your Google+ score will impact your Klout score.  So if Google+ is your preferred Social Network, you may see a boost shortly.
  • The closest you might get to Klout giving you specifics about raising your score is the Klout Star Series.  This blog regularly features interviews with people who are killing it at Klout.  These Influencers tend to be pretty generous with advice and tips to up your rankings.

My Advice

Klout has not given away any substantial clues about how to influence, and they don’t plan on it.  It all boils down to a few simple guidelines:  Don’t spread yourself too thin, posting on 10 different networks just to raise your score.  Stick to the networks you enjoy, are comfortable with, and most importantly understand how to be conversational on.  Post with the intention of starting conversation, not just to get retweeted.  Don’t wait for others to engage with you, but go out and start conversations on their turf as well.

Lastly, keep your score in perspective.  I love Klout, and yes, I was a little hurt when someone alerted me to my dropped score.  Then I read Klout’s tweet that “the average Klout Score is around 20 and a Score of 50+ puts you in the 95th percentile.”  Suddenly, even my ailing score didn’t seem so bad.

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