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Merrick, NY—Shane O’Neill, director of social media and design for Toledo, OH-based Fruchtman Marketing, eats, breathes, and sleeps social media. If asked (and The Centurion did), he’s quick to mention his current social media pet peeve: using Facebook contests as the best and/or only way to build ‘likes’ on Facebook. 

People who ‘like’ a business are also referred to as fans. And there certainly are reasons to encourage ‘likes:’ Facebook fans spend more shopping at the liked business than non-Facebook fans, and Facebook fans remain loyal to a liked brand much more than they do to non-brands. Obviously, greater spending and loyalty are certainly traits that any business wants in its customers. Many luxury brands boast huge fan bases on Facebook.

Says O’Neill, “Promotions and contests are fine, as long as they are part of the bigger promotional picture. Here’s what we preach: focus on growing an organic fan base (one that grows naturally), and avoid only building your Facebook fan base through contests.”

According to O’Neill, success on Facebook and in social media does not happen instantly. Instead, relationships build over time—just like an in-person relationship.

And what about those other sites?

“There’s Facebook and there’s everything else,” he said.  “If you’re not getting Facebook right, don’t bother with the rest.” O’Neill says many businesses see Facebook as a platform that the kids play on, but it’s not [just] that; it’s a sophisticated tool.

“A business should approach it like any other strategy: 1) incorporate it; 2) believe in it; and 3) budget for it,” he said.

To incorporate it, a business must have and use a Facebook page. To believe in it, it needs attention from all the staff, especially the higher-ups. Don’t just let one employee take care of it since he/she knows how to work it; a store’s staff should be aware of the page and contribute to it.

Shane O'Neill

And budget for it. For social marketing, anywhere from 6-10% of the total marketing budget should be directed towards social media. Once there’s an established number, start planning strategy. Business to consumer social marketing over the next few years is expected to go up to 24% [of a businesses marketing budget], says O’Neill. Social media marketing is generally trackable, cheaper, and more results driven [than other kinds of media]. For instance, ad viewers and their demographics are easily tracked. The same cannot be said for a print ad.

Don’t just look at the numbers, he advises. Success does not correlate with how many fans a business has, says O’Neill. If a store has 500 fans and they are real, true, engaged fans who live in the local area, that’s better than a store with 6,000 fans but 5,600 of them don’t live nearby and aren’t engaged [with the site.]

Beware the Faceook "prize pigs." Using contest and promotions to gain fans on Facebook isn’t a bad strategy, it just should not be your only strategy, says O’Neill. “Like”s are important on Facebook: being liked helps a brand gain exposure, build relationships and communicate with a targeted audience.

Many businesses do use contests or promotions to gain more fans. Take for example, a photo contest where a Facebook user sends in (to a jeweler) a photo wearing their favorite piece of jewelry. To win the contest, the user must get the most votes.

“The barrier to entry is low,” says O’Neill. “Anyone can submit a photo and enter.” By anyone, he means anyone, anywhere. It sounds good in theory, but if you don’t have particular rules prohibiting non-locals from entering, the “prize pigs” may show up.

Prize pigs are professional contesters who will show up once a store’s contest info is put into the “marketplace.” Shane calls this practice the seedy underbelly of promotions.

Most contests have “open like” voting, meaning whatever picture gets the most ‘like’ votes wins. A store might get lots of fans from this type of contest, but none of them may be local or even a potential customer. The better the prize, the more prize pigs will be interested.

“You can tell who the prize pigs are,” says O’Neill. “Their Facebook pages are only about contests.” These prize pigs are professionals. They play to win and very often do win. They may have fake Facebook accounts; some as many as 100 to 200 of them. They use these accounts to vote. They may also participate in a vote exchange; helping someone else win a contest by swapping votes for a contest they have entered. Prize pigs do this over and over again.

O’Neill learned this the hard way; he oversaw a contest where he saw votes coming in every 30 seconds. The winner ended up with thousands of votes where a real entry would collect perhaps 150.

So, what advice does O’Neill offer jewelers?

One suggestion is to offer a coupon for a ‘like,’ one that resonates with a store’s actual customers. For instance, if a store sells engagement rings, generate a custom page where a person has to ‘like’ the page to see the content. Perhaps the page showcases engagement rings. Then, when the Facebook user (and current or potential customer) clicks on ‘like’ a coupon is revealed, offering the user a credit towards a purchase. With this type strategy, a store can locate and connect with their true fans.

And a last thought? “I can’t emphasize enough that while contests and promotions can and should be part of your overall Facebook strategy to increase your ‘likes,’ it should not be a jeweler’s entire strategy,” says O’Neill.

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