Have you noticed more and more people "liking" companies and products on Facebook than ever before? I have. And every contest I try to enter online start with the words, "Just click the 'Like' button."
After talking to a friend, I had the reason. At the end of November, 2010, Facebook decided to make a major change to their promotion guidelines. The change made running a contest or giveaway much easier. In the past, promotions had to be approved by Facebook and able to spend at least $10,000 in advertising on Facebook. Those restarints were dropped and now it costs you little more than the time involved in making a simple canvas application.
But before you Google, maybe you should think again. Right now, companies look at social networking sites as a way to spread brand awareness and drive traffic to their main site. And yes, in the short term, social networking is good at both of those things. But what about the long term? I venture to guess that most traffic graphs following the opening of a contest on Facebook look pretty spectacular. Large increases, and high-fives all around. And the week after the contest ends, it's like nothing happened.
What people (and companies) don't seem to understand is that in order to be successful in using social networks, they need to think about things completely different. It's not about driving traffic, it's about creating value for the customer. Use social networking to do something people couldn't do in the past and you will be successful. It will take more time, and be more expensive up front, but the rewards are worth it.
For example, if you're a travel site, don't have a giveaway to send you and three friends to Mexico. Make it easier for friends to travel together through your site. Look at what social networking sites allow you to do that wasn't possible before. Suddenly, I have instant access to private information on everyone I've ever met. Figure out how to use that in a product related to your brand, and build it.
Integrating social networks into your product isn't about finding the right strategy and following it. It's about finding the right idea and pioneering it. Now that's something to click the Like button for.