Customer Experience, Social Media Marketing, 5 Things Savvy Marketers Need to Consider Before Running a Facebook PromotionThe idea of running a simple promotion without having to go through the hassle of a third-party platform is exciting and intriguing at first. However, there are still a few things brands should consider when they choose between running a Timeline promotion or a using a custom app.

Facebook recently announced that the social network is making it easier for businesses to administer promotions on Facebook by eliminating the requirement that Page admins use third-party apps.

What does this mean? Essentially that businesses can now run “Like/Comment to Win” contests directly on their Timelines. You may be thinking: businesses could always do this! But the truth is, it was illegal.

This change is an interesting and unexpected one from Facebook. There’s some speculation that the change was made in light of the fact that many businesses were unaware of Facebook’s strict guidelines to begin with. And as a result, there were so many “illegal” contests on Facebook that it was difficult for Facebook staffers to track and shut them down.

On the other hand, Facebook has made several recent changes designed to help small businesses be more successful on the platform and it’s my belief that they are trying to provide a more well-rounded platform for the 50 million business Pages hosted on the network.

Either way, businesses can now run promotions directly on their Timeline! Business Page admins can rejoice!! Or not ....

Here are 5 things you need to consider before running a Facebook Timeline Promotion:

1. How will you collect data?

Why do businesses run promotions on Facebook? Some businesses will say it’s just to do something fun and see extra engagement. However, a majority of businesses have a deeper motive behind their promotions, such as collecting email addresses, user generated comments or other user information to further market to their consumers.

For savvy marketers who are looking to capture information from their fans, Timeline promotions may not be an ideal platform. A business can ask its fans to comment on the post with their email addresses or volunteer information about themselves, but most users will not want to put their private information in the public eye. This is where Facebook apps can be extremely valuable. Businesses can use custom apps to securely and privately collect data from their fans so they can continue to communicate with them beyond their promotion.

2. How will you pick a winner?

If you’re running a contest, obviously you’ll need to choose a winner. For small businesses who receive up to a few hundred entries this may not present a problem: Write down the entrants’ names, throw them into a hat and pick one! But for bigger brands who can see tons of engagement on a Timeline post, managing the entries can become a hassle.

Timeline Promotions garner more participation than app-hosted contests because it’s easier to enter straight from the Timeline. However, businesses are then faced with a large number of entries via Likes and Comments and no easy way to pick a winner. What’s more, laws in some states/regions require a randomly chosen winner for certain types of online contests, so you’d be wise to learn about your local laws -- and figure out how you’ll pick the winner -- before you put up a contest.

Third-party apps have come out with Comment/Like Importer tools that help brands gather Likes and Comments from a Page post and save them into a database, but businesses will want to consider how they want to pick a winner before they choose whether to run a Timeline or app promotion. Facebook does not allow business Pages to tag individual fans in a status update. You can only tag a person in a comment stream where that person has already engaged with the brand. But if you host a contest on a custom app, you have the ability to collect an email address and easily pick and contact a winner.

3. How will you run more elaborate contests?

Sometimes a simple “Like/Comment to Win” promotion is the best way to go. Other times businesses want to give their fans a chance to interact with each other, upload photos, vote on entries and have multi-tiered contests. Hosting a promotion on a custom app is the easiest way to do this. Using a custom app, businesses can create multi-tiered promotions that start and stop at different times and give people the ability to vote, comment and Like other’s entries.

If you’re interested in running a promotion directly on the Timeline, you have the opportunity to ask fans to upload a photo via Facebook’s latest photo-comment feature and then other fans can “Like” photos as a form of voting. You can also use a Comment/Like Importer tool to collect and organize this data.

4. How will you create exclusive content for your fans?

Many businesses run promotions on their Facebook Page for the purpose of growing their fan base. This is why fan-gating -- shielding users from certain content until they have Liked a Page -- has been so popular. With Timeline Promotions, fan-gating is not an option. A business's Timeline is viewable by the public so anyone who comes to your Page can enter your contest. For businesses looking to fan-gate contests, a custom app is the best way to go.

There’s also another option: You can offer an “anyone can enter” Timeline promotion but then fan-gate an app that gives entrants extra chances to win in exchange for Liking your Page and/or giving you an email address or other information.

5. How will you maintain consistent branding?

Many businesses on Facebook are there to build their brand and communicate with their customers and potential customers. Custom apps give businesses the ability to build a mini-website page within their Facebook Page and display any information they want. Any public facing information should proudly and professionally represent your brand -- and apps make it possible to maintain consistency.

As with all Facebook changes there are pros and cons. Every business has different social media goals, and the key to leveraging Facebook’s latest changes to their fullest potential is by establishing goals, considering all your options, and then choosing the route that will increase your odds of success.

Title image courtesy of Lightspring (Shutterstock) 

Editor's Note: Read more of Jim's social media marketing advice in Social Media ROI: It Doesn't Really Matter (Really!)