Facebook's new "Offers" feature lets businesses post coupons and discounts to their followers' News Feeds.
First announced in March, Offers is rolling out gradually to select types of Facebook business pages. Facebook says that Offers "are a great way to drive new people to your business and engage your customers. Coupons and discounts also encourage people to talk about your Page when your offers are shared between friends. Offers are free for Page admins to create and share, and while right now it's available to only a small number of local business Pages, Facebook says it plans to launch Offers more broadly soon.
If your Page doesn't yet have Offers but you'd like to use the feature, fill out this form on Facebook to request to be included.
Here's a look at how to create an Offer, and tips on designing a successful one:
How Page Admins Can Create a Facebook OfferLog into your business's Facebook page and scroll to the top of the timeline
From the sharing tool at the top, click the Offer icon--a yellow square--that says, "Offer, Event +." Choose the Offer option.Fill out the form that appears, including a headline for your Offer (Buy one pair of socks, get another pair free, for example.), a photo that will stand out in thumbnail size and the number of claims you're offering, plus the expiration date. Choose the number of claims (i.e., the number of available offers) by clicking Unlimited and selecting a number from the drop-down menu. Choose the expiration date by clicking on the date listed (8/31/2012 in this case). Lastly, add the terms and conditions of your Offer by filling in the appropriate space, then preview it and click Post.
If you want to make changes to your Offer when you're previewing it, click Edit to go back and make changes. A How-To Guide for the New Facebook Business PagesIf you want to stop running an Offer before it expires, delete it. Do this by hovering over the offer, clicking the pencil icon, then selecting Delete. Deleting an Offer is permanent.
How to Design a Successful Facebook Offer
Facebook says that to ensure your Offer is claimed and shared, you should carefully consider its value, headline, image and language you use.
"If people don't understand your Offer or think it looks like spam, they might hide it from their News Feeds, mark it as spam or unlike your page."
To prevent this, Facebook shares several tips to ensure your Offer is successful: Make discounts count. While there is no minimum discount requirement for Offers, Facebook recommends they should be at least 20 percent off regular prices. Offering deals for free--even if the percentage off is the same implied value as the free item--is even better. An example of this: "Buy one pair of socks, get another pair free."
Use a good image
Facebook says that photos of people using your product typically perform better than photos of the product by itself, and both generally perform better than your business's logo. In your Offer, your Page's profile picture will also appear in most places, so using your business's logo generally isn't necessary. Also, be sure your image looks good in thumbnail size, which is 90x90 pixels. Non-square images will be cropped to a square.
Want more tips, tricks and details on Facebook? Check out CIO.com's Facebook Bible.
Keep language simple
Make sure your headline leads with the value of the Offer instead of marketing slogans, Facebook recommends. Word your Offer, including the terms and conditions, as simply as possible, too, and note the character limits: 90 characters for the headline text and 900 characters for the terms and conditions. Also, set a reasonable expiration date to be sure you give people a few days to see and claim the Offer.
Target the correct audience
If you'd like to control who can see your Offer, your only option to do so is to target your audience by country and language. Before sharing the Offer, click the drop-down menu under Public and next to the Post button and select Language/Location. Next, type in the countries or languages of the people you want to see your Offer. The Offer will show up only in News Feeds or on your Page for the people in the countries you choose or who speak the languages you specify.
Facebook says that it's not yet possible to target Offers only to people who like your Page, so anyone visiting your Page will be able to see it (unless you target the audience by country or language).
Promote, train and track
To maximize the effect of your Offer, Facebook suggests running to promote it. Sponsored stories are paid ads that appear in your followers' News Feeds and highlight specific interactions people have had with your organization or brand. To draw additional attention to your Offer--for free--pin it to the top of your page.Also, make sure your employees are aware of the terms of your Offer, how people can redeem it, and any point-of-sale processes your business needs in order to honor and track redemptions.
Facebook Offers can be redeemed two ways: Either by printing out the Offer or showing it on a mobile phone or tablet.
Lastly, keep track of how many people have claimed and redeemed your Offer, which can be valuable information if you choose to run another one. To track how many people have claimed the Offer, refer to the original post on your Page. To track how many have redeemed it at your business, Facebook recommends either setting up a special sale code in your point-of-sale software or training your employees to keep tally at the register.
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham.