How to Stop Facebook Contest Fraud and Deter Prize Hunters
Have you thought about how fake entries can hurt your campaign?
Left unchecked, phony entries can negatively impact your contest and drag down your page’s reach and credibility.
In this article you’ll discover how people cheat, and more importantly, how you can guard against prize hunters.
The Ugly Truth About Facebook Contest Fraud
With Facebook’s recent changes to its news feed algorithm, it’s harder to reach your audience organically. If you can’t reach your audience, you lose interactivity and engagement–and your spot in the news feed.
A Facebook promotion (i.e., a contest or giveaway) is widely thought to be a good tactic to get people’s attention, engagement and more eyes on your page. But if you’re planning to host a Facebook promotion, be aware of potential fraudulent behavior so you can protect your fans and your brand.
Make no mistake, Facebook entry fraud is real—these cheaters know what they’re doing.
Here’s how it works: They start by creating multiple email accounts that they then use to make fake Facebook profiles, generally with pictures of pets or symbols.
They use these multiple profiles to continually enter random draw promotions and rack up votes in voting contests.
The example below is another good representation of a fake Facebook profile. This one is clever because the last name, Concours, means contest. That should tell you a lot about her intentions.
These guys work in concert with fellow scammers who also have multiple profiles. They create forums where they share promotion links, agree to trade votes, share answers to your giveaway quizzes and more.
These fake profiles cause at least three problems for you: You end up with fake fans, useless data and angry “real” fans.
If you’re like-gating your promotion, you’ll get an increase in fans, but they won’t be genuine. These phony fans hide your updates from their news feed, which in turn affects your visibility to all of your fans.
If you’re asking for emails to build your list, you’ll likely be getting fake emails that clog your CRM with useless emails and data. Your newsletters will probably either bounce or be marked as spam.
Here’s the worst part: They cheat your true fans out of your attention and loyalty. While fake profiles are busy gaming the system, your true fans are playing by the rules and expecting fair treatment.
So how can you avoid phony entries? Here are five things you can do to ensure your campaign is reaching the right people.
#1: Choose the Safest Promotion
The type of promotion you choose to host (e.g., giveaway, voting contest, random draw, etc.) has the biggest impact on how many fake entries you get.
Promotions that rely on the participation of others are the most susceptible to fraud. Voting contests (e.g., photo and video contests) and random draws with viral bonus options (e.g., asking entrants to have their friends participate) run the highest risk of drawing the wrong crowd.
Run a promotion with a strict random draw and airtight rules. They’re less attractive to scammers because even the use of multiple accounts can’t help their chances much without a viral bonus option.
Hold a promotion that’s won by jury selection (not votes by their friends) – it’s the least attractive of all.
#2: Choose Prizes Wisely
If you’re like most people, you want your promotion to draw your fans back to your page and encourage them to interact with you and to garner more likes and possibly build your list. And let’s face it, the bigger the prize, the more attention and exposure you get.
As I’ve said, that can be good and bad.
To minimize the entries from prize hunters, offer rewards that only appeal to your genuine fans or prospects. The broader the spectrum of interest in your prize, the more susceptible you are to fraudulent entries.
If you must give away a prize that appeals to a wider audience, consider using your rules and qualification form to limit your promotion to your target audience only. (I’ll talk more about rules in just a minute.)
#3: Use Apps to Control Entries
A tempting way to get extended reach is to offer extra entries for asking friends to like and enter the promotion. The promise of extra entries is terribly appealing for fans, and it’s a win for you because it gives you coveted viral reach and some new likes.
The problem with that type of entry is that it’s easily exploited. People with multiple profiles already have a lot of friends to invite—the “friends” on their fake profiles and the forums I mentioned earlier.
If you elect to use this viral entry option, I encourage you to use a Facebook app that has strong fraud protection measures in place.
Although Facebook recently changed its rules for promotions, hosting your contest or giveaway via an app is the best way to cut down on fake entries.
When choosing a promotions app provider, look for protection features like flagging suspicious entrants (for example, tracking multiple entries from a single IP address). For a voting contest, make sure your app reveals who voted for what.
Easy elimination is another important feature your app should provide. You should be able to quickly and easily ban all suspicious users from your contest, as well as ban them from interacting with your timeline at all.
When installing an app, most people use the simplest version of its entry process—just clicking a voting or entry button. Unfortunately, these are the easiest promotions to scam because there’s nothing built in to hinder multiple fraudulent entries.
The more effective way to encourage genuine entrants is to require them to download the app to enter.
Some community managers stick to the simple button option because they believe it eliminates barriers to entry, but based on our research of hundreds of Facebook campaigns over the years, we’ve found this isn’t true.
When brands require app installation, the conversion rates remain higher than 80% in most cases—sometimes much higher.
App installation is a simple step for an honest participant, but a major hindrance for scammers using multiple profiles.
Requiring all participants to install your contest app is like building a firewall against cheaters because it identifies your participants thanks to their Facebook profile data. Without this identification, you have no way of knowing or tracking your entrants.
#4: Enforce Rules That Deter Scammers
One of the best ways to deter dishonest entries is to write good giveaway and contest rules. They’re your first line of defense against cheating.
Most of your real participants may never read your contest rules, but scammers will carefully examine each word.
In your rules, carefully explain how you will choose your winners and list valid reasons for disqualification. Here’s an ideal paragraph you can use:
“Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify contestants. Contestants shall not enter multiple times or vote for their own entry with a fake Facebook account. Fraudulent activities will be monitored and will lead to exclusion.”
Your rules determine your promotion’s winner(s), not your app. For example, even if your app shows that someone receives the most votes, your rules determine how you choose the winner.
If you’re hosting a voting contest, consider a tiered awards system. For example, choose your grand prize winner by jury. The jury can keep the number of votes in mind, but won’t be bound by them.
After the overall winner is chosen, offer a random draw among all participants. This system not only protects you, it keeps your contest interesting because everyone (even the least-talented photographer) thinks they have a chance to win something!
#5: Be Selective With Targeted Ads
Facebook ads are a great way to promote your giveaway or contest, and depending on your goals, their robust native targeting options can help you protect yourself as well.
But remember, the broader your target audience, the more risk you’ll face. If your goal is fan recruitment, be prepared to implement strong fraud protection tools.
Your safest bet will always be to target your clients or customers. Targeting identified prospects increases your risk slightly, and open targeting puts you at high risk.
Your page’s fans need to be genuine in order to have good interactivity and engagement, which in turn makes for a healthy overall page reach.
Your fans are expecting you to be genuine and fair. They’re counting on you to make sure your brand rewards its true fans, and it’s your job to make good on that expectation.
Identify those entrants who use multiple fake accounts to rack up entries and votes, ban them and their participation from your contest, then tell your true fans about the actions you’ve taken. They’ll appreciate your efforts and you’ll be encouraging higher trust and loyalty.
What do you think? Have you ever had fake entries in a promotion? How did you handle the situation? Share your thoughts and comments below.