9 Tips for Running Successful Facebook Contests

social media how toHave you considered using a Facebook contest?

These days, it seems like just about everyone is giving away something on Facebook.

iPad or $100 gift certificate, anyone?

Keep reading to learn nine tips for making Facebook contests more successful.

Do Contests Really Work?

Some business owners recognize that contests can increase the number of people who Like their business, and even more importantly, they realize that contests can provide valuable customer information. Then there are the business owners who complain that Facebook contests “just don’t work.”

So do contests work or not?

They do—but only if you do them the right way, with a reason for your fans to want to interact, a good prize and a clean design like Pocono Mountains features in their latest contest.

pocono mountain contest

Pocono Mountains offer an interactive contest where fans are asked to create a "life's greater" equation then enter for a chance to be featured on a billboard in Philly and/or NYC.

The businesses that are disappointed in the contests they’ve run have probably made a couple of fundamental mistakes. They either have their eyes on the wrong prize—they’re focused on Likes and ignore the customer feedback the contest brings—or they didn’t do their homework.

A Facebook contest may be free (aside from the cost of the prize and the third-party app needed to run the contest), but you still have to invest time to make your promotions work for you.

Here are 9 best practices that will make your Facebook contest a success.

#1: Determine Whether You Really Need a Contest

This might sound like a silly suggestion, but there are some businesses that simply will not benefit from a Facebook contest.

For instance, if you’re a B2B company that deals in a super-niche market, a Facebook contest might not help you gain a meaningful number of new clients.

However, if you’re convinced that a contest is appropriate for your business, then the next thing you need to do is set some goals.

What do you hope to achieve? Do you want to increase brand awareness or highlight a new product? Are you hoping to increase the number of Likes on your page? Do you want to boost user engagement, gather user feedback or develop advocates for your brand? Are you fundraising?

The bottom line: have specific goals and don’t run a contest just because everyone else is doing it!

#2: Decide Which Type of Facebook Contest Will Help You Reach Your Goals

There are four basic types of contests you can run on Facebook: sweepstakes, essay, photo and video.

The type of contest you run matters because each one appeals to a different audience. Video, photo and essay contests will give you lots of content for your page, but they also require more effort to enter.

A sweepstakes contest is easy to enter and you can set it up so that you get a few key pieces of information from your customers.

Legendary Whitetails offers apparel, gifts and gear for whitetail hunters. They do not have an on-location store, so all of their sales are done through their catalog and website. This makes their Facebook page a key ingredient in reaching their target audience.

legendary whitetails

This photo contest has entrants submit their photos that best represent summer—perfect for an outdoor gear and apparel retailer like Legendary Whitetails.

#3: Familiarize Yourself With Facebook’s Policies and Guidelines

When it comes to contests, Facebook has an extensive list of “do’s and don’ts.”

For example, you are not allowed to use a Facebook feature such as the Like button as a way to enter or vote. And you must notify winners via email, snail mail, phone call or singing telegram before you congratulate them publicly on Facebook, or send them a Facebook message. You can’t include calls to action such as “Don’t forget to vote” or “Tell your friends” on your Timeline cover image—and the list goes on.

One of the biggest rules that Facebook insists on is clearly stating that Facebook is not sponsoring the giveaway. The easiest thing to do is show your rules and guidelines loud and clear on your contest, like Chevrolet does, so there are no questions.

chevrolet guidelines

Chevrolet makes it clear in their contest that it is in no way sponsored, endorsed or associated with Facebook. They then provide a clear link to the contest rules and guidelines.

Violating any of Facebook’s rules will result in your contest, and possibly your page, being shut down. Save yourself a headache and familiarize yourself with Facebook’s contest and promotion rules.

#4: Choose a Third-Party App to Run the Contest

Facebook explicitly requires businesses to run a contest on a third-party application, and it’s nearly impossible to meet all of their other promotions guidelines without one.

There are lots of companies that provide contest support, but you’ll want to make sure the one you choose offers a few key features:

  • The app should be flexible. If it’s not customizable, the app might not give you the results you’re after.
  • The price should be right. There are third-party apps that are free and there are some that can cost thousands of dollars a month. Obviously using an app that’s low-cost or free reduces your risk if the contest doesn’t deliver the results you’re after.
  • The app should be embeddable or have “Anywhere” capabilities. Many third-party apps only work on Facebook. Look for one that allows you to install the contest on your website, too.
  • The app must have mobile capabilities. Why? Because according to Facebook’s 2012 Second Quarter Report, 543 million of its most active users access Facebook from a mobile device. That’s an increase of 67% over last year! Why not make it easy for mobile Facebookers to get to your contest?

#5: Pick a Relevant Prize

As noted above, an iPad is a popular giveaway these days. While an iPad is certainly nothing to sneeze at, you’d be better off using contests to showcase your own products and services. After all, people are coming to your page because they are interested in learning more about what you offer.

If you operate a housecleaning business, for example, consider giving away three months of cleaning services. If you sell digital cameras, do what GoPro does: periodically give away your full product line.

The prize you offer doesn’t need to break the bank—it shouldn’t, actually. Just remember that the value of your prize should reflect the effort participants need to make to enter.

go pro

Fans can enter GoPro's contest once a day, every day, for a chance to win a GoPro accessory.

#6: Keep it Simple

What’s the secret to running a successful campaign? Make it easy to enter.

Yes, there are lots of examples of super-innovative contests that attract plenty of attention, but there are even more examples of innovative contests that flop because they are too complicated.

It’s one thing to ask users to send in a photo of themselves wearing their favorite shade of red lipstick. But it’s another thing to ask them to share videos of themselves belting out their favorite Johnny Cash or U2 song.

Be aware that the more fields you ask users to fill out, the fewer entries you’ll receive. People prefer not to give their job title, marital status and three different contact numbers to enter a contest if the prize is a sticker.

Ask for less information while still getting what you need. In some cases, this might be just the entrant’s name, age and email address.

Fans may be more hesitant to enter a contest for a large company such as Advance Auto Parts if they’re asking for a lot of information.

advance autoparts

With just four fields, Advance Auto Parts made their contest easy for their fans to enter.

The contest app also needs to be easy to find. Call the app “Enter Now” or “Sweeps” and post status updates about the contest on your Timeline.

#7: Tell the World About Your Contest

If you’re hosting a contest on Facebook, make it social! Don’t just post details to your page.

Promote it on Twitter, include it in email newsletters and send out reminders. It’s okay to remind your fans periodically that the contest is going on—just be sure to promote your business along the way. Don’t just talk about the contest, or people might lose interest.

The best thing to do is to provide share buttons on your contest like The Selection does so that fans can share the contest on their additional social media sites.

the selection

The Selection sweepstakes offers an easy way for fans to share the contest on their Facebook page and Twitter to increase their social media reach.

Put details about the contest on the homepage of your website. And don’t forget to make your contest promotion part of your integrated marketing communications strategy.

Be sure it’s well-integrated into your other marketing efforts. This can include everything from a mention on receipts (both printed and emailed), in newsletters, on in-store signage and as part of radio and television advertising.

#8: Consider Facebook Ads

Investing in Facebook Ads is a great and affordable way to increase the reach of your promotion. Facebook Ad spaces are small, so it’s essential that your ads are simple to understand and eye-catching.

Facebook Ads make it easy to target users who share your interests and demographics, and they’re also a way to reach beyond the people who already Like your page by placing them where your ideal demographic hangs out.

Lays is currently running a promotion where they are asking fans to submit a new Lays chip flavor. Their ads can be seen on Facebook and even on TV, expanding their reach to a global audience.

lays facebook contest

Lays promotes their "Do Us a Flavor" contest two different ways using Facebook ads—one that attracts fans to create their own flavor and one that intrigues fans with a large prize.

#9: Finally: Don’t Forget to Follow Up!

Your promotion is over, the prizes have been awarded… and now you’re done, right? Not so fast. You ran the promotion so you could gather information about your customers, so spend a little bit of time making sense of what you’ve learned.

The simplest way to do that is to put all of the data into a spreadsheet and see what your users have to say. Did they offer you any interesting or valuable information about your brand? Did they make any suggestions for ways that you might improve interactions with them?

Make sure you follow up and let them know that you’re listening so they’ll be motivated to keep engaging with you. Ultimately they’ll be even bigger fans of your business.

What do you think? What’s the most creative contest you’ve run on Facebook? How often do you run a contest on Facebook? Have you seen success with your Facebook contests? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Jim Belosic

Jim Belosic is the CEO of ShortStack, a self-service custom app design tool used to create Facebook apps for Facebook Pages, websites and mobile. Other posts by »




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