social media how toAre you thinking of running a contest on Facebook?

Have you run a contest and had little success with retaining fans past the award date?

One goal of a successful Facebook contest should be to recruit fans who are genuinely interested in you, while avoiding the cheaters and faux fans who are only interested in material gain.

In this article you’ll discover five tips to help ensure that your contests attract genuine fans.

#1: Award Appropriate Prizes

Don’t offer attractive prizes that have nothing to do with your brand.

Everyone wants an iPad—not just your potential customers. A free vacation will not just attract fans who are interested in your beauty products, but pretty much anyone who sees the contest.

An appropriate award deflects the prize-hunters who hide your posts or unlike your Page as soon as the prizes have been awarded.

Offer a prize that interests your current or future customers. If your contest attracts entries from people who have no reason to become your customer, change it.

lord and taylor contest

Lord & Taylor, an online fashion retailer for women, is awarding fashion accessories from its website.

If you are an airline, offer an award of miles or an upgrade on their next flight to fans who are already members of your loyalty program. If you’re offering trips to resorts, send your winner to one of the destinations in your portfolio. If your business specializes in selling iPads, give away a must-have accessory.

When you choose the right prize, you safeguard against attracting opportunists and cheaters. You may have fewer entrants, but in the long run you’ll be far better off with 100 new potential customers than you are with 1000 scavenger-hunters who go through Facebook competition forums looking for prizes to win.

#2: Choose Your Winners Wisely

Many contests use a system of votes (photo competitions) or point accumulations (quizzes) to identify finalists or winners. These methods animate your campaign, boost engagement and can increase the chances of the contest going viral. But they should never be the only methods used for choosing your winners.

Awarding prizes to photo submissions that have received the most votes or to the highest scorer on your quiz is a sure way to incite cheaters and prize-hunters to distort the rules of your game. They may enroll as fake participants who have no interest in your brand, generate dummy votes or find the correct answers in one of the many online forums about game competitions.

For image-based contests, appoint a jury to choose your winner from a selection of finalists. The number of votes can be taken into consideration, but if the photo in question is found to be faked, they can remove it from consideration.

photo contest

Choosing a winner based on the most votes runs the risk of encouraging cheaters. Allowing a jury to select the photos is often a secure alternative.

In a quiz framework, select a winner by drawing from the participants who provided correct responses, or a minimum of correct answers.

Add an element of chance to discourage cheaters and unscrupulous participants. There’s no point in going to the trouble of cheating when ultimately the chance of winning is random.

#3: Enforce Identification Using a Facebook App

Some Facebook contests don’t require entrants to accept an app installation on their profile in order to participate. These competition providers feel the install request may reduce the number of participants.

This is untrue. Using a Facebook app install request does not reduce the number of participants significantly.

It’s relatively easy for people to create numerous dummy email accounts. It’s much more challenging and time-consuming for them to create a large number of fake Facebook accounts. Facebook is constantly policing fake accounts and deleting them.

To limit cheaters, use an application specialized for contests that requires people to register and install before participating.

facebook app

Requiring a Facebook application install limits the number of fraudulent participants and scams.

#4: Enable Sharing Options With Care

Rewarding contestants who invite their friends to participate in your contest by entering them in a second random drawing can increase your campaign’s visibility.

This tactic can also increase the risk of attracting participants who have no value to your business.

If your products appeal to a large base of consumers (food, travel, multimedia products, etc.), there’s no reason not to make use of sharing options. But you’ll want to limit this type of engagement if your products are very focused or targeted at a niche audience.

share option

The share options (sharing on Facebook or Twitter, inviting friends) are available on most Facebook applications. These can be great options for wide-ranging products, but niche businesses may be better off without them.

#5: Identify and Ban Potential Cheaters

If you’ve meticulously followed the advice above, you’ve likely avoided creating a playground for cheaters and prize-hunters. But what about the clever few who slip through? You owe it to your genuine contestants to identify scammers.

identify cheaters

Some Facebook campaign applications offer options to identify possible cheaters.

All entrants leave a personal signature that allows you to identify them: their IP address.

It’s very difficult for opportunists to participate from many different locations or simulate multiple IP addresses.

Choose a contest app that provides native detection functions and fraud management to track IP addresses and detect cheaters.

When all the friends of one participant or all the votes on a photo have the same IP address, you’ll want to ban the identified participants. This is another option your campaign app provider should offer you.

Contests are a good way to grow and reward your audience. The key is to make sure that the community you attract with each contest is genuinely interested in your product or service.

These are a just a few tips that address one aspect of running a successful Facebook contest. Hopefully you’ll see the results you’re looking for—more engaged fans who convert to customers.

What do you think? Have you used any of these tips? What successes have you had with contests? Please leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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  • Great post Emeric. I think that Award Appropriate Prizes it’s an interesting point to think about.

    Have a beautiful week everyone!


  • Kumarjit Sarkar

    Indeed your views and tips are interesting regarding the points to keep in mind while designing such a contest and my question to you lies here that what kind of contests and prizes can be designed in case of eCommerce business.,

  • People only participate for what they can gain. So you made a great point when talking about, “Offer a prize that interests your current or future customers.” We always have to be tuned into our customers favorite station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). Great advice!

  • Emeric

    @patrickmcfadden:disqus You got that right! Thanks for your feedback.

  • Emeric

    @plebanileonardo:disqus Thanks Leo!

  • Emeric, you’ve certainly opened some eyes with these great tips on Facebook Contests. I think you’ve made an excellent point about choosing your award prizes wisely, and your suggestions for how to go about selecting winners are really helpful. I will definitely be referring to this post next time I set up a contest on Facebook, so thank you!

  • Debbie Cornelius

    Thank you, this is very helpful, I can vouch for contests on FB Pages really working, we often have 25-50% engagement (Talking about this). We’ve accumulated over 25,000 subscribers in a year, very few unlike us and we gain more each month.
    You are correct in saying that the prize has to be valuable by the audience you’re attracting,
    I can say first-hand that running contests really really works!
    and does it result in sales – ABSOLUTELY!!!
    Thanks for the great article, always valuable advice from SME!

  • Kate Paine

    Great tips and insight…particularly the part about choosing a prize that is in line with the business’ service. If a client of mine has not wanted to use an FB contest app, then I’ve had them create a landing page on their website to enter the contest. The link can be promoted in their full social media campaign to it hits more than just FB. Also, it’s another good way to bring those “likers” to your company’s website, too. The landing page can have the contest to which you refer. Thanks for a very informative post.

  • Deb Van Horn

    Question – a few years ago there was a FB rule that you could not run a contest yourself – that you had to use an outside app or redirect to another website. Is that rule gone?

  • Thank you for sharing your feedback, Debbie!

  • Michael Wilson

    These are some really great tips! I think that the evolution of Facebook contests has really given people the power to interact with your page in a way that could not have been done before. Your page will gain more fans if others see you’re entering a contest to win something, and more people will enter the contest and like your page because who doesn’t like free stuff? It is more than likely the fans of your Facebook page will stick around if you hold monthly contests, maybe even sooner than monthly.

  • Good stuff Emeric! We’re right with you on using the App and offering a IP tracking. Both valuable tools to ensure no cheating and app permissions do not lessen entries in our experience.

  • My Decorating Tips

    Thank you, Emeric, great information. Q: Which app provides with fraud detection? I used Strutta before, it was nice but not sure they do it. Would you say which ones you are referring to?

  • Nice post Emeric, one thing I would add from Jay Baer is “market your marketing” don’t expect a Facebook competition to draw in masses of fans by itself. Use Facebook advertising with smart targeting to drive the fans you are looking for to your competition.

  • Donna Hamer

    Interesting article – about photo contests. However if you are running a sweepstakes – then the winner is random. With Sweepstakes, most contest apps have this feature built in and with the click of a button the app will pick the winner.

    If the prize value is extremely high you’ll get cheaters no matter what you do. They want to win – and therefore its critical that your Contest rules cover situations like these. I recently ran a contest on a bridal venue page and we had this happen, as the Rules covered situations like this, we were able to deal with it quickly and ensure that all entrants were happy. In 2 weeks they had 2500 new likes (this was a small local business) and they had 150 new customers.

    Offering prizes that are not “relevant to your business or niche” is just a complete waste of time. You always want to offer a prize that is relevant to what you do – that way the entrants are there not only to win, but will be happy to hear more about what you do and your services at the end of your Contest.

    Something you didn’t mention is ensuring your Contest meets Facebook’s Promotional Guidelines – as part of the guidelines you must use a third party app. Plus your Contest should also comply with any local Laws. Many business owners do not realize that there are FB Guidelines and local laws to comply with when running Contests.

    If done the right way – Contests will give you social proof and a list of potential customers!

  • Bella

    That is what I was wondering Deb. I look forward to hearing the answer!

  • Emeric

    @donnahamer:disqus thank you for your feedback! I did not mention the necessity to meet Facebook’s promotional rules because that has already been mentionned so many times, on this blog too, that I assumed it was a known fact. And it was not addressing my subject directly.

    About the photo contest, you can still draw a winner randomly among all participants, but the process of chosing and uploading a nice photo that matches the contest’s guidelines being a little burdensome for the participant, you will still have less of them than with a simple sweepstakes. And removing the voting aspect of the contest to rely only on a random draw does take away all the fun from a photo contest.

    I would be very interested to know more about how the rules you put together for the bridal venue page that allowed you to smoothly handle cheaters. I’m sure others would love to benefit from your experience in that matter.

    Thanks a lot!

  • Emeric

    I agree 100% @seancallanan:disqus! When marketing my contests and promotions, I always give priority to channels addressing people who already know me (email list, existing website traffic, existing fans). And when using advertising, I favor remarketing to website visitors, for example, rather than blind Facebook ads to users who don’t know who I am yet. Just a thought 🙂

    But they are cases where it can make sense to go after new people who don’t know you yet.

  • Emeric

    Thanks @mydecoratingtips:disqus! I will let the other vendors respond to you on that point, as for me, agorapulse does ( It is based on the Facebook account and the IP address of the participants so you can easily spot unconventional behaviors (like 65 votes from the same IP address). We also flag certain FB profiles that look fake (recently created, no public information at all, few friends that are also massively friends to other FB accounts…). We have our little nasty algorithm to kill the cheating bugs 😉

  • Emeric

    Thanks @mikegingerich:disqus for the feedback! I’m pretty sure you guys have a fraud detection system, you should respond to @mydecoratingtips:disqus on the comment above 🙂

  • Emeric

    You got that right @disqus_cmD7kLrvVg:disqus, thanks for the feedback!

  • Emeric

    That is still true, that rule has not changed. You need to use the tools offered by @mikegingerich:disqus or us 🙂

  • Emeric

    Answer is above @1380f09a517b282be95ab05de1a0358e:disqus, thanks for asking

  • Emeric

    You’re welcome @kate_paine:disqus

  • Emeric

    Thanks @debbiecornelius:disqus! And super happy to hear about your great success, keep up the good work on Facebook!

  • Emeric

    Thanks @JohnLeeDumas:disqus. It is nice to see you around saying kind things everytime I post 🙂

  • @mydecoratingtips:disqus I’ll add my input and note that @disqus_a6LgXoOOIo:disqus’s company Agora Pulse offers contest apps for pages with the fraud detection so that can be a good solution, and as well my TabSite company does also as Emeric notes below. We are in the same business but friendly as we both have the same desire to offer tools and assistance to enable companies to do well on Facebook!

  • Melanie May

    Great advice – will come back to this article when doing this in the futrure

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  • very nice post. really helpful.

  • Joe Dalton

    Some good advice Emeric. However one additional point worth considering is that consumers are becoming more and more weary & cycnical of Facebook contests and prizes. So much so that they are now skeptical that some companies don’t actually award the contest prize to a real winner. In this context, I think that its vitally important for companies to give feedback and winner details to all Facebook competition entrants.

  • TimfromTA

    Really interesting article and a great insight in to fb contests, so thank you! One thing though, are users really okay with installing an app? personally (and from experience), any opt-in/installation causes a negative effect and significant drop off, so really interesting what you’ve said here…

  • Emeric

    @mikegingerich:disqus absolutely 100% friendly 🙂 @mydecoratingtips:disqus , don’t hesitate to try both!

  • Emeric

    Thanks for that feedback @disqus_xkgFGGXCDs:disqus. We do offer an automatic draw mechanism and offer the possibility to display winners on the app as soon as their win, but some page admin still want to do their own draw / selection. It all go back to the transparency a brand wants to have with its audience. And my advice would obviously be to be as transparent and honest as possible! But that’s kind of obvious 😉 In any event, communicating the winners’ names is a plus if you want to demonstrated that your contest was not a fraud!

  • Emeric

    Thanks @f2cd996da920afa553acae2003213e6f:disqus for the feedback! I have written a whole article on the subject based on the data we have, the link is in #3 of this article. Hope this will answer your question!

  • Nice Post, Emeric! I loved the point where you mentioned using an IP tracking system to block the cheaters. This will surely help you find the fake profiles. Also, if the give away is a big one, one can call up the winners to get the prize at a particular place, with this you can actually get to know the winners in real time and click some pictures to post on the social media platform too.

  • Emeric

    Great idea @AgencyPlatform:disqus! It may be hard to implement if the giveaway is national, but if it’s local, I love the idea! And thanks for the kind comments 🙂

  • Fatemeh Fakhraie

    Excellent post! Specifically the points about making sure your contests are relevant to your brand.

    Question: what do you do when your contests generate no entries? How do you get your readers or customers engaged enough to participate in the first place? Right now, I’m dealing with quizzes that go unanswered and contests with no participants!

  • Alina Moscow

    Amazing! I’m just starting my business as a tour guide in Moscow.
    I will seriously think now about launching some contest app. Thank you for inspirationt
    I’m thinking of an app where a person has to make a photo with himself/herself and my company’s name “Alina Moscow”. The photos should be from different travel experiences he has, as my business is connected with tourism.
    Then this person has to put the photo on his wall and the more photos he makes the higher awards are. And I will reward him with a post card/magnet/tea spoon/matryoshka/mug from Moscow.
    I was just thinking if the idea with photo taking in different countries would be relative to my project, as i’m based in Moscow.

    What do you think?

  • Nitter Natter

    Some fantastic advice on how to really maximise Facebook to build your brand in the right direction through contests, and especially to attract your target demographic!

    Great and insightful read.


    Nitter Natter

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  • Alicia K

    Great article! We are currently in a fan-base building campaign so I appreciate your tips.
    I do have a question about an idea we have at our non-profit. We are celebrating our 65th anniversary as a homeless services provider this fall. To celebrate, there was an idea to collect and post 65 stories of changed lives for 65 days. I am wondering if this might be content-overkill. The posts would have a 1-2 sentence summary that would link to our website for the full read … but I just wonder if the volume of content will turn off our fans. Anyone have thoughts about this? Thanks!

  • PRdva

    Question: Are the newer rules with Facebook contests still permitting votes (say for a pic or a story) as an acceptable way to pick a winner? Thanks.

  • Laura Mann Weed

    Thanks for the fantastic, useful information! Checking out your website I saw in the Personalized Campaigns section of the Photo Contest area that the word personalized is spelled incorrectly in one instance. Just trying to help (I hate it when that happens on my website!!)… checking out all the details. What a fantastic website you have.

  • Lanre Sonola

    Great read. My biggest problem with contests is cheaters. I found that most of them go to FB pages (mass voting pages) and asking fans of that page to vote for their picture(fans who do not fall under your demographic or even your time zone). I wonder if there is a way to stop this.
    I love the app that monitors the number of votes per ip address.

    I also enjoyed the part about awarding appropriate prizes. *Page Bookmarked*

    Thanks for sharing.

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  • JG

    hmmm….makes me wonder if some of the pages I’ve shared my contest entries with were ACTUALLY mass voting pages. How do you know whether it is a page set up specifically for that purpose, or if it is just pages of people w/ common interests. For example, I’m pretty involved in the pit bull rescue community, & there are TONS of pages that are set up for a rescue dog (we’ll use Fido as an example.) Fido is a very cute dog & has become very popular amongst the pit bull rescue community because he shares lots of cute pictures & engages its fans w/ things like fill in the blank questions, auctions (proceeds donated to various rescue charities), etc. Fido has basically become famous to a very large group of people who are involved in pit bull rescue. If I enter a photo contest for a dog magazine, & head over to Fido’s page & post a link to my contest entry and ask other fans of Fido’s page to vote for my entry, is that considered cheating? I don’t feel like Fido’s page was set up specifically for the purpose of generating votes, but his page does reach thousands of fans…I think this is part of the work you have to do as a contest entrant to promote your entry in the contest…if you don’t promote, you don’t have a chance in he** to win. The dog magazine encourages entrants to promote their entry by sharing the link & asking for votes. How can I tell if I’m participating in a mass voting page? I’m fairly positive I’m not, & am pretty sure I’m not familiar w/ any mass voting pages, so maybe that’s why I’m confused (because I’ve never seen 1.) It does make me wonder though…I would be very interested to know how to identify when somebody is using a mass voting site. It definitely raises suspicion when the majority of the entrants have 5,000 votes at the most, but then there are 1 or 2 that have 11,000 votes…things like that create a lot of drama & tension & take all the fun out of it!

  • sadhu

    good read, thanks 🙂

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