social media how toDo you run Facebook contests to promote your business?

Want to reach more people and increase participation?

With the right techniques, Facebook contests can engage your community and grow your business.

In this article you’ll discover five ways to create effective Facebook contests that reach more people, entice them to enter and encourage them to share.

improve facebook contests

Discover 5 ways to improve your Facebook contests.

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#1: Use an App

Facebook used to require an app to run a contest, which is no longer the case. However, Facebook contest apps are still extremely useful for guiding fans through the entry process.

When you use an app, you create a tab on your fan page that links directly to a contest page with entry information, official rules and more. That page has its own URL, so you can easily link to it from status updates on any platform or from your website.

You can name the tab whatever you like, but it’s best to keep it simple—use the name of the contest or a short description. For example, Eggo hosted a contest where they asked fans to contribute Eggo recipes, so they named their tab Recipe Contest.

eggo facebook contest

The contest tab makes it easy for fans to see where to click to enter.

Using apps offers much more functionality than a status update asking for a like. In Eggo’s case, their contest entry page included an interactive graphic where fans could scroll through pictures of food and click through for the recipe; an option to click on other fan entries to see the competition; and an option to click for fun ideas without having to enter the contest.

#2: Promote Effectively

How you tell people about your contest has a huge effect on how successful it is. It’s key to let fans know how they can enter and how it benefits them (a prize). If applicable, mention how it benefits you as well, and don’t forget the call to action!

In the status update below Diamond Candles promoted their 1,000 Ring Candle contest via Facebook updates and included each of those bits of information. But they went two steps further. They included an extra call to action (to like and share the post in addition to entering) and a hashtag.

diamond candles facebook contest

Give fans all of the information they need to decide if they want to enter.

Include a hashtag to encourage others to use it and provide an additional way for you to track your success. Hashtags can be used across platforms, so you may be surprised how often it’s shared.

Like Eggo, Diamond Candles used an app for their contest. When people clicked the link in the status update, they landed on the contest page and only had to share their email to enter. Easy!

These combined tactics—great promotion and easy entry—helped Diamond Candles far exceed their goals and expectations. Their goal was to reach one million fans—they did that in less than six weeks, earning over 30,000 new fans (they only needed 500 to reach their goal).

#3: Ask for Content and Votes

What better way to promote your business than to have your customers do it for you? Asking for user-generated content is a natural way to encourage people to share with their friends.

When a fan submits something (e.g., a picture or recipe), of course they want their friends to know. Those shares bring additional attention to your contest (and therefore your company).

rocky mountain entertainment agency facebook contest

Voters were able to see all the entries and cast their vote.

Rocky Mountain Entertainment Agency is a small business in Montana. They ran a contest asking wannabe models to submit a photo of themselves with little to no makeup. The company then asked people to vote on the collected pictures to determine the winner.

Since contestants want to win, they’re very likely to re-share their submission with their friends and ask them for a vote. That translates into even more attention and engagement for your company. Take advantage of that reach and provide clear calls to action for additional interaction (e.g., to like or share your page or sign up for your newsletter).

#4: Incorporate Current Events

An easy way to engage your audience and increase entries is to play off of a current event. This is such a simple idea, and it’s easy to set up. Any company—large or small—can adapt this type of contest to match its own audience.

Here’s a fun example. Granite Office Supplies ran a contest that was loosely based on the NCAA basketball tournament. They created their own tournament with 64 office supply items, all seeded and set up in four regions.

To get maximum traffic, they had contest components for both their website and Facebook. The company created a website page where they had brackets with an official scoreboard. All fans had to do was fill out a bracket and submit it on the website.

granite office supplies facebook contest

Come up with a fun way to bring attention to your products based on current events.

To include Facebook in the mix, the actual game was played on the company’s Facebook page. Updates pitted office supplies against each other and people submitted their votes by commenting on the updates about which office supply items should win.

The beauty of the contest was that people made their own luck—if users could influence their friends to come vote on the contest, their “team” would move to the next level.

That influence (bringing new eyes to your Facebook page) has the potential to bring new fans and much more page interaction.

#5: Create Urgency

Nothing spurs action like the feeling that time is running out. Creating a sense of urgency is one of the oldest tricks in the book and encourages people to participate sooner rather than later. And yet few Facebook contests take advantage of this tactic.

In many of its contests, Linen Works creates a sense of urgency. They include a countdown clock that tells people how long they have before entries close. They combine the urgency factor with easy entry to entice even more participation.

linen works facebook contest

Combine urgency with sharing for increased entries and exposure.

The entry page also provides easy access to secondary calls to action—liking the page, sharing on Facebook or tweeting—each of which results in that all-important extended reach.


Combining any of the contest tactics here can lead to increased participation and extended reach.

What do you think? Do you use any of these tactics in your Facebook contests? Have you seen any cool Facebook contests over the past year? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

how to improve facebook contests

Tips for improving your Facebook contests.

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  • Pingback: 5 Ways to Improve Your Facebook Contests | Fran Martin()

  • Great post, Amanda.

    I really enjoy creating Facebook contest through apps because you can use much more creativity and make really unique contests.
    However, I noticed that many companies have forgotten this option and runs those simple boring contests in their timeline.

  • Hannah Ruth Gilburt

    You mentioned that Diamond Candles invited fans to like and share the post for the chance to win. I was always under the impression that asking fans to share a post as part of a competition contravenes Facebook’s guidelines. Has this changed?

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  • Amanda DiSilvestro

    Apps are so simple too, but you’re right a lot of companies miss it! Hopefully we’ll see a bit more in 2015. Thanks for reading!

  • Amanda DiSilvestro

    Hmmm I will have to look into it, but as far as I know that’s fair game! If anyone knows the answer to Hannah’s question let us know, but I’ll look it up 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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  • I have two Facebook apps but I have never used them for any contests yet. I think having just one is enough though. Out of the two apps that I have, which one do you think is better, Woobox or 22Social? That way I can just keep the best one and cancel my subscription to the other one.

  • Hi John, you may want to ask the question in our LinkedIn group:

  • Hey @hannahruthgilburt:disqus, you got that right, shares cannot be taken into account to determine a winner in a contest on Facebook, nor can it be required to enter. The main reason behind that is that it’s technically impossible to track shares on Facebook (like if the user shares something and has its privacy set to “friends only”, you’ll never be able to capture it). So if you can’t track shares, you can pick winners based on them, simple 🙂

  • Uki

    Thanks for sharing! ?Is there a particular app you use??

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  • Kelly Long

    Hi, I would really like to run an add like the Rocky Mountain Entertainment did ( Ask for Content and Votes type Comp ) Any ideas how I would go about this? Are there any FREE apps that are any good?

    Thank you

  • Amanda DiSilvestro

    Thanks Emeric!

  • Thanks Cindy, I took your advice and I asked them.

  • Kevin

    What are the top 3 apps to use for a contest?

  • Chris

    The only problem with contest of this nature is the participant doesn’t have any real incentive to share the contest with other (except in the case of # 3)

    Typically the more you share, the more people know about the contest, the more others enter which make your chances of inning less likely.

    I particularly like the contact which allow you to share and for every person who engages with your share and in turn enters you earn additional votes so your chances actually increase and it’s a huge incentive to share the contest!

  • B

    This was very interesting, thank you. Have the rules changed again, are we now allowed to ask people to “like” our page to enter. Also what are your favourite contest apps?

  • Liz

    I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to encourage fans to share on their personal timeline – it’s on a cans and can’ts list written very recently that summarises the rules

  • Brittany Bullock

    I’m confused about the facebook contest app…is it meant for business pages?? It seems like it would be but when I try to create a contest it won’t let me do so from my business page.

  • Thanks Amanda, great insights and use of examples. Where would you recommend small businesses who wish to keep contests simple and self-adminsitered source contest apps? Tabsite, Woobox? Cheers from Outback Aus.

  • Thanks for clearing this up for me Emeric! Cheers, Heidi

  • Hi, Amanda.

    There are great examples. Although, I’ve always wondered how well hashtags work on Facebook. With everyone’s different privacy settings you might be missing a lot of the conversations that going on with the hashtag. For instance, you don’t always see the real number of shares on a Facebook post because someone might have their privacy settings really high.


  • Raechelle Lee

    You have people running scams on fb using creating fake game I was offer from a woman to whom I only was told to just ask her if I was a winner because she said her friend had won and she had also won { I thought Yeah you ok } haaa and she kindly said yes without any info this person say yes but then she did say i do need to get one thing ,, she ask for my formation complete and to send to unknown name give to said person $1,000 I am to send it to a western union in Chicago and then a delivery of $40,000 will be brought to my home . I ask her just for asking am I a winner she claims yes I am a christain and telling the truth her name is Agent Sally ? she will not give company name or number to contact her but to text lol but she did finally answer one of my questions today she said the money was coming from the CEO of FB Yes she been working on me for three days her an someone who claims she won and already received, already! We just spoke yesterday when ask for proof she then told me this today lol Please Tell me there are people watching over this business future is great but not set up to scam money from the honest hard working people families during the season or any other time. Must be reported

  • Barb Smith

    Great tips here! Especially love the one with the countdown clock to create a sense of urgency … Thanks Amanda!

  • Fine, Amanda! I didn’t guess that Facebook contest can be done more interestingly and in such a way, thanks!