social media how toDo you run contests on Facebook?

Would you like to make your next Facebook contest stand out?

This article will give you 4 ideas to improve your next Facebook contest.

Why Facebook Contests?

Facebook contests are a popular way for you to get your audience engaged and excited about your brand. More and more companies have adopted the use of Facebook contests to better track participation and engagement.

facebook promo app

Contests are a popular marketing tactic for businesses on Facebook.

With so many companies using contests, even if you’ve read 9 Tips for Running Successful Facebook Contests, it can be hard to differentiate yourself. Your Facebook fans are pummeled with tons of advertisements and other promotions. So it’s important to stand out against your competitors.

Simply giving out a free iPad or a gift card isn’t enough to attract the attention of social followers.

Here are 4 ways to make your next Facebook contest unique so it gets the attention and engagement you are looking for.

#1: Connect Your Facebook Contest to Other Social Platforms

When you plan your next Facebook contest, consider all the other channels you could use as part of the contest. Don’t limit your promotions to just Facebook, and don’t limit the activities for the contest just to Facebook.

HuHot Mongolian Grill held an annual contest where fans submitted their favorite recipes. A winner from each location was selected, and then they competed nationally against the other franchises.

The contest was published to their corporate Facebook Page.

Then HuHot decided to promote the contest by creating a Pinterest board dedicated to the recipe contest showing prizes, how to enter and past winning recipes.

huhot pinterest board

HuHot’s Pinterest board.

By using multiple social media platforms, you will be able to reach a much larger audience. Utilize the strengths of different social channels and you will have higher engagement and reach more people.

For example, Pinterest is a great place to incorporate pictures into your contest. Twitter is a great way to give quick, short updates about the contest.

#2: Use Location-Based Services in Your Contest

One feature that is often underutilized by brand Pages is the ability to check into a location on Facebook.

However, using this feature for a contest can ensure that people are not only thinking about your brand, they are also physically going to a location to interact directly with your brand.

If you are able to convince your followers that your company is worthy of them taking their time to go to your location, you are closer to converting them into a customer.

Southwest Airlines hosted a promotion where they asked their fans to check into their physical locations at airports, and they would donate $1 per check-in to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Not only did they make a lot of money for a charitable cause, they also increased the number of followers of their Facebook Page from 991,200 to 1.2 million.

southwest airline contest

Southwest Airlines’ Facebook contest.

Not everyone incorporates location-based services into their Facebook campaigns. However, using them can differentiate your company and the contest from all of the other Facebook contests.

Even if it isn’t incorporating check-ins into your contest, think about ways to get your followers to directly engage with your brand. Location-based services are a great option, but there are others out there to explore.

#3: Include Your Followers When Choosing the Winner

Interactive contests are vital to maintain engagement and keep your followers coming back for more.

When you have a contest where one person is randomly selected for liking your photo, it doesn’t give your followers a reason to keep checking back on your Page.

On the other hand, when you run a contest based on what your fans want, this will give people a bigger reason to keep checking your Facebook Page to see who wins.

When Zipcar hosts contests, they typically involve their social media followers to help pick the winner.

Last June, they hosted the Ultimate Ziptrip contest, inviting members of their social media community to tell them in under 750 characters why they wanted to take a vacation to one of Zipcar’s cities.

Zipcar narrowed down the entries to 50 people who were then asked to create a video about why they wanted to take a trip. The finalists were posted to Zipcar’s Facebook Page where 1,000 fan votes chose the ultimate winner.

During the contest, the Facebook contest Page was viewed over 53,000 times and shared by over 2,500 people. Zipcar also gained 9,200 more Facebook likes.

zipcar contest

Zipcar’s Ultimate Ziptrip contest.

When hosting a contest on Facebook, including your Facebook fans is important. If you have a community on a social platform, you’ll want to consider making your contest part of the social experience.

When you include your fans as a core part of the contest, it leads to increased engagement, because your fans will feel an attachment to the person they vote for.

#4: Use Other Parts of Facebook to Promote Your Contest

Editor’s note: We have removed portions of this section that are not in compliance with Facebook promotional guidelines.

You can promote contests creatively within Facebook.  Please make sure you follow Facebook Guidelines.

Some companies host contests by asking viewers to upload pictures of themselves interacting with the brand or company to become eligible to win prizes (using a third-party app). Other contests may be promoted through Facebook’s Sponsored Stories, whether within the news feed or in the sidebar.

When creating your contest, think about how it can spread on Facebook, whether by posting on others’ walls or seeing it in your news feed.

By using other Facebook features, you are promoting the Facebook contest throughout the entire Facebook experience. Users who are comfortable with Facebook and not other platforms may find it easier to participate in the contest by using the Facebook tools they are already familiar with.

Takeaway for Your Next Contest

The next time you are considering hosting a social media contest, think about ways to stand out. Instead of choosing winners based on the number of likes, consider having your followers select the winner.

Instead of creating your own promotional videos, ask the people involved in the contest to create them.

Instead of uploading your own pictures to Facebook, create a Pinterest board.

There are many ways you can think outside the box with Facebook contests, and these contests stand out more to your followers than others.

Consider what you know about your audience, and use the part of Facebook that you know your followers are the most comfortable with. The participation in your contest can be higher as a result, and you may see the results you are looking for.

What do you think? What other unique ways could you use Facebook contests? How have you seen other companies or brands use them? Please share your ideas and comments below.

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  • @Rachel Sprung thanks very much for such a wonderful post!

    Think out of the box is the major key factor to attract the attention of social followers. If anyone
    needs to implement 4th point then that person must think out of box….In
    simple words if you are creative person then you are the king of social media

    Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well!

  • Vromant

    I don’t see how you can advise people to use the tagging feature on Facebook while it’s clearly against Facebook Page Guidelines, and could get your page deleted.
    See Part E “promotions”:

    Also, ask ZipTrip how many Vietnamese fans they gained with their voting contest. Aka the 1000 votes you buy for 100$.

  • stefanos

    excuse me, but isn’t it against facebook guidelines to run a contest without an app?…the tagging thing by IKEA doesn’t comply to official guidelines. right?

  • I will say as stefanos… but using a facebook feature, like tagging someone, is against Facebook guidelines and we are trying to get this idea out of our clients head.

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  • Thanks Rachel for an incredible post! I’ve tried running contests before and it helped me to expand my network, however the problem I have found with running contests is that sometimes people LIKED your page and/or interact, because they want to win. What do you think is the best contest to attract people who are really interested in my brand/podcast, not just the prizes they can get from the contest. Thanks for your answer in advance! 🙂

    Have a rockin Tuesday everyone!

    ~John Lee Dumas

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  • Bill Demore

    Yeah, technically it is against guidelines to tag someone in the contest, but it doesn’t take away from the validity of the article. The main thing to remember, in my opinion, is to make sure you keep the attention of your customers. There are so many more things going on that demand their attention, if you want them to pay attention to you, make them think about you and your product when you’re not in front of them. You do that, you’re guaranteed success.

  • Nay

    This is correct. Was maybe ok back in 2009, but you definitely can’t use FB basic functionality to run your contest – it must happen through an app.

  • Have you ever read Facebook’s promotion rules, because it sure doesn’t sound like it. This post needs to be edited or pulled. You specifically use examples of contests, like Ikea’s, that use things like tagging photos as part of a contest and that clearly violates the rules. You also mention that you can run contests on Facebook in ways other than apps although one of the rules is that you MUST run any contest on Facebook within an app.

    This post is just going to lead to more confusion about what we can and can’t do when running a contest on Facebook.

  • Carly

    stefanos and Thoma Daneau are correct. Check out item E in Facebook’s Pages Terms: While I’ve yet to hear of an organization actually shut down for failing to comply with these restrictions the risk is simply not worth it. This is old news. C’mon SM Examiner–you’re supposed to be a leader in the industry.

    @JohnLeeDumas:disqus If you’re looking to get people already interested in your brand to engage more, think of a contest that incorporates what you provide to understand or think about what you do on a deeper level.

  • You are correct. I have also posted a comment. I’m shocked that SME posted this without reviewing it first.

  • Rachel Sprung

    Hi John!

    I think in addition to having people “like” your page, you need to give them something to do that interacts with your brand. That could be a survey or question that asks people about your brand. It could be a visual that gives them an idea about your brand before they can like your post. You just need to give them SOMETHING that will make sure they know who your brand is. And hey, if you are giving away something so awesome, they can give you the time to check out more information about your brand!

  • This is a terrible article which will only confuse Facebook Page owners even more! I would suggest to inform your readers about the terms they must follow. This is telling them how to break the rules to get their page shut down! Being from Hubspot, I would think the author would be more responsible about what she writes.

  • You obviously missed his point. The IKEA examples clearly violates Facebook’s rules. Thinking outside the box is good but breaking the rules certainly isn’t.

  • Shawn Abel

    Rachel, maybe you know someone at Facebook who has said differently (I would really like an official response on this), but what you have suggested above goes completely against Facebooks Terms of Service Please read section E and tell me where I am wrong.

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  • Shawn Abel

    Please make sure to read the Facebook TOS before you write a blog post

  • Thank you for pointing this out, Hugh! Our editorial team is reviewing now.

  • Thank you for pointing this out, Stefanos! Our editorial team is reviewing now.

  • Thank you for pointing this out, Genevieve! Our editorial team is reviewing now.

  • Glad to hear it.

  • Hi Genevieve – Really appreciate your comments. We have edited out the improper suggestions in comment #4 and are taking proactive steps to ensure this never happens again.

  • Hi Hugh – Thanks for your comment here. We have edited out the improper suggestions in comment #4 and are taking proactive steps to ensure this never happens again.

  • Hi Thomas – We have edited out the improper suggestions in comment #4 and are taking proactive steps to ensure this never happens again.

  • Hi Stefanos – Really appreciate your comments. We have edited out the improper suggestions in comment #4 and are taking proactive steps to ensure this never happens again.

  • Bless her bitty little heart. She just graduated. She’s an event planner, guys. She’s not a social media expert or thought leader.

    SME – what happened to you? Do you just let anybody write content now? What happened to your editorial team? Sleeping on the job? Such a disappointment — I don’t expect this girl to know any better, she sounds like a sweet girl, but she’s just a kid and has no recognizable, actual marketing experience. She’s not a leader in that arena. But you guys, SME, you were… Once upon a time.


  • Really expect more of you guys.

  • Thanks, Michael.

  • Hey Jami – I hear you and we take full responsibility.

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  • Yes, I goofed on this one.

    And I take full responsibility for having published inaccurate information.

    Moving forward, the article has been edited to take out the inaccuracies. And I’ve taken steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

  • Thanks Carly – We have edited point #4 and added an editors note to the article.

  • Thanks for sharing, Bill. We’ve revised the last point in question about tagging to make sure the information is accurate.

  • Yes. This was a mistake. The section in question has been edited and now reflects what’s allowed by Facebook.

  • Thank you for sharing your comments, Devesh. Please note that we’ve edited the 4th point to make sure this out of the box thinking is still done with Facebook’s guidelines.

  • I think we post some pretty amazing content here at SME with a huge team of writers. Cindy and her team work hard to source that content. Inaccuracies happen at any publishing house including the major newspapers. And now the steps are in place to make sure we catch these things.

  • The third tip is such a great one – have people keep coming back for more. Better audience engagement beyond the contest entry! (And don’t worry about the boo boo made with Tip #4 – we are all human and make mistakes!). Good article! ~Jill

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  • They fixed it quite quickly, Jamie. Good job, Cindy and Michael!

  • Rachel Sprung

    My apologies to all of the commenters for the inaccurate information. I did make a mistake so #4 has been edited to reflect the Facebook terms and conditions, and please refer to the other three examples for valid contest ideas.

    The purpose of writing this post was to spark ideas for readers to think outside of the box when hosting contests on Facebook. Even though some of these tactics can no longer work with the new terms and conditions, I hope you are inspired to do something different with your next Facebook contest.

  • Sarah Bauer

    I agree, Chris. Mistakes happen. This is a great example of social “customer” service recovery, and I think it reflects highly of Social Media Examiner and its editorial team.
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  • davidwesson

    With so many FB promotion out there this was a great topic to cover .Maybe a pt 2 version of this article with a clarification of the rules of facebook with some other ideas as well would be the way to go. Good job guys

  • Nardia

    Is this sponsor by pinterest

  • This post is full of confusion.

  • Eddieographer

    Man you guys are brutal, not wrong just brutal.
    Good lesson about how one cannot bs a knowledgeable crowd, they will spot it and rip you apart pretty fast.

  • Catherine Kay

    Thank you Rachel for your “Big Boo Boo”. You’ve made a few people feel real warm
    inside to be able to smugly and self righteously criticize someone in a public
    forum. At the same time you’ve given me (who makes lots of mistakes) 2 terrific ideas which I’m going to try out today. Keep going – you’re doing OK.

  • Rachel Sprung

    Thanks Catherine! I’m glad this article was useful for you.

  • Hey Eddie – Appreciate your comments. Everyone makes mistakes. We live and learn

  • KellyPes

    I agree! They made a mistake, recognized it, quickly removed the incorrect information and have apologized over and over. What else do you all want them to do?

  • wow, super stuff Rachel!

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  • Victoria Hanson

    Great post Rachel with some good ideas, its great to see something that makes you pause to think about the ways in which it might be applied.

  • Connecting Facebook Contest to other Social Platforms is a Good Idea but not Good enough if you don’t have an Active Presence over that Social Media Platform. You have different set of users who have liked you on Facebook and different set of Followers who follow you on Twitter. So, I think Tweeting about the Facebook Contest couple of times is Okay, but Constant hammering will lead to loss of Followers. Same goes with other Social Networks. I doubt how many of you would agree with me, I hope I have a good point.

  • Wow, this really is a great example of how errors should be corrected. Though you made a mistake, you have admitted it and immediately started working on a solution. Although something like that shouldn’t have happened at all, you have shown us a great effort at fixing it. Thumbs up guys, @mikestelzner:disqus & @CindyKing:disqus.

  • charles

    Thanks Rachel for your captivating marketing strategy. A I appreciate it so much. Keep up the good work Rachel.

  • Dave Macdonald

    Relax people an error was made and has now been fixed! MOVE ON

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  • Kate Paine

    Glad to see you posted this Hugh. I was thinking the same thing as I’ve had a client who wanted to run a FB contest and I’ve been delving into FB’s promotion rules. After reading the replies to this post, I’m glad to see that Social Media Examiner has addressed this and took responsibility. I just want to verify that the blog/feature above IS now current. Thank you.

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