How To Run Facebook Contests

Contests and giveaways have traditionally played vital roles in consumer marketing, used by cereal companies, fashion retailers, automobile dealers, and so on. The promise of winning something of value for free is a tremendous lure. Whether they’re backed by a media campaign, promoted on a product’s packaging, or announced at an employee sales meeting, promotions have the power to motivate and drive engagement.

All the same incentives that served marketers before Facebook, such as raffles and drawings, still apply on Facebook. Promotions with high-value prizes tend to be more active. Even if you don’t have access to costly prizes, you can still offer an appropriate reward. (Even I have been known to fill out a form for the chance to win a T-shirt if it’s really cool.)

Although Facebook doesn’t offer a promotion app to conduct giveaways and sweepstakes, you can check out some third-party promotion apps to find a solution that works best for your promotion.

Understand Facebook rules for contests 

The Facebook Promotions Guidelines page spells out the rules for the use of promotions on the Facebook platform. You can find the current guidelines at https://www.facebook.com/policies_center/pages_groups_events#promotionsguidelines.

Keep the following guidelines in mind when you’re running a promotion:

  • You must use special wording (see the official guidelines). Facebook clearly states that you must include the exact wording right next to any place on your promotion entry form where personal information is requested.
  • You must tell the entrant exactly how her personal information will be used — that you’re collecting her email address for marketing purposes, for example.
  • The entrant must know that the promotion isn’t run or endorsed by Facebook.

The Facebook Page terms and conditions state that you can’t do the following:

  • Establish photo promotions that require entrants to change their profiles in any way, such as uploading a branded photo for their profile pictures.
  • Establish status-update promotions that require posting status updates for entry.
  • Requiring entrants to like, comment on, or share a Page update.
  • Automatically enter people in a promotion after they become fans. You can always link from your Facebook Page to a promotion hosted on your own website, outside the Facebook guidelines. You still need to be mindful about how you use the Facebook name, however, and it’s probably best not to use the Facebook name at all in association with any promotion that’s not on Facebook.

Use third-party apps for your Facebook contest

The best way to run a contest on Facebook is to use a third-party app. Many third-party apps, such as ShortStack, allow you to sort contest entries, allow users to upload photos, and even sync with MailChimp and other cloud-based services.

This approach makes sense because you acquire emails in addition to engaging Facebook users. and building your email list is essential.

Best practices for creating an effective Facebook contest

Facebook offers a compelling environment in which to host a contest or giveaway. You can use your Page as a starting point — linking to your website for promotion entry details — or have the entire promotion contained within the Facebook community.

Facebook contests can be very creative and challenging, or they can require a simple yes or no answer. They can motivate users to upload a video or complete a contact form. Some promotions require a panel of esteemed judges to determine the winner; others select winners randomly. Still, other promotions allow the users to vote for the outcome.

Although promotions are as unique as the companies that host them, I offer some tips that can improve your chances of success. Here are some best practices for creating Facebook contests:

1. Offer an attractive prize

The more attractive the prize, the more responses you’ll get. A box of Cracker Jack isn’t going to garner much interest. For a prize to be attractive, though, it doesn’t necessarily have to cost a lot. The best prizes tend to be those that money can’t buy, such as a chance to meet a celebrity, to participate in a TV commercial, or to attend a product’s prerelease party. There’s no better way to get people to try your products or services than to offer them as prizes!

2. Use your existing customers and contacts to start the ball rolling

Getting those initial entries is always the toughest part of running a Facebook promotion, so you need to reach into your network of family and friends. Reach out to your mailing list of customers with a friendly invitation. Promote the promotion on Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Myspace, and (of course) your Facebook Page. Wherever you have contacts, use whatever social network, email exchange, or messenger service you have to get them to participate.

3. Cross-promote via your website

You need to promote your Facebook contest across all your channels, including your website, to gain maximum participation. Adding a promotional banner with a link to your Facebook Page is a good start, but you can do much more to promote your promotion. Issue a press release via one of the many news wire services. Add a message to your phone answering system. The possibilities are endless.

4. Keep your Facebook contest simple 

Don’t make the rules too complicated. The fewer the questions on a form, the higher the rate of completion. Keep first prize a single, valuable item and have several smaller second-place prizes. The fewer the clicks to enter the promotion, the better.

5. Don’t set the bar too high 

If you ask participants for an original creation, keep the requirements to a minimum. Don’t place a minimum word count on an essay promotion, for example, and don’t require a video for the first round of submissions, because videos are a lot of work.

6. Run contests for at least one month

Things like word-of-mouth marketing require time. The more time you spend promoting the promotion, the more entries you get. The more you build up excitement by keeping the promotion in front of your fans, the more often they take note of it and look forward to the big day when the winner is announced!

7. Integrate your promotion with a media campaign

Facebook Ads are ideal complements to any promotion. By combining a Facebook Ad campaign with a promotion, you maximize viral effect and amplify the number of engagements. 

8. Make your promotion fun, interesting, and unique

The main thing to keep in mind when planning a Facebook promotion is that members want to be entertained. Promotions should offer an outlet for self-expression, engage members, encourage them to share with friends, and communicate something unique about your brand.

9. Make it fair and transparent

Clearly explain how your winner will be selected. Include all details about the selection process. If you plan to judge a photo contest based on creativity, artistic statement, or image quality, include these criteria in your rules:

  • Explain how prizes will be awarded: You also want to explain how you’ll contact the winners. How many days does a winner have after she’s notified to reply and accept her prize, for example?
  • Reserve the right to change the rules: State that you have the right to change the winner selection process at any time, just in case you run into an unforeseen issue.

10. Use third-party apps to engage your Facebook community 

A few notable apps can help you manage your Facebook community. These apps include features such as advanced scheduling, publishing quizzes, list-building actions, and content curation. Following are my three favorite (and most strongly recommended) apps for managing a Facebook community:

  • AgoraPulse: AgoraPulse is a social media management platform that focuses on Facebook and Twitter. It includes marketing apps (Quiz, Instant Wins, Contests, Sweepstakes, Coupons, and so on), moderation and management tools for Facebook and Twitter, and post scheduling. The app lets you identify your most engaged fans, compare your performance with that of competitors, and export reports into a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation.
  • ActionSprout: ActionSprout lets you acquire emails in the News Feed by using Facebook actions that allow Facebook users to share their email with ActionSprout when they click on a specific action. You can publish an update encouraging your Facebook fans to “Stand For” a particular issue or topic, for example. When a user clicks Stand For in the update, he joins your email list. You can automatically email Facebook users who engage with the app and also download emails into your customer relationship management software (CRM).
  • Post Planner: Post Planner allows you to schedule posts to multiple Pages, repeat posts, and even curate the most viral content from other Facebook Pages. Post Planner lets you put a share bar above your shared posts so that you can build your email list, get more Twitter followers, and even promote a product or service. In my Post Planner share bar, I encourage Facebook users to join my email list, whether I’m sharing my own content or content from another website.

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