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Facebook Contests – What Works and What Doesn’t

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Since Facebook became a vital marketing tool, and social media marketing became a distinct field of expertise on its own, Facebook contests have also become a crucial part of the machination to foster brand awareness, drive user engagement, and generate leads.

If there’s one thing people love more than to be on Facebook, it’s trying to win free stuff on the social site.

This is just one reason why, even though the concept of Facebook contests have been around for years, it can still be an important element of social media marketing campaigns.

A great example of this is the contest concocted by home furnishing and hardware store Crate and Barrel.

Their contest offered couples a chance to win a $100,000 dream wedding.

The rules of the contest, aptly named “The Ultimate Wedding Contest”, were quite simple: participants had to set a gift registry with a particular brand, post three images, and respond to three questions.

screenshot of a successful facebook contest

The prize at stake was enticing enough, but what made it transcendent were the aww-inducing love stories that the contest focused on, which generated even more interest.

In the end, analysis of the contest data showed that, in the span of 12 months, the Crate and Barrel Facebook page received some three million views, with the contest getting half a million votes.

Further analysis showed that some 16,000 couples participated, resulting in gift registries amounting to around $35 million.

This might be just one example, but it hammers home the point that if done correctly, online contests can take all the metrics—engagement, fan base, relevant information collection, and user-generated content—to spike up.

That being said, here are a few important things to take note of when creating Facebook contests for your brand.


As with most things social media, nothing is set in stone, and that includes Facebook’s promotional terms of service.

You’ll need to check the latest permutation of their guidelines should you choose to go the Facebook contest route, but the people over at ShortStack made an infographic about some of the basic guidelines.

What you CAN ask people to do:

  • Like a post to enter
  • Comment on a post to enter
  • Message a Page to enter
  • Like a Page to get access to a contest entry form
  • Like as a means of voting

What you CAN’T ask participants:

  • Share a Page to enter
  • Like a different Page to enter
  • Tag themselves in photos in exchange for a chance to win a prize
  • Share the contest on a friend’s Timeline to receive additional entries

You may have the most brilliantly crafted Facebook contest ever, but if it doesn’t ride with the changing Facebook rules, then it’s all for naught.

Proven Practices

Once you’ve taken note of the latest promotional terms of service on Facebook, here are a few of the best-known practices for contests.

1. Brand Recognition

Proper positioning of the company/brand logo on the campaign is key.

It has to be highly visible, able to identify with your brand, and build trust, which will lead to more user engagement.

2. Easy-In Form

How many times has your interest been piqued by a contest only to give up on the prospect of joining because the entry form was too complicated? A few times, maybe? That’s too many if it’s your contest.

There are number of web tools you can use to make sure your opt-in form is both highly visible and easy to enter.

Among the most suggested tools include ConstantContact, MailChimp, and Aweber.

3. Clear Steps

Perhaps even more crucial than an uncomplicated opt-in form, is an equally easy to understand and execute steps to enter the contest.

Keep the rules simple and the game engaging.

Skip unnecessary steps for potential contestants, and make sure they fuel a broadened audience.

4. Appropriate Call to Action

Just like the tip above, you need to be concise and direct with your call to action.

If they need to like to enter, tell them immediately within the first line of your post.

Whether it’s sharing, liking, or commenting, you should be clear on what you need them to do.

5. A Picture Paints A Thousand Words

Photos have been proven to generate more Likes on Facebook (about 53 percent more).

But of course, carefully selecting which contest photo to use can be just as crucial.

A nice shirt or pair of sunglasses as a prize will always get attention, but a person seen beaming with glee from wearing that shirt or sunglasses will be even better.

6. Use a Third Party

Facebook’s terms or service no longer require the use of third-party apps, but if you can, it’s still a good idea to use one.

And if you’re going to use one, it’s also important to note that you should use an app that’s compatible with mobile devices as more and more users access Facebook that way.

Practices to Avoid

Setting up an online contest would also require you to be aware of practices that may not give you desirable outcomes.

Prior knowledge is key so you won’t have to commit these mistakes.

1. Requiring Sign-Up

People like prizes.

Filling up sign-up forms, not so much.

If you really must, the proper incentives for doing so must be in place.

2. Giving Out an Irrelevant Prize

A shiny new tablet sure seems like a relevant prize—if you’re Apple, Samsung, or an electronics retail store.

Big prizes like that would certainly attract attention, but if it doesn’t relate to your business, chances are, you’re doing it wrong.

You’re going to want for the contestants to care about your product and brand.

Giving away one of your yet-to-be-released products not only gives them a sneak peek of what to expect from you, they can also generate some advanced buzz for it.

3. Having One Big Winner

Having only one winner isn’t really a good idea for Facebook contests.

Slim chances of winning turn potential audiences away.

Even the lottery allows for more than one person to win.

4. Running the Contest Too Long

One unfortunate side effect of the Internet and social media is shrinking attention spans.

You want to keep them engaged, not lose them to disinterest over time.

You would want them to keep coming back to your page.

Shorter duration of contests along with constant updates is key.

5. Relying on Stock Photos

There are too many things on Facebook, and overreliance on stock photos would not make your brand stand out.

You need something distinct, something unique.

You want to engage your audience.

Instead of using stock photos, you can commission a professional photographer to give you unique photos or you can take one yourself if you have the skills.

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