One of our clients had a great idea for a contest. We decided to use Facebook as the platform for a couple of key reasons:

  • Their page was relatively new and it needed a promotional shove to build the company’s brand on Facebook.
  • We knew it was a very inexpensive promotion to run, thus reducing the client’s risk in giving it a whirl.

What results can you expect from a Facebook contest?

We ran the photo contest on Facebook for one month. The results were great:

  • It took their page “likes” from virtually zero to over 350. That may not be huge for some industries, but for this niche B2B, it gave them the top likes in their category in Canada.
  • It only cost approximately $150 (which included the contest app fees and advertising fees), plus prize costs.
  • They now have over 100 new email addresses to reach out to and possibly add to their newsletter list.

Needless to say, running a Facebook contest can be a fun and exciting opportunity for your business, but you need to make sure to set it up properly, keep it relevant to your audience, and to adhere to the contest rules laid out by Facebook.

Six steps for running a Facebook contest

Here’s a step-by-step approach to set up your next Facebook contest:

Step one: Set your objectives

Are you trying to increase “likes” to your page? If so, you might want to “like-gate” the contest or make “liking” part of the contest requirements.

Are you trying to increase email addresses?  If so, then you will need to collect contestant details. Ask for as little contact info as you can, as it will increase your number of entrants.

Are you trying to increase brand awareness? In our case, we were definitely trying to increase the client’s exposure on Facebook, so we created a voting contest that would require entrants to share the contest with as many of their friends as possible.

 Step two: Set out the details of the contest

You want to think about the type of contest you want, the rules, and the prizes.

In our case, we decided on a photo contest. Contestants could easily post their photo via our client’s Facebook page. The winners would be chosen by the number of votes their photo received. We needed to make it easy for contestants to share the photo with their Facebook friends, so they could encourage their friends to come and vote for their photo. We decided that contestants could only enter one photo, and could only vote once to keep it fair.

A word on prizes: You want to make sure that the prizes offered make sense to your target audience (assuming these are the people you are trying to attract with your contest). The prizes could even be one of your company’s products or service offerings. It’s a good idea to have more than one prize, in case the first place photo is so far ahead of the second that people give up trying.

Step three: Setting up the contest

Once you have figured out your event details, rules, and prizes, it’s time to set up the contest page. Start by looking at some Facebook contest apps. Luckily, there are a myriad of Facebook applications that make setting up the contest a snap, but remember to choose wisely. Because we decided to go with a photo contest, we needed an app that would:

  • Let people upload their photo
  • Share the photo easily with their friends on Facebook
  • Limit them to one vote per person
  • Limit them to one photo per person
  • Allow others to vote for photos easily
  • Provide us with reporting on the progress of the contest

We used an app called Woobox, and were very happy with its overall functionality. Make sure to start with an eye-catching graphic, and then list all the details of the contest (deadlines, rules, prizes, and how to enter). You also want to encourage people to share the contest and possibly even leave comments. The more engagement, the better!

Make sure to give yourself a good week to set up a contest, especially if it’s your first one. That way, you have time to learn how to use the app, design any graphics, and test the whole experience before launch date.

Step four: Promote your contest

Congratulations! You are ready to launch your contest. Now, it’s time to promote it. Luckily, the type of contest we set up promotes itself through contestants, but you still need to get the ball rolling. Here are some ways to easily get the word out there:

  •  Change the main banner of your Facebook page to the contest banner, and add the application to your company info section on the left.
  • Set up a Facebook ad campaign
  • Put up a banner on your website and blog
  • Promote through strategic alliance websites and their social media channels
  • Promote through your other social media sites
  • Promote on contest sites
  • Share it with your newsletter and blog subscribers
  • Include it in your company email signatures

Step five: Monitor the contest

Once the contest is up and running, you want to make sure to monitor it closely on a daily basis, especially for the first week.

Check comments and posts for questions, concerns, or problems that people might be having with signing up or voting. It’s important to address any questions or concerns as quickly as possible and be as transparent as you can.

Watch for people who are trying to trick the system. Even the best applications can’t always stop a determined “cheater,” so make sure that people aren’t breaking your contest rules.

Step six: Have a strong post-contest plan of action

Once the contest is done, you want to make sure it is in fact closed down. Change any banners posted via promotions to another company banner, and stop any paid advertising if it’s still running.

Ensure that you announce the winners on your Facebook page as soon as possible, and consider promoting winners via other social media sites, your newsletter, and on your website. Let the winners know how to claim their prizes, and in the case of a photo contest, get them to sign a photo release form if you intend to use their photos anywhere.

When contacting all the other contestants, consider:

  • Announcing the winners
  • Offering a special on one of your products or services
  • Getting their permission to add them to an email list
  • Asking for their feedback on the contest
  • Letting them know dates of your next contest

Facebook contests are a great way to enhance your company presence online. Has your business held any Facebook contests lately? How did they work for you? I’d love to hear your lessons learned and other creative tips.

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AvatarCidnee Stephen

Cidnee Stephen is the owner of Strategies for Success, a marketing company that focuses on the needs of budget minded small businesses and professional services. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.