Marketing ToolsSocial Media & Influencer Marketing

How to Run a Facebook Contest (Step-By-Step)

Facebook contests are an underrated marketing tool. They can raise brand awareness, become a fountain of user-generated content, increase audience engagement, and make a noticeable difference in your conversions.

Running a successful social media contest isn’t a complex undertaking. But it does require understanding the platform, the rules, your audience and making a concrete plan. 

Sound like too much effort for the reward? 

A well-designed and well-executed contest can do wonders for a brand.

If you’re interested in running a Facebook contest, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to run a successful campaign.

Step 1: Decide on Your Goal 

While Facebook contests are powerful, deciding exactly what you want from your contest will help you zero in on how entrants will sign up, what prize to give, and how to follow up after the campaign.

Facebook Contests - Deciding Your Goal

Different goals could include:

  • User-generated content
  • Increasing customer loyalty
  • More site traffic
  • More leads
  • More sales
  • Event promotion
  • Increased brand awareness
  • More social media followers

A well designed Facebook contest can help you hit more than one target, but it’s always good to have a primary idea in mind before starting your campaign.

When you’re working on everything else – the entry method, the rules, the design, the prize, the copy on the page — keep your ultimate goal in mind and gear it towards that. 

Step 2: Get the Details Down! Target Audience, Budget, Timing.

The devil’s in the details when it comes to contest design. 

No matter how good your prize or how big your budget, if you fail to think through your fundamentals, it could cost you big time down the road.

Set a budget not only for your prize, but for the amount of time you’ll spend on it, the amount of money you’ll spend promoting it (because it will need promotion to get the word out), and any online tools or services you’ll use to help. 

Timing is key. 

Generally speaking, contests that run less than a week don’t tend to not reach their maximum potential before they end. Contests that run longer than two months tend to peter out and followers lose interest or forget. 

As a general rule of thumb, we typically recommend running contests for 6 weeks or 45 days. That seems to be the sweet spot between giving people a chance to enter, and not allowing your contest to fizzle out or lose interest.

Lastly, think of seasonal relevance. For example a surfboard giveaway is less likely to attract entrants in the dead of winter.

Step 3: Your Contest Type

Different types of contests are best suited to different kinds of goals. For example, to get user-generated content, photo contests are your best bet. 

Facebook Contest Types

For email lists, quick-entry sweepstakes are the most effective. If you just want to boost engagement, running caption contests is a fun way to get your wittiest audience members playing along with your brand.

For ideas, here are a few of the types of contests you can run: 

  • Sweepstakes
  • Vote Contests
  • Photo Caption Contests
  • Essay Contests
  • Photo Contests
  • Video Contests

Step 4: Decide on Your Entry Method and Rules 

This will be so important, as there are few things that frustrate users more than feeling cheated out of a competition because they didn’t understand the rules. 

Highly frustrated entrants have the potential to ruin the fun atmosphere of a social media contest, and can even post potential legal risks if not addressed correctly.

Facebook Contest Settings

Whatever the entry method or rules — signing up via email, Liking your page, submitting a photo with a caption, answering a question  — ensure they’re written clearly and displayed prominently where entrants can see.

It also helps if users know how winners will be picked, and the day they can expect to be informed (especially if the prize is big, you’ll find a community may be anxious to hear a winner announcement.) 

Also, ensure you’re following each platform’s individual rules and guidelines. Facebook has set rules in place for competitions and promotions on its platform. For example, you have to clearly state that your promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook

Check the rules and policies for other limitations, and be sure you’re up to date with the latest guidelines before launch.

Quick tip: For help creating contest rules, check out Wishpond’s free contest rules generator.

Step 5: Choose Your Prize

BHU Facebook Contest Example

You might think that the bigger or trendier your prize, the better, but that’s not necessarily so. 

In fact, the more expensive your prize is, the more likely it is to attract users who will enter your contest purely for the prize, and not engage with your brand after the contest. 

Instead, it’s better to choose a prize closely aligned with your brand: your own products or services, or a shopping spree at your stores. This will mean you’re much more likely to get entrants who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. 

For example, if you’re a beauty brand offering the latest iPhone for a giveaway, you’ll likely get a lot of entrants, probably more than if you offer a free makeover or consultation. 

But how many of the entrants from the first group are likely to stay followers or subscribers after your giveaway is over, or are likely to turn into long-term customers?

It’s easy to get distracted by big numbers and big prizes, but strategic thinking is the best way to get the most out of social media contests — bigger isn’t always necessarily better, but targeted and thoughtful campaigning never goes to waste. 

For more reading on choosing your prize, read:

Step 6: Pre-promotion, Launch & Promotion!

A thorough marketing plan should include space for promoting the contest.

For maximum impact, audiences should be aware of the contest a bit prior to launch, hopefully, excited about the chance to enter and win.

Ideas for pre-promotion include:

  • Sending an email newsletter out to your subscribers
  • Promoting your contest in sidebars or popups on your website
  • Promotions on social media channels

Once your contest goes live, your promotion should keep rolling to keep up the momentum! 

A countdown timer helps increase your sense of urgency, as well as reminding people of your prize and its value. 

Facebook Contest Countdown Timer

For more, read 7 Ways to Effectively Promote your Facebook Contest.

Step 7: Take Notes

As with anything, the best way to get good at running contests is to simply get in there and start doing it: learn from your audience and your team what works best for you and what doesn’t.

Make notes on the process and areas for improvement so that you’re not repeating the same mistakes over and over again. 

And last, but most importantly — have fun! In a well-run contest, your audience is engaged, and you should be too. Enjoy your new followers and new numbers: you earned it!

Feeling inspired? There’s no end to the kind of contest you can run: video, photo, referral, leaderboard and more. Feeling inspired? Head to the Wishpond website for more! Their marketing software makes it easy to create and run successful contests, and track analytics and engagement.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is CMO of OpenINSIGHTS and the founder of the Martech Zone. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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