6 Steps To A Successful Facebook Contest

by Andrew Krebs-Smith | December 12

Thinking about launching a Facebook contest for your brand? Follow these steps for successful, goal-oriented implementation.

1. Plan

Plan a Facebook contestEffective planning involves asking yourself a series of questions: How can I make my contest interesting to a large audience, while maintaining its relationship to my brand? What will the prize be? What action do I want users to complete in order to enter my contest? And, most importantly, what goals do I want my contest to achieve?

If you’re a plumbing company running a contest for a free vacation, chances are you’ll get plenty of entries (who doesn’t want a free vacation?). But how many of those users will actually be a qualified prospect for your plumbing business, or even register the fact that they’ve entered a contest run by So-and-So’s Plumbing Co.? Probably not very many. The key is to find the right balance between on-brand and widespread interest; a contest that would draw attention to people outside of your immediate customer base that are possible prospects, while driving home a consistent message about your brand. Good example: A gym that runs a Facebook contest asking users to share their 2013 fitness goals and offers a free year of personal training for the most inspiring entry. A bad example? Any company that asks for your contact information in order to enter to win an iPad.

Possible actions required for contest entry include uploading a photo or video, voting on a photo or video, entering your information, sharing something, etc. And the best action for your contest relates to your overall goal. For example, uploading or voting on something would suit a contest designed to boost engagement with your audience, while sharing something makes sense if your goal is to generate impressions and additional page likes.

Facebook Guidelines2. Check Facebook’s Contest Guidelines

Think you’ve got your contest all figured out? Not so fast. Facebook has some pretty specific guidelines regarding what is and isn’t allowed when running contests on Facebook. The most surprising? Contests which only require users to “like” a page as an entry mechanism are actually against Facebook’s Terms of Services. Additionally:

i. Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or a Page App.

ii. You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app.

iii. You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism.

iv. You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) or Pages.

The complete set of guidelines can be found here.

3. Establish Contest Rules

Facebook’s guidelines also state that “you are responsible for the lawful operation of that promotion, including the official rules, offer terms and eligibility requirements.” These rules should be easily accessible and easily understood by contest entrants, and should detail who can enter, how to enter, when to enter, how the winner will be chosen, how the winner will be contacted, etc. An example can be found here. 

At this point you should consult with your legal team before moving forward with implementing your contest. They can ultimately decide if your rules cover all bases.

4. Set Up A Contest Application

TabSite, ShortStack, NorthSocialAs specified in Facebook’s guidelines, you will need to run your contest through a Facebook application. Ideally you would have a custom app designed specifically for your promotion (shameless plug –> we can do this for you), but there are also quicker, cheaper options available to you via the following programs that allow for easily building Facebook apps using a variety of templates and/or widgets:

  • TabSite: In our opinion, this service is not as user-friendly as it could be, but it does provide a higher level of app customization than some of the other options. Currently they only offer 5 different contest templates.
  • ShortStack: ShortStack is the best choice if all you want to do is slap your logo on a template and publish a contest application within 10 minutes. It may not be ultra-customizable, but these apps are clean, simple, and professional. ShortStack offers more than 70 different templates, and they regularly add new ones.
  • NorthSocial: Similar to ShortStack in user-friendliness and clean app design, NorthSocial offers 18 different contest application templates that come with a decent degree of customization.

5. Promote

Contest PromotionNo matter how engaged your Facebook community already is, posting a handful of updates about your contest likely won’t provide the number of entries needed to reach your contest goal and make the time and money invested worthwhile. In addition to promoting your contest on other channels besides Facebook – like Twitter, Pinterest, and/or email communication – paid advertisements on Facebook can ensure you reach the right people (and the right number of people) with messaging about your promotion.

First, leverage Promoted Posts. These are regular posts you make on your Facebook page, with a little extra oomph. Pay a small amount, and Facebook will guarantee that your message reaches a certain number of your fans, and/or friends of fans, depending on which option you choose. Since you’ll be paying for impressions, your Promoted Post should dramatically stand out from other posts likely appearing in these users’ newsfeeds. An attention drawing photo along with a clear call-to-action will help your Promoted Post succeed.

Additionally, brands should consider running Facebook ads to promote a contest among users who are outside their immediate social reach (fans & friends of fans). Target users who are likely qualified prospects for your business, and give them a good reason to enter your contest. Kill two birds with one stone (contest entries & page likes) by setting up like-gating on your contest app.

Facebook page monitoring 6. Monitor

Once your contest is up and running and the entries are rolling in, its important that you keep a close eye on your Facebook page and application. Apps can crash, users may have issues or questions about entering, etc. Whatever it is, the possibility that something might go wrong warrants additional monitoring to ensure that any issues can be resolved quickly, and entry is as easy as possible.

Facebook Content Promotion Secrets


Ready to start the planning process? Check out these awesome Facebook contests run by other brands to get your creative juices flowing:

Andrew Krebs-Smith
About the author

Andrew Krebs-Smith

Helping B2C Retail/Ecomm companies test, measure, and scale digital marketing. Trying to fix the agency model so that agencies are accountable to every client media dollar they spend.