Do Facebook Contests Really Work?

That depends on what you’re looking to get out of it?

Yes, contests can increase the number of people who like your page, and even more importantly, contests can provide valuable customer information. However, a poorly designed contest – ugly design, boring prize(s), no real connection to your audience and a disregard for Facebook’s policies – will result in a bad experience and may even get you shut down.

What to consider when running a contest on Facebook

First, determine whether you really need a contest! Not all businesses benefit from running contests. For example, if your business provides a unique solution to a very niche market the ability to acquire new customers or engage in a meaningful way significantly decreases.

Ask yourself the following questions before you proceed with a contest:

  • What do you hope to achieve?
  • Do you want to increase brand awareness?
  • Do you want to promote a new product?
  • Do you want more page likes?
  • Do you want to boost user engagement?
  • Are you looking to gather user feedback?

Make sure you have specific goals and these goals are aligned with your tactics. Don’t just run a contest because everyone else is!

Once you have committed to running a contest you need to decide what kind of contest to run. There are 4 basic types of Facebook contests.

  1. Sweepstakes
  2. Essay
  3. Photo
  4. Video

It’s important to choose the right contest, because different types of contests appeal to different audiences.

Essay, photo and video contests, also referred to as UGC (User Generated Content), will typically result in more engagement. However, they require more effort on the entrants part and more work for you in terms of content moderation and of course – getting the right messaging down so you ultimately connect with your audience – so that they feel driven to enter. Not so easy!

A great example of a UGC contest currently running on Facebook is Folgers Coffee “The Best Part of Smile Contest“. Folgers is asking entrants to make a video telling them “What always makes them smile”.

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This is where many contests fail. Setting the barriers too high or asking too much of your community will result in a negative ROI.

Don’t let this scare you away! If done right UGC contests can be incredibly beneficial to your brand. According to Kissmetrics, photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts.

I should mention there are strategic mechanisms for driving engagement on UGC contests other than liking and commenting. Common practices include voting and captioning.

A great example of this is the hit TV show on A&E, “Storage Wars”. They hosted a photo caption contest (the contest is closed) on their popular Facebook page.

What does this mean for your contest? The higher your reach the more potential entrants you get and if you’re running a like-gating contest, a contest that requires you to like a page before you enter, this means more fans and greater brand awareness.

Typically the most common goal with Facebook contests is to increase you page likes. The easiest way to achieve this goal to require that entrants must like your page before they can enter contest, if they are not already  fan. Like-gating can also aid in qualifying leads. Granted a good majority of people will like a page to participate, but if your contest’s messaging is well crafted, the majority of the likes could potentially convert into retained fans and not just a “like to win” then unlike when contest is done scenario.

A good example of like-gating is Fisher-Price Holiday “Sneak Peek Sweeps“. If you like their page you are automatically entered to win their toys.

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An independent study by Syncapse earlier this year reported that 35% of Facebook fans like a page so that they can participate in a contest.

The king of Facebook contests are sweepstakes

Sweepstakes are the easier form of Facebook contests to run. Entrants can quickly enter with a few key pieces of information, like email, age, name, and location  – all important data to collect. 

What makes sweepstakes so popular? Exclusive prizes! It’s all about collectability. If you offer a select number of “one of kind” prizes in a limited amount of time you generate motivation in a consumer. The more motivated the consumer the faster word travels and the potential for high traction increases exponentially.

A brilliant example of how one brand boosted its traffic through a Facebook sweepstake is Diamond Candles.

Diamond Candles used Facebook sweepstakes to gain over 30,000 new fans in less than 6 weeks. They ran a weekly sweepstake giving away candles. Yes candles! This brilliant campaign not only gained them 30,000 fans but it created a ton of social buzz. Excited Fans of Diamond Candles have been creating fan pages and posting videos and pics all over Facebook and other social channels.

Kontest, a popular Facebook app for contests and promotions, found that the best duration for a campaign is 25 days or 60 days.

Some final tips

Know the rules! Facebook has an extensive list of policies regarding contests. Before you begin the process of building your contest make sure you fully understand the do’s and don’ts. For example, you must notify winners via email, snail mail, over the phone first – not in a Facebook status update or anywhere on your page.

Tell the world! A contest is useless if no one knows about it. Yes, I know this seems obvious, but many brands rely on their current fans to drive traffic to their contests – that’s not good enough, especially if your ROI is more fans! This is where traditional marketing comes into play. Take advantage of email campaigns, PPC, banners and other social channels, etc.

Kontest found that with an advertising budget brands got 10x more the amount of entrants than those without – food for thought!

Choose the right 3rd party app to run your contest! First, this is a Facebook policy. You must use a 3rd party app to run your contest. Second, make sure you choose the right app for the right contest. For example, developing your fanbase will be easier with and instant win app, while a photo contest will be better to engage with your audience.

Finally, follow up! You ran a contest for a reason. You collected data. Now you need to spend some time to figure out what you learned and how you can leverage these findings to further your ROI and most importantly tweak your strategy for next time.

Ready to get started? Let us know and maybe we can help  🙂

2 thoughts on “Do Facebook Contests Really Work?

  1. Val Durand

    Excellent post Brendan, I have seen too many pages run contests for no obvious reasons. Asking yourself “what am I trying to achieve here?” is key. Just one thing, the whole third-party app policy no longer exists (since early September, I think), but I would still advise to go through a third-party app to collect data, have the possibility to share on different networks, easily manage entries etc.


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