Your Complete Guide To Running Contests On Facebook

Running a contest is a fantastic way to build page likes or to entertain and engage your current fans.

For example, the last contest I ran for one of my clients I managed to increase page Likes by just over 40% and increased their “Talking About” to the highest levels they have seen.

While it can be wildly successful, it does take a little bit of planning and thought. And you need to be aware of a few details, otherwise you can ran foul of Facebook.

Knowing the Rules

One of the main things to be aware of are Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines, which you can find here, or you can find a more readable version here on my blog.

The most important rule is: don’t run contests on your wall – a big no-no. You need to use an app.

You can now run contest and promotions directly on your Facebook page – no app needed. Although I would recommend using an app if you want to capture email addresses – always a great way to build your subscriber list.

Use an App

Depending on the type of promotion I still think running it via an app is the best way to do it. I recommend ShortStack as it is easy to use and gives you the best looking options.

The best way to be successful with a contest on Facebook is to make it appealing to your target audience and to make it relevant to your business in some way.

If you need help running a contest, then don’t be shy and ask me!

Types of Contests

There are basically three types of contests you can run:

  • Skill-Based
    These are contests where the person who enters needs to do something involving some type of skill – like writing or photography – in order to win. The skill-based contest will most likely get fewer entries (than a sweepstakes) but would tend to be more engaging, especially if it added to the business in some way, like designing a new product;
  • Sweepstakes
    A contest run by pure chance. A person enters their name and email address and you draw the winner out of a hat. These types contests are good for building page Likes but their level of engagement tend to be low;
  • Giveaways
    This is where you simply give something away for free to everyone who “enters”. These are a great idea for a new product launch, for example. and this can work to your advantage as you can then easily capture a person’s name and email address to add to your email marketing campaign (you do have one of those, don’t you?)

Pre-Contest Strategy

With any sort of promotion – whether it is a contest or giveaway – you need to be very specific about what you want to achieve with it. If it’s gaining Likes then use a giveaway where people have to Like your page before being able to get the item.

If it’s to gain email addresses then give away the item in exchange for their email (just make sure you state clearly that they are signing up for your e-newsletter).

I guess what I am saying, is have a goal. And then design the promotion to achieve that goal.

Planning your contest is an imperative and is the first thing you should do. As part of your planning process I would sit down and answer each of the following questions:

  • What do you want to achieve with your contest?
    Do you want more page Likes, more engagement (as measured via the “Talking About’ metric), or perhaps some user-generated content? You need to define this as it will allow you to answer the next question;
  • What do you want your Fan to do?
    Do you want them to just enter their name and email address for a chance to win something (a sweepstakes) or do you want some form of thoughtful entry from them that you (or other Fans) will judge and vote on? Remember the golden rule when coming up with a contest: the more work you make someone do to enter, the less entries you will receive;
  • What are the rules of you contests, and what rules do you need to have to meet state and federal laws.
    Please look into this as you could easily get fined and/or have some disgruntled Fan cause trouble for you because they didn’t win. If you have written rules in place there is less problems as you can always refer back to them;
  • What will your prizes be?
    It is best to have prizes that reflect your business and the competition. For example, I ran a pet mascot competition for one of my clients in which the winner’s pet got to become the business’s mascot (as well as some other smaller prizes);
  • How long will the contest run for?
    This really depends on the contest, but I would say no longer than a month for most. You have to think about the type of contest you are running though, as some may require more or less time. Again, think about what you want your Fans to do – the more complicated the task you require, the longer you should give them to complete it.
  • What structure will your contest take?
    Think about what structure the contest will take. The last contest I ran was a photo contest, where people would send in photos of their pets and then everyone got to vote on who would be the winner. The contest was split into two main parts – the entry phase and the voting phase.

Post-Contest Strategy

One of the often over-looked part of running a contest on Facebook (or any other social networking site) is what to do during and after the contest has ended to keep those who entered engaged.

You need to have a strategy for content during the contest and, more importantly, post-contest. It’s no good getting a whole bunch of new Fans and not keeping them engaged afterwards. All your work will be for naught.

To do this you really need to think about what content you want to share with your Fans during and after the contest. And make it your best work as well, as this will get those people who came to win the prize to take a good look at your business while they are still there. And the more engaging you can make your posts, the longer you will have their attention and the more likely they are to become customers.


Yes, running a contest takes a little bit of planning and work, but it is something that if you do it well it will make a huge difference to your fan-base.

Over to you now, have you ever run a contest on Facebook or other social networking site? How did it work out?

Image credit: Sergio Bertolini

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *