Facebook contests are a proven way to drive engagement and boost visibility. That’s why so many companies run them. On Facebook, you can run a basic Timeline contest, or use third-party campaign-building software to host a contest that requires a little more effort. Timeline contests are very easy to put up, but using third-party software will make it easier to collect and organize the kinds of valuable leads you can use for future marketing efforts.
Either way, in order for a contest to deliver the results you hope for, take some time to think about goals and tactics.
As the holiday season approaches, the time is right to step up your Facebook marketing efforts and a contest is a great way to get a head start. Here’s a checklist that will help you put together a Facebook contest that works for the holidays and beyond.
1. Start with a goal
Do you want to increase brand awareness or highlight a new product? Do you want to boost user engagement, gather user feedback, or develop advocates for your brand? Decide before you begin. Having one or two goals will help you focus when it comes time to build your contest.
2. Choose a contest campaign builder with three essential features:
— Flexibility. If it’s not customizable, the campaign might not deliver the results you’re after.
— Embeddable capabilities. Look for a campaign builder that allows you to publish the contest on web as well as on your favorite social platforms.
— Mobile readiness! 60% of social media activity is done on smartphones or tablets.
3. Choose a budget-friendly contest campaign builder
There are free campaign builders and those that cost thousands of dollars. Using free or low-cost software reduces your risk if the contest doesn’t deliver what you hope.
4. Be aware of Facebook’s policies and guidelines
Even though Facebook has relaxed their contest rules lately, be sure you know the current “dos and don’ts.” For example, whether you’re hosting a Timeline contest, or using third-party campaign-builder software, you must offer terms and eligibility requirements and make sure your contest is in compliance with your local laws and other regulations. Since Facebook changes their guidelines fairly regularly it’s a good idea to check the most current Facebook Pages Terms before you publish your contest. Facebook has been known to shut down pages that host contests which are in violation of their rules.
5. Design the right type of contest
There are five basic types of social media contests: sweepstakes, photo, video, essay and vote to enter. Decide which one will help you achieve your goals. Sweepstakes and photo-vote contests are the easiest to set up while video and essay contests — which will bring you lots of user-generated content — require a little more effort. If you choose to do a video or essay contest, make sure you’re offering a prize that’s worth the effort it will take your fans to enter.
6. Offer a relevant prize
A contest should showcase your own products and services. To stay on budget, choose smaller items/discounts that your users will appreciate. If you own a restaurant, give away a dinner for two. If you own an automotive repair business, give away an oil change or a set of winter tires. The goal should be to acquire people who will be fans of your brand for years to come, not just fans for the few weeks your contest is running. Bottom line: it’s rarely a good idea to offer an expensive but generic prize, like an iPad.
7. Make the prize worthwhile
As mentioned in #5, the value of your prize should reflect the effort participants need to make when they enter. If the only requirement for entry is to fill out a form with a name and email address, the prize can be relatively small — like a $25 gift certificate for your business.
8. Create #hashtags for your contest
Use a unique #hashtag for your contest that your audience can use on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+, and then promote the hashtag across all of your social networks. It can be tricky to find a hashtag that distinguishes your brand and contest but isn’t too complicated for people to remember and use. If you want to learn more about hashtags, this is one of the best places I can send you.
9. Know what you want
Decide on the one thing you want most — e.g., email address, product preference, location — and ask for that. The more information you ask for, the higher the abandonment rate for your contest will be — participation drops by something like 10 percent for every field you ask users to fill out so think hard about what will be the most valuable for you.
10. Action-gate your contest
Use action-gating — a function that lets you ask users for the information you need, e.g., an email address, phone number or location, in exchange for access to your contests — to strengthen your future marketing efforts.
11. Incentivize sharing
If you need more than one piece of information, e.g., an email address and a location, give your audience additional entries for providing more information about themselves and/or for referring your contest to a friend.
12. Tell the world about your contest
Promote the contest on your social networks, in email newsletters, on your website and blog. Remind your audience periodically — just don’t overdo it! This is a good time to remember the 70-20-10 rule: Seventy percent of your Page’s content shared should be information that is valuable and relevant to your Facebook fans. Twenty percent of your posts should be shared content, i.e. content that comes from other people. The final 10 percent is Facebook posts that are promotional: sale announcements, new product alerts, events, and reminders about your contest.
13. Consider investing in paid advertising
Invest in advertising to increase the reach of your promotion. Facebook advertising is relatively affordable and, if you learn how to focus your ad efforts, can be one of the most effective ways to reach your target audiences.
14. Mine the data
You ran the contest so you could gather information about your customers, so spend a little bit of time making sense of what you’ve collected. The more you learn about what motivates your fans to engage, the more likely you’ll be able to host the kinds of contests they love in the future. The result: a virtuous cycle!
15. Finish by following up
Make sure you follow up and let your followers know that you appreciate their engagement so they’ll be motivated to keep talking with you. You might even consider emailing the “losers” with an “Aw shucks…but thanks for entering” kind of message. Say something like, “Thanks for entering and even though you didn’t win this time, here’s a coupon for a free cupcake at our bakery” or something along those lines.
Do you have plans for a Facebook contest soon? If you have questions about best practices, let me know. I’d be happy to answer them right here.