Running a contest on Facebook can be a great addition to you social media marketing plan

In one of my recent surveys I found out that fully 32% of all Facebook users have liked a Page because of a contest on Facebook. Marketers want to create a magical competition that increases their likes on Facebook, engages thousands of users and creates a lot of new clients, but many fall short and end up violating Facebook’s terms or giving away expensive products for very few likes or other return.

Over the years I have helped a lot of businesses create contests on Facebook and I’ve learned something every time. So, what is needed to create a successful contest on Facebook? As with any social media marketing endeavor, success comes from good planning, management and follow-up.

Here are my seven top tips for companies that want to build a successful contest on Facebook.

1. Set a goal and a budget

Why should you have a contest on Facebook? If your answer is “because it’s fun” or “all of my competitors are doing it”, it’s time for you to go back to the drawing board. Your contest should somehow contribute to a business goal for your company. Do you want more reach? More likes? More sales? Decide what your goal is worth to you and create a budget that fits.

Say your goal is to drive more likes to your page and each like is worth $5 to you. If the contest prize will cost you $100, then you will need to get 20 new likes to recoup this cost. Don’t forget set-up costs; you will also need to consider the cost of your Facebook App (more on that later) and any advertising you plan to support your contest on Facebook.

How you calculate what your goal is worth will be unique for your company, but the important thing is that you have a goal and that you can easily measure the success of your contest.

2. Create a simple and shareable contest application

A contest on Facebook needs to be located in an application (read Facebook’s Pages terms if you have not already done so). With this in mind, you have three choices. You can build your application from scratch (which requires some programming skills), you can buy a tool with which you can build and customize your own applications, or you can outsource the entire process. I might be a bit biased here, but if you don’t have any programming skills or a big bank account, I recommend you buy a tool so you can build and customize your own applications. This will save you both time and money.

Whatever choice you make, make sure that you end up with a contest that users can easily understand and that encourages them to share. Consider four popular types:

  • A simple “Motivate and Win” contest with a Like-gate, where the components of the contest application are available only to users who like your Page. These are useful if your aim is to grow your Facebook community.
  • A contest with a few questions, the answers to which users can find the answers on your website. These are especially useful if your goal is to drive traffic to your website.
  • A competition in which the user needs to vote on other users’ contributions. These usually generate a lot of buzz and get a lovely viral spread as well.
  • A competition offering a prize to people who share your content. These can be very effective in increasing awareness of your offerings.

The key here is to keep it simple and give the user the ability (and incentive) to share the contest on Facebook with their friends.

3. Ensure your contest on Facebook is accessible on mobile devices

Many Facebook users access the site on mobile devices, so running a contest on Facebook that only works on desktop is a big no-no. The challenge is that Facebook tabs aren’t visible on mobile devices. Make sure your contest on Facebook is accessible to everyone; use a webpage to store your contest on Facebook that can be accessed via mobile devices. You don’t want to risk making your mobile followers sour on you, or lose all mobile users, just because your application doesn’t work on mobile devices!

4. Regularly post about the contest on Facebook

If nobody knows about your contest on Facebook, nobody will participate. Make sure all of your followers and their friends know about the contest by publishing new posts at least 2 – 3 times per week. Offer images of the prize and describe what you can do with it, ask users to participate, and include other calls to action to get more followers to participate in the contest. You can also change your cover photo and point users to your contest. Facebook recently changed its guidelines allowing you to include calls to actions in your cover photo.

5. Promote the contest on your website, in newsletters and through ads

Just because you’re hosting your contest on Facebook doesn’t mean that Facebook should be the only place where you promote it. Add links and banners to your website to make sure visitors are informed about the contest on Facebook and include information on it in your customer newsletters. In my experience, advertising on Facebook has been crucial for contests – just make sure that your ads are targeting the right audience (e.g. do not target Italians if your prize is in the US) and try to use multiple ad formats to see which delivers the best results.

6. Send your congratulations to the winner

When the contest is over, you should show the joy that the contest gave all participants and/or winners. You might, for example, take a picture of the lucky winner and publish it on your timeline. (Just keep in mind that, according to Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines, you can’t notify a winner using the Facebook platform). Also consider talking to the winner or some of the participants to get their feedback on the contest, and then use that feedback in posts and for a future contest on Facebook.

7. Analyze and learn

When you have done all the above, it’s time to become a “number nerd.” Measure progress toward the goals you picked in Step 1 and how well the contest contributed to your business goals. Check Facebook Insights to see how many people visited your contest, how many more likes you received during the contest period, how your reach was affected during the contest, and so on. Make sure you understand what contributed to the success of your contest, and think about what you can do differently the next time around. Then it’s time to start planning for the next contest on Facebook. 😉

To sum things up, set a goal, create a plan, build an app with shareable content, let the world know about your contest, and keep it simple and fun.

Are there any good tips I missed for running a successful contest on Facebook? Add a comment below!

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