How to Run a Successful Facebook Contest: Ideas, Tips, and Examples

By Christina Newberry


Image via Skitterphoto under CC0 1.0

It’s an understatement of epic proportions to say there’s a lot of activity on Facebook every day. This biggest of the social networks has climbed to more than two billion users and 70 million Business Pages.

So, how can your brand stand out from the crowd?

According to a poll conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and ion interactive, 81 percent of content marketers say interactive content (like polls, contests, quizzes, and so on) grabs readers’ attention more effectively than static content. It’s not surprising, then, that half of content marketers are using contests as a component of their marketing strategy.

An engaging Facebook contest can be an effective way to capture attention and support your business goals. In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know to run a successful Facebook contest, and take a look at some Facebook contest examples that showcase what other brands are already doing right in the Facebook contest space.

Table of contents

Facebook contest rules

Facebook contest ideas and examples

How to run a Facebook contest: Tips and best practices

Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.

Facebook contest rules

Before you start planning the specifics of your Facebook contest, it’s important to understand the Facebook contest rules. Let’s looks at some key dos and don’ts.

Facebook contest rules: The dos

1. Do comply with all applicable laws and regulations

You’re probably not surprised to learn that your Facebook contest has to be legal. But if you’ve never run a contest before, you might be surprised how complicated the rules for running a contest can be. They vary significantly between countries, and even within countries. For example, Quebec’s unique contest rules mean the province is excluded from many contests that are open to other Canadians.

Do your research to ensure that your contest abides by all relevant legal rules and regulations, including age and residency restrictions.

2. Do make it clear that YOU are offering the contest, not Facebook

Your contest language must make it clear that the contest “is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.”

Your contest terms and conditions must also make it crystal clear that Facebook is not responsible for any issues related to the contest—accepting the terms must indicate “a complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.”

By running a contest on Facebook, you also assume all risk for the contest. Facebook says, “We will not assist you in the administration of your promotion, and you agree that if you use our service to administer your promotion, you do so at your own risk.”

Facebook contest rules: The don’ts

1. Don’t run a contest on your personal Timeline

Only Business Pages can be used to run a contest. If you only have a personal Facebook profile, you’ll need to create a Business Page before launching your first contest.

2. Don’t encourage sharing the contest to gain extra entries

Facebook prohibits using “friend connections” to administer contests. That means you can’t encourage users to share your contest with their friends in order to get more entries. Facebook provides two specific examples of language that breaks this rule: “share on your Timeline to enter” and “share on your friend’s Timeline to get additional entries.”

No matter how you phrase it, asking users to share your contest is not allowed. Stick to asking them to like or comment instead, and keep in mind that these actions will also bring extra exposure, since all those likes and comments will boost your post’s popularity and win points with the Facebook algorithm. You can also ask users to post on your Page or message your Page.

3. Don’t encourage tagging to enter

Facebook does not want people tagged in photos or posts in which they do not appear—it makes things confusing for everyone. Again, Facebook is quite clear about this in their contest rules: “Tag your friends in this post to enter” is specifically prohibited.

You’ve likely seen contests that break both of those last two Facebook contest rules—but don’t follow their lead. Facebook states very clearly that both sharing and tagging are not permissible entry requirements, and the rule-breakers will get caught sooner or later.

Since Facebook regularly updates its rules, you should always check for changes before you launch a new contest. Check out the Facebook Pages Terms and scroll down to Promotions to find the specific rules that apply to contests.

Facebook contest ideas and examples

Let’s look at some Facebook contest ideas to help you decide what form of contest is the best fit for your business goals.

Like or comment to win

“Like to Win,” “Comment to Win,” and “Like and Comment to Win,” are among the easiest contests to run, and since they’re so easy to enter, they can elicit a lot of fan participation. You can simply share a photo, video, link, or even a simple status update to get your contest started. Just state the rules in your post, let your audience know what the prize is, and include a clear call to action. That’s it­—your contest is up and running.

Pura Vida Bracelets recently ran a contest in which they asked people to use the comments on a post to say which bracelet they liked best. Each comment counted as an entry to win five bracelets. They got 1,500 comments within seven hours, and more than 2,200 by the time the contest wrapped up just a couple of days later.

This contest had an added bonus for Pura Vida Bracelets. In addition to drawing attention to its brand, the contest helped to gather customer intelligence. By tallying the votes for the specific bracelets in the photos, Pura Vida could tell which bracelet was more popular, giving the company some free research about what its customers prefer.

Photo caption contest

A caption contest is another simple and effective option. Choose a compelling photo or graphic that supports your Facebook goals (building brand awareness, for example), and encourage people to post a caption idea in the comments. You can pick the winner(s) yourself, or stipulate that whichever entry gets the most Likes wins.

The Chicago Bears run an ongoing caption contest series, where they ask fans to caption photos of players for a chance to win a $25 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.

The posts regularly get 400 to 1,000 comments, making them a great way to encourage fan engagement with the team.

Knowledge-testing question or trivia contest

Asking your audience to answer a relevant question can be a good way to gauge their level of knowledge or understanding about your industry or product. This can help you learn more about the kinds of background information you need to address when talking to potential customers about your product or service offers in the future.

This approach can also compel people to seek out information on your website. You can pose a question or series of questions, then point users to your website to find the information. It’s a good way to get people to your website who may never have visited before.

Finally, a trivia question can be used to highlight the features or benefits of your product, as in this contest from Jindal Stainless, a metal supplier in India, which spotlights the benefits of a stainless steel kitchen right in the trivia question.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that the Jindall Stainless contest actually breaks the Facebook contest rules—did you spot how? It asks entrants to share the post and tag their friends to increase the odds of winning, both of which are against Facebook’s terms. So, model this contest idea, but not the execution.

User-generated content contest

User-generated content (UGC) is exactly what it sounds like: content generated by users. Offering a prize to fans who post great photos or other content not only generates engagement on your Page, but also gives you a rich supply of material to repost yourself over time.

Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.

Rocky Mountaineer runs a monthly photo contest on its Facebook Page, bringing in lots of great UGC the company can share across its social channels.

Rocky Mountaineer also posts all of the photos in a gallery on its website, giving prospective customers a glimpse of the impressive landscapes and wildlife they could spot on a Rocky Mountaineer tour.

Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.

How to run a Facebook contest: 7 Tips and best practices

1. Set goals

As with all marketing strategies, you need clear goals to ensure you design your contest to produce the desired results.

What are you hoping to get out of the promotion? How will a contest help you drive business results? You need to answers these questions before you start building your contest, since your contest strategy will differ depending on whether you’re trying to, say, increase Page Likes or bring in qualified leads for your sales team.

You could also use a contest to build brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, or boost engagement.

2. Keep things simple and make it easy to participate

In the Facebook contest examples shared above, the entry process is a maximum of two steps: Like, comment, upload a photo, or some combination of these. But you will come across contests that have complicated entry processes, with multiple steps over multiple screens, asking for far more information that most people are willing to give to a company they may not have done business with before.

eMarketer estimates that more than 80 percent of social network users log on with a mobile device, so it’s a good idea to limit the entry process to a few clicks or taps, or a couple of fields of information that are easy to complete. Don’t ask for more information than you need, as too big an ask will cause people to drop off before they complete the entry process. Be sure to test your contest entry process across all mobile devices (iPhone, Android, Windows, tablets, and so on).

Keep your rules simple, too—and easy to find—so that people can understand exactly what they can win, and how you will use any personal information they provide. If you’re asking for user-generated content, make sure to be clear about exactly what rights contest entrants give you by submitting their work, and where the content might be used.

3. Offer a prize that resonates with your audience

The kind of prize you offer—and how much it’s worth—will vary depending on your Facebook contest goals. If you’re simply trying to increase engagement, you can offer a relatively low-value prize that’s appealing to a wide audience, like the Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards used in the Chicago Bears example above.

If you’re asking people to submit content—like photos—that you can use in your social network posts or marketing materials, you may need to offer a prize with a higher value.

You’ll want to put the most thought into your prize if you’re using your contest to generate qualified leads. You’ll want a prize that’s appealing to people who are likely customers, but not all that appealing to people who would not want to do business with you. It’s not the value of the prize that’s most important, but how well it connects with the most relevant prospects for your sales team.

Don’t offer a broadly appealing prize like an iPad in a contest designed to qualify leads, as you’ll attract plenty of entrants but they will be about as qualified as random numbers from the phone book. Stick to something specifically related to your product to qualify leads.

Some contests require no prize at all—other than recognition. Photo caption contests in particular can encourage loads of engagement without a prize giveaway.

The TV show Tosh.0 has an ongoing caption “challenge” (rather than a “contest”) in which Page fans compete to come up with the best caption for a photo by posting in the comments. Even though the only prize is being named as the person with the best caption (or, as the Page puts is, “we’ll share your glory on Facebook”), these posts regularly get upward of 700 comments. (Note that the comments/captions may be NSFW.)

This twist on a contest won’t support all types of business goals, but it can be an effective way to get Page followers involved and extend the reach of your brand as their comments will get your post to appear in their friends’ Timelines.

4. Use targeting to avoid annoying existing fans

I live in Canada. I follow a lot of American companies and brands on Facebook, since many don’t have separate Pages for my country. One of my absolute pet peeves is seeing a post for a contest with a great prize that I really want to win, only to click through to the rules and learn that the contest is open to U.S. residents only. Yes, I’ll comment on the relevant post, but only to share my frustration—and I’m usually not the only one.

With Facebook’s extensive targeting options, there’s no reason for this to happen: You can geotarget your contest posts so that only people in the relevant countries see it following these instructions for posting directly to Facebook or these ones for posting via Hootsuite.

Also make sure to appropriately target any Facebook ads you use to promote your contest.

5. Leverage all your social channels

Cross-channel promotion ensures your contest reaches the broadest possible audience. You could use Twitter to provide contest updates and drive participants to Facebook. If your contest has a photo-sharing element, it’s a natural fit to cross-promote on Instagram.

At the same time, you don’t want to annoy your social audience with excessive promotion. Scheduling contest posts across channels in advance can be a great way to ensure you don’t go overboard.

6. Use paid promotion to extend your audience

If you want to draw as many eyeballs as possible to your Facebook contest, you may want to invest in some Facebook advertising. Lead ads, like the one below from SkinCeuticals can be particularly effective way to promote a contest. The lead generation form can be pre-populated with the entrant’s information, like name and email address, making entry as easy as a couple of taps.

7. Measure your Facebook contest performance

When your Facebook contest has wrapped up and the prize has been sent to the lucky winner, you’ll want to reflect on how things went. As in all marketing efforts, tracking your results and learning from went right—and what didn’t—is an important part of developing your strategy for the future, and tracking ROI.

Remember those goals you set before your launched your contest (you did set goals, right)? Analyze how well your results match up to your expectations. Be sure to look for unexpected successes, too. Maybe you didn’t get the number of new followers you expected, but you did significantly increase engagement from existing fans. If that’s a worthwhile result for your company, you might want to design new contents with that specific goal in mind.

As you’ve seen from the Facebook contest examples in this post, Facebook contests can take many different forms, and can produce many different results. As you think about your contest performance, keep the following questions in mind:

If your contest was a roaring success, you’ve got a clear model you can use to run another contest in the future. If your process needs some tweaking, think about whether you should set different goals or performance targets for your next contest. Through ongoing testing and refinement, you’ll discover what your audience responds to the most, and what works best for your brand.

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