Blog

All Blog Posts

How to Create Facebook Contests that Drive Engagement


How to Create a Facebook Contest that Drives Engagement


Social media contests are all the rage—because they work.

Sure, not all contests get thousands of entries, but if you set yours up correctly, you can see powerful results that actually benefit your business.

Below are the key steps in creating a contest that meets your specific needs.

Step 1: Set Goals

What’s the point of the contest? Surely you’re not doing it simply out of the goodness of your heart—just to give away some prizes.

Some of the goals we hear most often are to:

  • Increase likes
  • Increase reach
  • Encourage sharing
  • Collect email addresses
  • Generate awareness
  • Gather user-generated content
  • Drive website traffic

Even though you may have no idea what to expect from a contest—especially your first one—it’s still important to set SMART goals. For example:

  • We want 75 new likes during the one-month contest
  • We want to increase our email list 5% from 800 to 840 during the two-week contest
  • We want a total of 3,000 impressions on the contest platform

Once you have your goals, you can start planning the details of the contest.

Step 2: Create the Contest Concept

There are so many options for contests it’s mind-blowing. That’s why it’s important to understand your goals and which contests meet those goals.

Types of Contests

Formerly, like-gated contests—requiring users to like your page before they could enter—were popular. However, Facebook recently changed its rules so this type of contest is against regulations.

But fear not. There are plenty of other options. Here are a few basics:

  • Content submission (e.g., photos) where judges choose winners
  • Content submission where people vote for the winners
  • Simple form submission contest where the winners are random
  • Skill-based form submission (e.g., trivia) where winners are chosen on skill
Which one should you choose? As usual, it depends on your goals. Cross-reference your contest goals with the chart below to determine which contest type can work best for you.

Types of Facebook Contests
Contests vs. Sweepstakes
Even though we use the term “contest” in general when we refer to this type of Facebook promotion, many are actually sweepstakes.

The basic difference between contests and sweepstakes is that a contest is based on skill, while sweepstakes are based on chance. So submitting a photo and choosing the winner based on votes is a contest, while filling out a form and choosing a random winner is a sweepstakes.

There is also a third category—lotteries. Running lotteries requires appropriate licenses, which your organization likely doesn’t have. A sweepstakes/contest turns into a lottery if entrants have to pay to play. That’s why you often see “no purchase necessary” or “purchase does not improve odds” on legitimate giveaways.

Best Practices

Creating and running a successful Facebook contest requires that you keep a few things in mind.

Keep the Prizes On-brand. Don’t give away an iPad unless you can tie it back to your organization (the iPad has your latest ebook pre-loaded).  Make your prizes related to your brand—services, products, swag.

Lower the Barrier to Entry. If the prize is a coffee mug, the entry form shouldn’t take 5+ minutes to fill out. Match the effort required to enter with the level of the prize and with your goals. If the goal of your contest is to increase your email list, don’t ask entrants for their physical mailing address.

Understand and Follow Contest Rules. There are state and federal laws you must follow when running a promotional giveaway. There are also guidelines laid out by Facebook. The state and federal laws stay pretty consistent, but Facebook is routinely changing what’s allowed and what’s not. We have to stay updated on the latest rules, so if you have a question, just ask.

Step 3: Build the Contest Platform

Once you know all the details of the contest, it’s time to build it.

There are a lot of platforms out there to help you build your contest. Below are a few. Each has varying levels of integration and customization.

These platforms make it easy to create a contest or promotion—but that doesn’t mean they make it easy to create an effective contest or promotion.

A few things to keep in mind when you’re building your contest:

Brand the Contest. Whichever platform you choose to use, make sure you can customize the graphics to match your brand. Consumers are quick to be suspicious, so remove all doubt that the contest is truly tied to your organization.

Get Help if You Need It. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Having an experienced partner to help you create—or even run—your contest can provide a sense of relief. You’ll be sure your giveaway meets regulations, follows your brand guidelines, and meets the goals you set out to achieve.

Test, Test, Test. Try your contest in different browsers, and make sure it functions fully on mobile devices. Have others in your organization try the app to make sure it works for them and provides a good user experience.

Step 4: Implement the Contest

Launching the Contest

When you’re done building and testing your contest, it’s time to launch. Depending on the platform you use to create your Facebook contest app (we use Shortstack), the process for launching the contest will be different.

There are a lot of details to remember when you’re implementing your contest:

  • Meta data (for sharing)
  • Cover image that displays on your Facebook timeline
  • Support for when people have questions
  • Managing entries
  • Choosing and announcing winners
  • And more
Promoting the Contest
After the contest is live, I like to give it one final test to make sure everything works. Then, it’s time to promote it.

Your goals are going to be a big driver of how you promote your contest. For example, if you’re trying to engage your current customers, an email message and fan-targeted social ads are a good start. If your goal is to get new leads, Facebook ads tend to be effective.

If your goal is to get new email addresses and you promote the contest through an email to your existing list, your contest better have some sort of shareability or you won’t meet your goals. 100 entries is a great number, but not if 87 of them are already on your list. 

Step 5: Monitor and Adjust

You’ll quickly notice patterns after your contest goes live—questions and reservations people have, the types of people entering, etc.

As always, make sure the patterns align with your goals. If they don’t, make adjustments. You can’t change the core basics of the contest (rules, timeline, prizes, number of entries, etc.), but you can adjust supporting elements surrounding the contest:

  • Imagery
  • Ad content
  • Ad placement
  • Calls to action
  • And more

Step 6: Measure

Your contest is over. Now what?

You need to determine if it was successful.

The main criteria for success should be: Did it meet the goals you outlined? That’s why you outline goals in the first place, right? Common metrics to measure, depending on your goals, include:

  • Number of entries or number of unique entries
  • Number of app views
  • App conversion rate (entries as a percentage of visits)
  • New page likes
  • New email addresses
  • Conversions to customers (may or may not be applicable)

If your contest was successful, why not start planning your next one? If it didn’t meet your expectations, figure out why and adjust.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.