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Is a Facebook Contest or Sweepstakes Right for your Business?

Submitted by on February 15, 2011 – 11:42 am15 Comments

Businesses always seem to be looking for more ways to attract users to their Facebook page. And while many companies have been faithfully adhering to regularly scheduled updates, mixing-up the types of posts they publish, and taking suggestions on how to best optimize their news feed— many are finding that they’re not growing their fan base as much as they had hoped.

Some companies have turned to sweepstakes and contests as a way to bring more people to their page. Sweepstakes is defined as “the winners are selected by random draw.” Contest as “the winners are selected either by a jury or audience voting or a combination of both and the entries are evaluated according to the skill of the submission (e.g. a photo contest).

 Many companies have reported great success with sweepstakes and contests to increase the number of fans, capturing more names for their email mailing list, and improving ROI.

Before you go the promotions route you’ll want to make sure you’re up-to-date on Facebook’s promotion guidelines which has specifics about how and where you administer the promotion (through a 3rd party application), inclusion of disclosures and general restrictions. The last revision was made on December 1, 2010 and changed the course of promotions significantly. Read the full guidelines.

An example of a company that has complied extremely well with Facebook’s guidelines is Stash Tea*, who is using the North Social sweepstakes app for Facebook.

1) Stash Tea uses “like” on  sweepstakes to enter to learn more via third party application page.

2) Stash Tea states clearly that the sweepstakes is not affiliated with Facebook.

3) Informs users that sweepstakes information is going to Stash Tea and not Facebook.

4) Informs users about sweepstakes through an update on the page wall.

Businesses Discuss their Facebook Promotions Experiences

Recently, I spoke with representatives from a number of businesses from varied industries about their Facebook promotions. We talked about third party applications, how much of an increase they saw in the number of fans, and what recommendations they’d give to others as they decide whether to pursue a promotion or not. While there are a number of Facebook third party apps out there (e.g. Wildfire, Offerpop, North Social, Votigo, Bulbstorm), the ones which were mentioned by this group of companies were Wildfire and Offerpop.

The majority of people I spoke with had good experiences with promotions and felt the experience was well worth their time and expense. The few who said their experiences didn’t live up to their expectations acknowledged that it was due in part to either the way they had set it up or went about promoting it.

I think you’ll find a lot of guidance from their personal experiences and from their lessons learned as you explore the feasibility of doing a contest or sweepstakes on your company Facebook page.
Here’s what they had to say:

Third Party Apps

“A few of Offerpop’s features that really appealed to us included that users didn’t have to grant permission to a 3rd party app just to participate in a contest and that Offerpop didn’t charge extra to “fan-gate” the contest. (Fan-gating is requiring a user to become a fan of the Facebook fan page before they can enter the contest, thus driving up the fan count on that page.) Our interest in trying them out combined with their very reasonable rates made us ultimately choose them over the competition. “ Jennifer Dempsey, President, Fifth Monkey Interactive Marketing.

“ We’ve used WildFire as our 3rd party resource for running Coupons, Group Deals, Sweepstakes and Contests. We have been able to build specific lists (for instance by musical genre), and have had less unsubscribes because these are people who are engaging with us on Facebook by choice. We love using Wildfire, and will definitely be experimenting with all its features in the future.” Janet Wallace, New Media, Naxos USA.

I used Wildfire and set up a best or worst boss video story contest…I think it was a good experience. I do plan to use Wildfire again for a photo contest. I believe that the video requirement may have intimidated people to enter. I think if I was a huge company or known brand with tons of marketing, it might have been different.” Tony Deblauewe, Founder, HR4Change.

Change in Number of Fans

“We went from 29 fans to 665 fans overnight!” Amy Fanter, Marketing Writer, Hole in One International/Odds On Promotions.

“Our follower count has gone from a few hundred to well over 4,000 in a matter of months.” Jordan Harbinger, Managing Partner, The Art of Charm.

“We recently ran a Facebook contest on our page with much success. The response rate exceeded our expectations and we will definitely do it again in the future. The day before the contest we had about 900 followers, after the contest ended we had over 1200 followers.” Jo Fernandez, Fairy Tales Hair Care.

“Our fans increased a little over 700 as a result of doing our Facebook contest.” 
J Schwanke, Flower Expert at uBloom.

Recommendations about running Facebook Promotions

“When conducting a contest on Facebook, it’s essential that your company stand out by having a strong or unique prize. It doesn’t need to be a new car – could be an experience. Try and create a contest that is going to make people stop, think and act.

Even more important, is to make sure you’re very familiar with Facebook’s sweepstakes/contest rules and regulations. They’re incredibly strict, and your Page could be threatened if not developed properly. Have sweepstakes rules in place to protect you, and run them by a legal team.

Gone are the days where a Facebook contest allows you to “Like” a page to gain an entry, you need to have people enter through a third party application. MGH uses Wildfire’s sweepstakes application for Facebook contests we’ve conducted on behalf of clients. It’s easy to set up, has great tracking capabilities, offer excellent customer service, and it’s relatively inexpensive.”
Ryan Goff, Social Media Marketing Director, MGH.

“I would recommend a few simple rules, guidelines and steps: Give away a product that relates to your business. Your contest has to look good. We are first and foremost a creative agency. Our graphics for the contest looked outstanding, professional, unique and creative. This gave every person who came to the landing page a sense of validation and excitement. Reward ALL your applicants. You may only be able to give away the prize to one person or a few people, but follow up with a message to everyone that applied. Let them know they are engaging with a human and someone who values their interaction.” Amol Waishampayan, Creative Director, Maiden Media Group.

“I would recommend the prize be something relevant to the page and worthwhile. For us a couple of packs of seeds would not draw anyone in, but a year’s supply gets people excited. Make the contest fun and enjoyable where contestants can share their results. We find that when someone can post a great score, they get excited about it and really share with friends.” Michael C. Podlesny, Owner of Mike the Gardener Enterprises, Exclusive Home for the Seeds of the Month Club.

“We highly recommend hosting contests on your business’s Facebook page. Not only will it grow your fan base but it will also drive traffic to your website and help convert browsers into buyers. Holding contests will help you create brand recognition and a loyal customer base. Make sure you think your contest through, provide meaningful prizes, and find a way to make the contest generate traffic back to your website.” Lin Parkin, Public Relations Manager for

“I’d recommend that others take the time to customize and brand their promotion accordingly, establish concrete expectations and goals for the campaign (awareness, leads, engagement, etc.) to ensure the campaign is managed to those expectations. I’d also recommend that others advertise and promote their contest accordingly on other social media properties, their website, Facebook status update to ensure the highest awareness and participation rate.” Anna Hutson, Account Executive, Formic Media.

The main purpose of your contests should be used to build a mailing list. If you are using a contest to build brand loyalty, fine. But your ROI would increase if you can direct the fans to join your mailing list, too. Also if you want to look more professional when running contests, you can visit Wildfire for promotional ideas.” Roderick Low, Roderick the Speaker.

Will you consider running a contest on your Facebook page? What are you hoping to achieve? Share your comments below.

* Note: On 2/10/11, Facebook has announced upgrade for company pages. Some businesses have already adopted the new look. The redesign will take effect for everyone on March 10, 2011. As of this writing, Stash Tea has not yet adopted the new design.


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