How to Successfully Host a Facebook Contest

Contests have long been a favorite marketing strategy for businesses of all sizes and fields. Social media has the ability to take contests another step further, allowing companies to promote them on more platforms.

Facebook has been especially popular to host contests on, and we’ve all seen them over time. Some complain that they are a lot of work or not profitable, but that’s only true if they’re not executed correctly.

There’s certain measures you can’t take to make sure that you successfully host your Facebook contest, and we’ve got them all right here!

Why You Should Host a Facebook Contest

While some companies advertise contests via Facebook, most will have contests run purely on Facebook and for Facebook users only. This offers several advantages.

I used to work at a mall, and for the span of two weeks there was sweepstakes raffling off a free tractor from one of the department stores. All you had to do was sign up, leaving your name, phone number, and e-mail. I can’t tell you how many people walked by without even looking at it, and a tractor is a hot commodity in that particular area. There was no hype around the sweepstakes, and no one seemed to notice it was even there.

This isn’t true on Facebook. User engagement is often encouraged or required to participate on a contest. Users can be asked to like your page, share your post, or leave comments in order to win. All of these actions can be seen by all of their friends in their newsfeed, expanding your reach and visibility further and further with each person who participates. As more people interact, more and more people will be encouraged and excited to as well.

This is especially true when something free is involved, and people are more inclined to pay attention to your message.

Think about it. Are you going to share a random post your friend reposted about how great Apple computers are? Probably not. Will you, however, share it—or take whatever other action is required—if you have the chance to win a free iPad? I’m going to take a crazy guess here and say that yes, you’re more inclined to participate if you can win an iPad.

How to Set Up Your Facebook Contest

There are several methods you can use when setting up a Facebook contest, many of which can be combined to optimize results of your campaign. You can:

  • Have users like your page
  •  Have users like a post
  • Have users comment on a post
  • Have users private message you
  • Use likes vs. shares as a voting mechanism (or, similarly, likes vs likes on different posts)
  • Take users to a landing page (either on Facebook or off) or to an app to participate

Having users interact with you publicly will give you the best advertising and, especially in the case of likes or comments on a single post, is particularly easy to monitor.

If you’re using an app or taking customers to another landing page to sign up for the contest, saying they need to like your page or the post advertising the promotion is a good way to increase engagement on Facebook as well as getting their other contact information.

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It’s all about maximizing potential results. Oberto’s beef jerky company took advantage of this concept here, prompting customers to first buy their product, then like their page, then enter your code on the package to qualify. All steps must be taken in order to enter the contest, boosting both their immediate sales and marketing campaign.

Users are told they need to "Buy, Like, and Enter."
Users are told they need to “Buy, Like, and Enter.”

Contests asking users to participate via comment have been successful in building brand awareness as well as creating hype and furthering your reach.

Asking users to provide a caption for an image, to leave their favorite tip they learned at a seminar, their favorite way to eat a Reese’s cup might be interesting and fun enough to get large amounts of engagement and feedback. You can prompt customers to fill in the blank, giving the statement “My favorite dessert at Polonia’s is ____.”

The content is long, but the idea is good: provide a caption and win!
The content is long, but the idea is good: provide a caption and win!

Asking customers to post a picture—such as of themselves with your product or of their jack-o-lantern the carved for Halloween—has proven to be successful in the past.

Asking users to private message you can overwhelm your inbox and become hard to keep track of, so it’s not the way I would recommend going about a Facebook contest unless you felt it was best for your business. Part of what a Facebook contest does best is generate hype, getting potential new clients excited about your product and current followers reenergized. Private messages are just that—private, which goes against purchase of interaction and engagement focused social media.

After the deadline for your contest has been reached (including “if we get 100 likes on this comment we’ll raffle off a free ice cream cone to one of those who participated”), you can choose your winner. Whether you choose your favorite comment or pick someone at random, post the results publicly as well as private messaging the individual for their contact information so they can redeem their prize. You can thank everyone as well as posting the name of the winner both on the original post and your Page’s timeline, reminding everyone to stay tuned in case you offer up something great again soon.

This company shared a user's photo showing her prize, reminding users they can win, too!
This company shared a user’s photo showing her prize, reminding users they can win, too!

What you cannot do: You cannot set up or promote a contest on your personal timeline—it has to be on your business’s Page. You also cannot ask people to tag themselves in a generic picture or post they aren’t actually in for a chance to win.

How to Set Up Your Facebook Contest for Success

Make your promotions valuable: Even if you’re offering up something free, the user has to find it valuable enough to be worth their time to sign up. Providing a product or service of high value is the best way to get people to interact with you. If a supermarket offered a free candy bar, users might not be too interested, but if it offered a 50$ gift certificate you could expect a much larger response.

That’s not to say that your product has to be of high monetary value. People have competed for a chance at free ice cream cones and Starbucks drinks. You do, however, have to match the value of your prize with the value of your typical product.

Use compelling text and visuals: This is a no-brainer. In order to get people to participate in the contest, you have to get your contest seen in the first place. Bright, colorful, relevant images and exciting, concise text is the best way to get seen. Phrases like “win big,” “enter now,” and “grand giveaway” will likely do the trick.

Don’t make the process painful: Aside from the fact that hosting a contest on Facebook that asks for interaction gives you good publicity, it also is easy for users to participate in. If you take users to an app, Facebook landing page, or third party landing page, don’t make it difficult to enter your contest. Asking for some basic contact information is acceptable, but the Spanish inquisition is not. I once clicked to a landing page of a contest where the header was “it will only take ten minutes and you could win!” I didn’t even bother to find out what on earth would take ten minutes. I clicked my way on out.

Basic contact information and Facebook interaction tends to be a good place to stay.

An acceptable example of requests for information
An acceptable example of requests for information


Use the Ad system: If you want your contest to get the best reach possible and/or to find new members of your target audience, using the Ad system can help you do just that. You can advertise your contest to those who you aren’t connected with through an Ad, and you can reach your current followers both through an Ad or through promoted posts.

Considering using a hashtag: Using a hashtag can expand visibility of any of your posts, so tacking on a #contest or a #sweepstakes can land your post right in front of someone eager to win something and browsing a whole page devoted purely to your current purpose. Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 7.28.50 PM

Make a tab: On your Page, you can create a tab just for your promotion.

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If someone happens to not see your original post about the contest (which unfortunately could easily happen now that organic reach is declining), having a tab on your page for the promotion could point them towards it. This can also help if they meant to come back later and participate so they don’t have to sort through a number of posts in order to find it.

Make it fun: Except for those of us marketing on Facebook (which, yes, is likely everyone reading this blog), users don’t log on to their Facebook looking for more work to do. They get on for entertainment during their down time. Making the contest fun will boost your potential success and engagement exponentially. After all, a lot of people have the mindset of “I never win anything.” Making it fun increases the chance that they’ll participate anyways.

Use RigniteSocial media collaboration software Rignite makes it easier than ever to host a contest. You can set up a campaign on Rignite to host a contest, choosing when it starts, when it stops, and everything in between.

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You can cross promote on twitter.

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You get to chose a prize, and Rignite will even create a generic message to base your posts off of.

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And then they post it for you and keep track of everyone who has done the required action (such as liking or commenting on a post). If you have a goal for engagement, they keep track of how close you are to reaching it. Once the contest is over, they’ll either let you select a winner or randomly chose a winner for you and notify them. It’s incredible.

For more information about Rignite, you can see our review and how we use it in our content marketing strategy.