How to Choose the Right Type of Facebook Contest for Your Brand

facebook-contestIf someone told you that you could reach a highly targeted audience, boost engagement on your Facebook page and get them to sign up for your mailing list—all for less than $50—your first thought might be that it’s a scam, or just too good to be true.

At Social Media Marketing World 2014 last month, we had the opportunity to attend a workshop led by Andrea Vahl, co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies. No stranger to the complicated world of Facebook algorithms, she opened by telling us “It’s time to stop whining about organic reach. It’s time to take matters into our own hands.”

If you’ve never run a Facebook contest before, or have but think you can do it better, we have some tips for you.

The Pros and Cons of Timeline Contests

There are two types of Facebook contests. The first is a timeline contest, which (like the name suggests) occurs on the timeline of your Facebook page. Timeline contests are excellent at boosting engagement with your current fans, and can even help gain new followers. You can use them as an informal poll to learn more about who is following you on Facebook and what they like, and engaging with fans in a friendly manner can help build brand loyalty. Another upside is that they’re cheap and easy to run.


Bidwell Botanicals held a contest last year on their timeline, giving away a product of the entrant’s choice. Commenting on their post and listing their favorite item registered as an entry. They didn’t require email addresses or names, but aimed to boost engagement and have fans share their favorite products publicly.

The downsides of timeline contests is that the benefits above are pretty much all they offer. They don’t provide you with email addresses for your newsletter, and while they recruiting some new fans they don’t really reach new audiences.

The Many Benefits of Facebook App Contests

The second type is a Facebook app contest. These offer a very wide array of benefits, depending on the app that you go with. Certain apps can offer a “like-gate”, requiring contestants to Like the Facebook page in order to enter the contest. Easy goals to achieve with Facebook app contests are 1) obtaining of email addresses for mailing lists, 2) sharing of the contest through multiple social media platforms, and 3) the ability to follow up with contestants as a group after the contest has ended.

There are numerous apps out there that can help you run these contests. Heyo is particularly beneficial for businesses who are looking to sell a product, as opposed to a service. Offerpop provides a huge variety of unusual Facebook apps, from photo contests to polls. Antavo caters to a multitude of contest types, from sweepstakes to deals. Aside from the consumer-facing contest perks, all of them offer an area for customizable terms and conditions and detailed metrics to review once the campaign has ended.

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J.R. Watkins has an excellent example of an Offerpop app contest running at the moment. As they’re a cleaning supplies manufacturer, they’re highlighting the concept of Spring Cleaning, and offering a year’s worth of product to one winner. Entries must include a comment, your name, email, city and state in order to enter. All of this information can be used in future marketing campaigns. To make it even more interactive, they’ve created a “cleaning playlist” on Spotify.

Once you’ve decided on what type of contest you’d like to run, make sure that you’re maximizing all the details. Graphics should be strong, unique, and clear so that the audience can get the gist of the contest by skimming the page. Make sure that you have a promotion schedule in place, with a marketing calendar built in for added promotion on other forms of social media. Change your Facebook cover photo to advertise the contest, and add an arrow to the contest button.

Finally, measure your results. Once fans know you’ve done a contest, they’ll probably expect more. With each contest you run set goals for the reach and engagement, and track how they perform over time and with different prizes.

Facebook contests are an excellent way to spice up your Facebook page and get your audience talking. Have you run one before? What tips do you have that we didn’t mention? Please share in the comments below!

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