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Social Media Marketing for Business

Emily Goodrich


April 15, 2014

5 Steps to Running a Successful Facebook Contest

April 15, 2014 | By | 5 Comments">5 Comments

Have a Facebook fan page? Looking for an easy way to engage fans and turn “likes” into leads? One way to convert “likes” into email opt-ins is to create and run a Facebook contest. Contests are an excellent way to generate virality and build your email list. Whether you are running a random draw Facebook sweepstakes or a voter-based video contest, Facebook contests can generate more buzz and create strong brand awareness via social media.
In this article, I’ll show you how to run a successful Facebook contest, as well as provide suggestions for maximizing the utility of your contest. Before we start, take a look at the Squaw Valley contest set up below.

SV Facebook Contest

I will be using the Squaw Valley page as an example throughout this article, because their Sochi Daily Giveaway (created by Out and About Marketing/Milena Regos on the Heyo campaign editor) was wildly successful based on its campaign goals. Check out our Squaw Valley case study for more information on how their page works.

Pre-Contest Planning: Keep Your Goals in Mind Something that will help with the following steps is starting out with a solid plan for your Facebook contest. Why are you running this contest? Are you trying to generate likes or gather contact information? Who is your ideal fan, and what are they going to be interested in? Are there any events going on in the world that are relevant to your product (like the Winter Olympics for Squaw Valley)? Planning out your goals like this will keep you on track. Always keep your goals and fans in mind when creating and launching a Facebook contest.


Step 1: Pick a (Relevant) Prize  Why are your fans, well, fans? What is it that they would be interested in that would also interest potential fans? The prize is the thing; without a good prize, your contest will likely not generate the sort of feedback you want to see. There isn’t really one prize set up that will work for every business. The key to picking a good prize is a strong knowledge of your business and your audience. Wingnit Corporate has a excellent prize, shown below. image_prize The easiest way to think about this is to work with an example, so we’ll use the Squaw Valley contest as an example. Squaw Valley is a ski resort in California. It’s average customer is likely a skier or snowboarder in the United States. They may also want to appeal to international customers, but that decision would have to be made based on data about their fan base – do they have enough of an international presence to warrant special attention given to international customers? If not, they will want to restrict the contest to the United States. Knowing this, Squaw Valley has  a few options:

      1. Run a contest offering a free day of skiing



    • Run a contest offering free skiing or snowboarding equipment


    Both of  these prize options are good, because they are relevant to both a) current customers and b) potential new customers, and they are exciting prizes. Relevant, exciting prizes generate more interest, and encourage fans to share the contest with their friends. Common Mistakes: Offering your service or product as a prize. This is a common issue our customers run into – they offer their specific services or products as a prize, but don’t see the conversion they’d like. The key is in your fan base. If you have a small fan base, you are unlikely to bring in new fans by offering a prize specific to your business. Instead, think about your audience. If you are an accountant, for instance, looking to create a contest with appeal to an audience of primarily middle-aged men, here are two ways to go: Exciting Prize: A free day of golf at a local country club   Less Exciting Prize:  A free consultation with your accounting business The “exciting” choice here is best because it’s, well, more exciting than a free accounting consultation. This means more people will enter their email address for a chance to win and also share your contest with their friends. Moreover, the exciting prize still addresses the target demographic by being relevant to that group and geographically limiting (which ensures that entrants are local to your area). So, while your ultimate goal is to get more business for your growing accounting agency, the ‘day of golf’ prize will bring in many more leads that each have the potential to turn into lifelong customers. Offering a product with wide appeal outside of  your business. Yes, offering an iPad as a contest prize is going to generate a ton of interest (and even a lot of likes, if you utilize a like gate). However, it is unlikely that those likes will be actual fans, leaving you with an inflated like count and empty leads.

Step 2: Pick an Entry Method There are many different entry methods possible for your Facebook contest. It is now possible to run a contest both on specific landing pages and in your timeline. The advantage to running a News Feed contest is that fans can easily enter by either commenting or liking the contest post. You can also easily involve fans in the contest by counting likes as votes for entries. If you are solely interested in generating fan engagement on your Facebook page, then this option might be the best for you. However, you won’t be able to gather contact information from fans, which is extremely valuable. Landing page contests gather information for you. Contests or sweepstakes run on dedicated pages can require one of several entry methods, including:

      1. Contact Information: Asking the fan to submit an email address as a method of entry. You can also ask for the fan’s name or other contact information, though contests typically only require the email. This entry method works well with “random draw” sweepstakes.



    • Contact Information and Creative Submission: Asking the fan for their contact information, as well as a submission based on the entry rules. This is common for video and photo contests.



    • Like and Contact Information: Asking the fan to like the page to see the contest, as well as providing contact information. This can be done using like gates or adding a ‘like this page’ step to your entry instructions.



    • Contact Information and Friend Referral: Asking a fan to refer the contest or sweepstakes to their friend in order for their entry to count. This boosts both entries to your sweepstakes or contest, and increases sharing among your fans.


    Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but these methods are more common and easy to implement.

Step 3: Create Your Contest Facebook does not allow businesses to publish their own contests. Therefore, work with a 3rd party social contest app (like Heyo) to create and publish your Facebook contest. You’ll want to create a simple campaign that attracts attention. Here are a few suggestions for creating a visually engaging campaign:

      1. Feature your product or business. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. If you are promoting a specific product, feature images of said product. Make sure the image is high quality and taken at a large enough pixel count so that you can resize the image in your campaign without worrying about pixelation.



    • Include a graphic of the prize. Make sure you include an informative graphic about the prize you are offering. If your are offering a service, for instance, you might want to include an image of what that service is or does. As another example, if you are offering free bike tire repair, include a relevant image of a bike, or perhaps the inside of your shop.



    • Make the entry form prominent. Make entering your contest as easy as looking at the page. Entry forms should ask for the fan’s email address at the very least. Other information you might want to ask for are name and contest entry (photo/video/essay/etc).



    • Add like and share buttons. Include steps encouraging fans to like, share, and tweet about your contest. This will bring more people to your page, increase contest entries, and increase the likes on your page.



    • Include “social proof”. People are more likely to enter a contest if they see that people they can trust have also entered a contest. Include a leader board, perhaps, with pictures of the current leaders, or include testimonials from past contest winners. This step is most easily implemented in referral sweepstakes and creative submission contests, as you can include referral counters and/or voting pages with pictures of fans that have already entered.


    Pro Tip: Create urgency on your campaign. You can’t run a contest continually – it will have to end sometime. It’s important to create this sense of urgency on your contest, because urgency drives action in the sea of distractions that is social media. An excellent way to do this is to include a countdown clock, like the one pictured below.


SV Facebook Contest countdown

Squaw Valley kept their count down clock in line with their contest graphic, so that it is among the first things a fan sees when they click on the contest page. We recommend running contests in 15 day increments, to keep this urgency around your campaigns.

Step 4: Promote Your Contest  This is unarguably the most important part of running a Facebook contest. Once you’ve launched your campaign, promote it! Post about it on your news feed, mention it on your blog, and link to it on your website. The initial growth will involve sharing the contest with friends and co-workers, but you may find that you need a promotional boost. A few options include:

  1. Send out a mass email. If you already have an email list set up, use that to get the word out to your fan base. They may already be leads, but the more you get the word out, the more consumers you have sharing your contest with their friends.
  2. Promote the campaign on your website. Make a banner and link it to your Facebook page. Write a blog post about the contest and link to the entry form. This is a great way to ensure that people who regularly visit your site and/or follow your RSS feed get the news.
  3. Send your contest out on social networks. Tweet, pin, and share on as many social networks as you can. Create links to your campaign appropriate to each site (i.e. a relevant picture for Instagram and Pinterest) and send the word out.
  4. Use Facebook Ads. Using the Facebook Advertising page, create targeted ads and boost your posts based on  audience demographics, as well as what your goals are (like page likes or post engagement) to generate the feedback you want to see. Facebook allows you to set your budget, as well, so that you can run ads cheaply.

You can also make Facebook ads or post the contest to contest aggregation sites, which are beneficial if they fit in with your promotional plan. Structuring your campaign so that it generates free traffic – so that it’s self-sustaining – is the best way to generate like conversion, because it turns fans into a marketing force. As mentioned before, you can generate more interest by including share, tweet, and like buttons in your contest entry steps to keep the marketing ball rolling. Tip: Promote your contest on your page’s timeline. There are a few ways you can draw attention to your contest when you launch it. You can make a custom cover image, for example, promoting the contest, as well as visually linking it to the contest tab in some way. One way to do this is by using similar naming and color conventions for both the image and tab; another is to include an arrow pointing to the contest tab. I’ve included an example from Squaw Valley’s fan page below, illustrating this concept.

SV Facebook cover

Quick Note: Monitor your campaign. Depending on your campaign goals, you may want to monitor your campaign. Below are a few suggestions on how to monitor your contest while it’s up and running.

  1. Facebook Page Insights will allow you to see who is visiting your page and how they are engaging with your content. You can access Page Insights from your admin view on your fan page.
  2. Google Analytics will track who is visiting your page, how long they leave your page open, what sites fans go to afterwards, and a plethora of other data. Google Analytics is free to use, and can be integrated with campaigns using the UA code provided by Google. For more information on Google Analytics and Heyo, check out our video here.

Step 5: Pick a Winner, and Follow Up The follow up on a Facebook contest is crucial. Along with announcing the winner, you can also continue to promote your fan page and keep your fans engaged. Some ideas on further promotion include:

  1. Post a “Winner Profile” on your Facebook fan page. This works best with fan-content contests. Not only will the winner appreciate this sort of post, but it will lend “social proof” – a way of proving to fans that didn’t participate in this contest that real people do win.
  2. Send out a follow-up email to those who entered. You collected emails – use ’em! Sending out a follow-up email to your fans will create momentum for your next campaign. Make sure you include a link to your Winner Profile
  3. Announce your next contest. Get your fans excited by announcing your plans for future contests. Will you be running one once a month? Twice a year? Let them know! This will help generate excitement and encourage your fans to stay involved in your fan page.

This follow up will help your next contest or sweepstakes gain momentum early and keep fans engaged with your fan page with updates on the next campaign.

That’s it! You’re ready to start running a contest on Facebook. So start thinking of a contest plan. Create an ‘ideal fan’ profile to work with, list out your contest goals, and pick your prize. You are well on your way to creating and running a successful sweepstakes or contest on Facebook.

A Bit More on Heyo

Heyo is a third-party contest creation app that makes creating campaign landing pages a snap. Using our drag and drop system, you can create stunning and effective contests, sweepstakes, or sales pages. The Squaw Valley fan page, mentioned at the beginning of this article, was built using Heyo’s Premium Contest template, which you can clone here.
We offer several contest templates that incorporate the steps listed above. All you have to do is bring your images, videos, and contest plan to the table and you’ll be set up in no time. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with our templates, we also offer a drag-and-drop campaign builder that allows you to create your own contest or landing page from scratch. Heyo also offers in-dashboard analytics for businesses, as well as Google Analytics integration, which makes monitoring your campaign simple. You can download your leads from the Heyo dashboard or use one of our several email marketing integrations to immediately start connecting with your leads. Running a successful campaign is easy with Heyo!

Emily Goodrich


Emily Goodrich is a Technical Writer at Heyo. She is a Senior studying Creative and Professional Writing at Virginia Tech.