Insights into a Facebook competition – from an Entrant’s Perspective

This is a guest post from Alex Moss. He is Co-Founder and Technical Director at 3 Door Digital, and develops WordPress plugins.

This week was a good week for me and my wife, Anna. Between us we won 3 competitions. The first was a free WordPress theme, the second was a bottle of champagne. The third was the special one. We won a two night stay in a hotel in Tuscany and one free meal for two in the hotel Anna and I stayed in for our honeymoon. This post is about how we won this prize and what I did to win.

Before I Begin…

One thing before I begin. I want to pay this win forward. A fellow SEO by the name of Richard Shove has entered a similar competition. Click here, like it, and help him by applying some of what I’m about to write about. He’s not in the lead because of some emo goth kid. Let’s show him who’s boss!

The Competition

The competition was run by Villa Campestri, a hotel and olive oil resort in the heart of Tuscany. This hotel is one of the best we have stayed in and their restaurant has the best food I have ever tasted. If you’re ever in Tuscany for a holiday – stay there!!!

The competition was simple, yet clever. If you stayed in their hotel at any point in the 20 years all you do is email them a picture you took during your stay in a hotel. You were allowed one entry per person and submit them by 15th November. Once submitted your photo was uploaded into a Facebook photo album they created. The photo with the most likes won the competition – simple!

“This is easy”, I thought. My photo was uploaded on 11th October and could acquire my likes from that point onwards would count. On 15th November I was in 2nd place with around 20 likes. Until I checked 2 weeks later…

It’s on now!

At this point, I had made no real effort to get likes as I thought 75 would guarantee me the prize. One guy who submitted his photo on the final day somehow had 199 likes on his photo by the time I checked next on 28th November. I was only on 26! I needed to make an actual effort to try to win this. I still had a chance…

Step 1: Share the hell out of it

The first thing I did was pot it to my Facebook timeline. This got around 60 likes with this alone. I then tweeted the link at different times with different hashtags. This brought me a better result with over 100 likes. This step got me to just over 200 likes! Brilliant, I’m in the lead. However, Mr. 199 likes woke up and decided to push some more. He overtook me on 1st December. He was on 238 likes. I was on 212. I hate this guy.

Step 2: Use a site with good traffic and annoy them with a popup

I attract some great traffic to my WordPress plugins. My plugins are free and only rely on donations. I thought – if someone is getting a plugin for free, the least I could do is have an auto-popup on page load asking them to like. I took a screenshot of the popup…

This message was nice enough – I warned them it wasn’t an advert and I said please more than once. I also made buttons out of the links, being all CRO ‘n’ all. As well as this, I tracked activity for both as well as I could. One problem I did have was that Facebook did not let me be able to create a like button for me to use (I even tried to do so within Facebook’s Graph API to no avail) so instead had to rely on people to click the button to open the photo in a new window and then hope they like the photo itself. The link to the photo from the popup was clicked on 395 times. I didn’t receive all of those 395 likes but it definitely helped push the numbers up.

The other button to share the image used an app I created to simply post a link to their timeline with a message I had written for them. I used my Facebook app’s insights area to find out it was shared 32 times:

We went into first place again, only to be overtaken. We were less than 10 likes away from each other…

Step 3: Become annoying to my Facebook Friends

I decided I needed to become a little more shameless to win this one. I decided to write an email and send it to nearly everyone I had in my Gmail contact list that I knew hadn’t liked the image already with simple and specific instructions on how to like the image and asked them kindly to forward the email to their friends and around their office if they could.

I then took to Facebook chat and did the annoying copy-and-paste text apologizing for the spammy contact method but to please like it. These 2 methods worked well as Facebook’s ticker was telling me in real-time who was listening and who wasn’t.

Step 4: Become even more annoying on Twitter

It was now 10th December. I had 5 days left and although I was in the lead, I was certain the other guy would have something up his sleeve. I then decided to @mention influencial people on Twitter and ask them to like and RT, like and RT, like and RT. This worked a treat. You’d be surprised how many people do respond to this, especially if they manage their own Twitter feed. I got a RT from David Quantick and even Matt Cutts responded only to tell me he didn’t have a Facebook account (by the way, I did share it on Google+ and he didn’t reshare -booo).

The result…

Villa Campestri announced the winner on their Facebook page and Twitter profile just after midnight (11pm UK time). We won! In fact, we won by quite the margin. 2nd place had 272 likes – he didn’t pull anything out of his sleeve. My photo, however, received an impressive 401 likes!

Why is any of this post important?

At this point you may be wondering why I wrote this post. I wanted to share my experience as an entrant for a competition like this and what efforts I made in order to produce 401 likes. This will be useful for people who will be running competitions for their own brand/client’s brand. I wanted to observe that there are methods people use as an entrant and how you could make it easier for an entrant to share their entry with their social graph. Think about things such as:

  • Giving tips to entrants
  • Making it easier for them to share their entry (easier share options, pre-written emails etc)

These 2 things will not only benefit them but also benefit you or your client. The fact that I entered this competition made me interact with a lot of people, most asked why they wanted the like. This sparked a conversation about the hotel itself, what the prize was and why I wanted to win it so much. I had nothing but praise for the hotel and this post is an example of how Villa Campestri has gained some online exposure for running an online competition. If one person out of the 401 likes decides to book, they have won. Will you be that person? I sure hope so, you need a break after reading this 🙂

About Alex Moss

Alex Moss is the Director at FireCask, an online marketing agency in Manchester specialising in Search, Content and WordPress development. Alex is also the Co-Founder of Peadig, a WordPress framework powered by Bootstrap.

21 thoughts on “Insights into a Facebook competition – from an Entrant’s Perspective

  1. I thought the deal was if I liked the photo you’d invite me along! well done mate, can’t help but think the time you spent though coulda made the money to buy it 😉

    1. Ha – come if you want, there’s a couch in the living room area 😀

      Yeah I did spend some valuable time to get these likes, however, I did win more value than the time spent. This post though is good for us as it shows that, with the correct execution, better and more convenient options can be given to the entrant if the best resources are there for them…

  2. Great job and congratulations to you and Anna on the win!! I’ll mentally bookmark this hotel for the future as you’ve given it such a great recommendation! 🙂

  3. This is a really interesting read Alex. With voting competitions quite often people will put a lot of effort into their first attempt – and hopefully it will pay off, as it did for you in this case.

    You were lucky as this particular competition had difficult entry requirements (kudos to the promoter for that!), so the likelihood of a cheater taking part was very low. The majority of voting competitions in the UK invite cheating by making it easy to enter – ‘upload a photo of your best gingerbread man’ or ‘upload a photo of your carved pumpkin’ will result in lots of googled entries. There are people who are experts at cheating in voting competitions and have a network of worldwide friends with hundreds of fake Facebook profiles. They can upload any old photo and simply ask these friends (usually in Asia) to vote with their hundred fake accounts. Unfortunately promoters are only interested in the traffic to their site so usually turn a blind eye to cheating.

    I regularly blog about the problems with voting comps at – and offer suggestions as to how promoters can make them fairer and less stressful for all concerned. I’m also writing an article for Compers News magazine next month on how to get votes for competitions (without cheating!) and I’ll use some of your ideas for that – thanks!

    1. Hi Di,

      Thanks for the comments. It was certainly a labourious task to get those likes, however, there was nothing stopping me from cheating on this one too. If I ahve a URL then technically I could have purchased Facebook likes but wanted to ensure I won this using the most honest and natural processes. Yes, it made my social graph hate me a little but it was worth it, moreso that it produced this post and also got Villa Campestri a great testimonial not just for their hotel but for their social efforts.

      As far as I know their social profiles are handled in-house by the women who own and manage the hotel – they’re great people and didn’t even realise the genius of their competition.

  4. Sorry dude but this seems like the thin end of the wedge. Imagine when all of your friends and contacts are doing this. I think people’s good will and “likes” could dry up pretty quickly.

    1. This isn’t a post about complex search strategies but rather notes for competition strategy and ways in which the entrant can share their entry with more convenience. This was a situation where competition was different to the generic Facebook competitions that are around at the moment. I may have had to resort to more manual processes to get the likes, however, it shows that 400 likes is possible, and that your chances are much better than winning an iPad from

      1. Precisely my point. I honestly hope more people do not adopt this strategy. It would be Farmville all over again and everyone would quickly become bored of one anothers’ requests. This doesn’t improve anyone’s social experience except for the person who stands to benefit from the promotion. Just my opinion, obviously – 400 people seem to disagree!

  5. whilst I applaud your efforts – the thing that gets me about such competitions is they don’t necessarily reward the “best in show”, but the one with most mates

    of course, I can see how this “might” benefit a brand in terms of exposure and reaching out to new potential customers but until I ran a competition of my own and measured the ROI in terms of new clients, I can’t imagine many people who liked an image at the request of a mate would then go on to do anything else relating to the brand running the competition

    well done though

    1. re: “best in show” photo – i do actually agree. i personally think there were better photos in there that were better than mine. perhaps i won because of the number of mates/followers i have, however, i assume i was the one who tried the hardest to get them. the likelihood of winning with the number of mates you have is the similar to – i entered a competition to win an iPad 2 and ever person I invited to enter gave me another entry into the competition.

      as for the brand – i have to disagree. there were several people who asked why i wanted them to like the photo. while explaining, all of those people browsed their facebook page and visited their site by the time our conversation was over. if one person books as a result of my conversation they’ve got their ROI – as their investment was £0

  6. Hehe – well done! I agree with Kelvin in that I thought you were sharing the hotel in exchange for likes but I’ll settle for the Champagne! I hope Richard is going to let me have a go on his new computer too! 😉 – you’ve got to be in it to win it – nice One! (I have a sudden urge to win a kitchen from Competitors Companion…)

  7. Interesting article, but I’m not a fan of voting competitions/most like competitions purely because it becomes more about popularity than actually rewarding the best entrant. Too often we see “send in your best whatever to win”.. and then it’s degenerated by some kind of vote mechanic.

    People will cheat, buy votes etc and many brands aren’t prepared for that – and those with larger social networks are also able to manipulate results too. Loquax is one of the few (if only) competition community where vote requests are not permitted on the forums.

    Some communities/social groups etc can and do use their leverage to effect results – is that a good thing? I’m not so sure!

    Once you look beneath the “oh it’s great for brands getting likes” this kind of competition mechanism does put people off the brand as well. They see it as not being fair and a way for a brand to “spam” without getting their hands dirty (imo). Whether the trade off between those people vs new people is worth it I don’t know?

    I’d like to see brands move away from vote mechanisms for their competitions – for every happy winner (well done by the way) there’s a lot of issues and problems that many brands would not wish to get embroiled in – imo.

    1. Thanks for the comments Jason. This is indeed true. Would I have really gone to 400 likes if the other guy didn’t step it up? Probably not.

      However, is this spammy? Only by the entrants who want to spam. The brand hasn’t lost out (they’re not a FTSE 500 – they’re just a family run hotel) in my opinion. It created good conversation and know one person is thinking of booking there – who wouldn’t have if the competition didn’t exist.

      My thoughts here are to make us as the competition organisers think of ways competitions like this can be run without the massive scope for possible cheating and without making the brand look bad as a result.

      1. I guess my view of “spammy” is slightly skewed in that we’ve seen it all before – and people begging you for votes can get pretty tiresome. A question worth asking is would the same 400 voters vote for you in another competition, then another, then another etc.

        For a voting competition you’ve got yourself a nice one – but Grand Marnier for example ran a voting competition for “best photo” – Despite being told on day 1 that their system was not going to work – it took them to three days before the closing date to realise the leader wasn’t any where near “best photo”. They changed their rules.

        A charity did the same thing when the 4 winners they were going to get (i think for best Dad story) were not going to satisfy their PR campaign. Take a look at Airwick on Facebook – they recently ran a £6000 Christmas competition – they chopped/changed things too regarding voting and still ended up with a lot of disgruntled people. Tbh they were damned whatever they did by the time they got to the winner announcement.

        But, great that you want to think of ways that voting competitions can be run fairly (and by that I mean no one person/group has the ability to influence the result) – a tough call imo.

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