How to Run a Successful Facebook Competition
Social Media Marketing

How to Run a Successful Facebook Competition

7th November 2013


Lately I’ve heard of a few cases of Faceboook competitions with absurdly good prizes getting less than ten entries despite heavy promotion of the event. Something’s going wrong and users just aren’t clicking like they should. In this post we look at ways to increase your competition entries online and create more of a buzz around your Facebook promotion.

Why Run a Facebook Competition?

Primarily, I am told, companies organise Facebook competitions in order to ‘gain more Likes’. But what does this really mean? What is a Like worth?

The worth of a Like depends on who is doing the Liking. If you’re selling drum and bass DJ equipment, chances are your target audience is not the WI. A huge number of companies stumble blindly forward, grabbing at Likes with as much selectivity as a zombie looking for brains.

Operating like this may mean you end up with gargantuan amount of Likes, but if those users are not your target audience they will not engage with you, they will probably drop you, pretty quickly, and they almost certainly will not buy from you. You don’t want them and you don’t need them.

One key point when running a competition is to ensure you have relevant prizes. This ensures you are reaching those who are interested in what you have to offer. Users who want what you are offering are of course your target audience by proxy. Unless they are particularly selfish, they may be inclined to share the post with like-minded friends who may then enter, and share, and so it goes on, increasing not only Likes, but more importantly engagement and reach.

Getting Started

Set Your Goals

I know how obvious this sounds but you’d be amazed at how many companies don’t. Have a clear idea of what it is you are trying to achieve before you do anything else. Write it down, and refer back to it at every stage or you could easily go off-piste without even realising. When the competition is over, refer back to your initial goals, measure how you did, and adjust or improve as necessary.

Set Your Rules

Before you start you will need a clear idea of exactly what is an acceptable entry and what is not. You will, of course, also need to make this clear to potential entrants.

Consider limitations such as:

  • Brand affiliation
  • Age
  • Copyright
  • Prize Substitutions
  • What is not included

Facebook themselves have very clear and concise messaging when it comes to competitions, by means of their Promotion Rules which can be viewed here.

They used to be pretty stringent but have recently been relaxed, making competition administration much easier than it used to be.


It’s crucial that you make abundantly clear what you are offering, and what users have to do to enter. It is equally as vital to make your competition as quick and easy to enter and share as possible, and get friends or colleagues to check it for you.

Here’s a few points to consider:

  • Keep your interface is as simple as possible. Users will quickly give up trying to enter your competition if they can’t see what they are supposed to do.
  • Site speed. If your competition directs users back to your site, make sure your site speed is up to scratch or you are in danger of losing a proportion of your audience before they’ve even reached the competition. Google found that by slowing search results by 4/10th of a second they lost 8,000,000 searches per day.
  • Make your messaging is clear and concise. Complex instructions, lengthy forms, and a requirement for more than 3 clicks are massive conversion killers when it comes to online competitions. The simplest forms of competition tend to attract higher conversion rates, though lower engagement, so choose the style of competition carefully, based on the aim of your promotion.

Social Media Examiner Engagement Pyramid


  • What data do you want to collect? Users may only be comfortable with sharing the minimum amount of information, this can be another stumbling block to conversion.


For maximum impact, warn users of your impending offer, and keep reminding them across all of your social media profiles, with plenty of warning as the closing date nears. Your industry and the previous behaviour of Facebook followers should help dictate how often you should post.

If you’re not going to be around when these posts needs to go out you may wish to consider an automation tool to help you out. HootSuite offers an automatic scheduling tool, as does Buffer. Timing+ and a number of other free tools.

Getting Found – Ways to Promote Your Competition

When it comes to promoting your competition you need to pull out all the stops.

Make It Appealing

Most users will scan quickly through their Facebook page, only paying attention to posts which really catch their eye. Make sure your competition is as visually appealing as possible to your target audience.

Share It Wherever You Can

Leave no social button unturned when getting the word out about your competition. It’s usually advisable to use as many platforms as you can, including Pinterest, Instagram Flickr and Tumblr as well as Twitter, Google+, and Facebook of course, plus whatever else you are using. Connect all your profiles for maximum exposure.

Facebook Ads and Promoted Posts well may help spread the word, but it depends on your target audience as to whether this is worthwhile. This will partly depend on whether you are looking for quality or quantity, but Facebook Ads and Promoted Posts can be very effective ways of sharing your news.

Write about it in you news or blog area, and tell other relevant companies about it as they may share it for you too. Make sure your competition button appears on every relevant page of your website, is easy to spot, and that the button clearly shows what you are promoting.

Email your database, giving them a short intro into your competition, with images, and a clear notice of the deadline.

Be Responsive

Keep an eye on your competition, and be pro-active in encouraging users to enter and engage with you about it. You will often find negative comments when promoting as competition, be prepared to deal with those too.


According to Facebook…

“Hashtags turn topics and phrases into clickable links in posts on your personal timeline or your Page, and help people find posts about topics they’re interested in.”

…yet Facebook hash tags are still a bit of a mystery to most of us.

By using a simple, memorable hash tag you can help increase your visibility on Facebook and make it easier to monitor noise and related traffic. Over-use runs the risk of looking spammy, however they can be useful for contests and promotions.

In this post Stephanie Frasco explains how Jaguar used a hashtag as a means of entering a competition with relative success.

There are stumbling blocks when to comes to privacy though, meaning that contest runners cannot see all the entries they receive, and worse, cNet reports that Facebook hashtags may actually have a negative effect on engagement.

If you choose to use hashtags, do so across all platforms and monitor performance closely. While for Facebook they may be a slow burner, results in Twitter and Pinterest, for example, could be very different.

There is not a huge amount of research available regarding the results of hashtag competitions on Facebook yet, but I for one will be keeping a close eye.

Measuring Up

When your competition is finished be sure to go back to the goals you set at the start and see how they measure up.

Use any and all analytical tools available to you, not just Google Analytics, but also Facebook Insights, Pinterest Web Analytics and whatever other reliable tools you can find to make sure you get the biggest picture possible. If you were looking to gain email addresses ShortStack  and other similar tools make this very easy.

Bear in mind that Like and Share posts generally bring a larger number of entries, but less engagement, and you are likely to lose a large number of Likes gained shortly after the competition ends. More complex competition entry processes tend to lead to a higher level of engagement, but lower user numbers.

Craft your Facebook competition carefully to fit your business needs and always test and test again!




Written By
Laura is a Digital Marketing Consultant with Aira Digital & Advance Promotions. With search experience in a large number of industries both in-house and agency side, Laura has a strong interest in conversion optimisation and web psychology.
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