In March, the whole Agorapulse team traveled to San Diego on a mission to attend the best sessions at Social Media Marketing World, compile notes of the key takeaways and share them with you. We’ve created 20 blog posts from those notes, here’s one of them!

Title of the Session: How to Use Facebook Contests for More Engagement and Sales

Why you should read this article: Facebook contests are a great way to drive engagement and to build a database that will generate sales for your business. Following the recent newsfeed algorithm changes engagement is now the key to getting your content into your fans’ newsfeeds. Find out how to harness the power of Facebook contests for your business, and what to do after the contest to convert entries into sales.

Speaker: Andrea Vahl is a co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies, a guest blogger for Social Media Examiner and she has written several e-books for HubSpot. She is also the creator of Grandma Mary, the social media edutainer.

Quote from the Session:

 “It’s time to stop whining about organic reach. It’s time to take matters into our own hands. It’s time to move your Facebook fans to your list. That is where you are going to have the control”

Why use Facebook contests?

There are lots of great reasons to run Facebook contests:

  • To showcase a product or service
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  • To grow your list
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  • For fun
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  • To drive engagement
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  • Because people like to win.

According to Andrea the best reasons to run a Facebook contest are to grow your list and to drive engagement. We agree!

Andrea gave an example of a recent contest she ran that delivered a 38.9% opt-in rate. That’s an awesome return!

Contest pitfalls and how to avoid them

There are certain things that you need to be aware of when running a Facebook contest. Andrea gave these examples along with some solid advice on how to avoid them:

Potential Pitfalls

#1 People are only in it for the freebies

There is no doubt that unless you take steps to manage this fact your contest could attract fans who have no real interest in you.

Solution: Choose the right prize. If you choose a prize that is highly relevant to your audience you are more likely to attract genuine fans.

#2 Cheating

Cheating is a fact of life and it needs to be dealt with by being prepared and choosing the right tools. This will protect you and keep your real fans happy.

Solutions: Use a contest app like Agorapulse that requires a Facebook login to enter. It’s hard to create and maintain multiple Facebook profiles. This is one way of discouraging multiple entries from one source. Be sure you retain some rights when it comes to selecting the ultimate winner, particularly if you are using voting as a mechanism for choosing. Make sure votes only form part of the overall selection process. Make the rules clear before you start. Know the law of the country you are running the contest in and make sure to include a terms and conditions page.

#3 Hard Feelings

It’s natural to feel disappointed when we don’t win. You don’t want fans to feel hard done by, particularly where they have invested time and effort.

Solutions: Again, making the rules clear will help with this. You could also offer something like a coupon to everyone who enters, or offer a runner-up prize.

Types of Facebook Contests

There are two types of Facebook contests. A timeline contest and a contest that is run using a Facebook app like Agorapulse.

Timeline contests

  • Are super for engagement
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  • They are easy to set up and can be launched quickly
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  • They are FREE

CON: You won’t get any email addresses

Because this type of contest is great for engagement but unsuitable for gathering email addresses Andrea suggests that you keep the prizes for timeline contests small.

App Contests

Some of the benefits of using an app like Agorapulse are:

  • You can get email addresses. This is how your contest will deliver a meaningful ROI by driving conversions off Facebook when you follow up after the contest.
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  • They have a sharing feature which encourages virality
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  • You can add a like-gated entry to discourage cheating

CON: They take a tiny bit of effort to enter.

Andrea said that the barrier to entry is so small that if fans are that lazy you probably don’t want them as fans anyway!

Timeline contests – things to consider

You will need to consider the type of image that you use in your timeline contest post. Will you use a ‘like and win’ graphic or a photo of the prize? If the post contains a lot of text with the image you won’t be able to advertise it, because Facebook ads allow a maximum of 20% text with an image. There is also a disadvantage when it comes to promoting the contest, because you won’t be able to repost it very easily. Andrea suggested using comments as the best way of asking fans to enter a contest, if you do repost you will need to find a way of aggregating entries or steering fans back to the original contest post.

Like gated app contests – things to consider

Using a like gated app to run your contest has the added advantage of building a fan base. Apps like Agorapulse also include a frictionless sharing feature which can help increase virality. There are lots of different contests that you can run with a Facebook app, see here for a list of Agorapulse contest apps:

Whatever type of contest you choose to run it must be run in accordance with Facebook rules. It’s important to remember the type of activity that is prohibited by Facebook terms of service. The number one violation of these rules is still pages that require people to share to win.


Advance Preparation

Before you start your Facebook contest you want to have a very clear picture of what you want to achieve and how you are going to do that. You will also need to decide what you are going to give away. Choosing a prize that is highly relevant and valuable to your audience is crucial. Valuable doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. Andrea gave the example of a $50 restaurant voucher being valuable to the fans of a restaurant page. You will also need to develop high quality graphics and a promotions schedule.

How to enter and contest type

You will need to decide how fans are going to enter, on your timeline or via a contest app. A contest app will give you lots of options as to the type of contest you can run. A sweepstakes is a simple way of gathering names and email addresses, but something like a photo contest can generate more interaction with your fans. Andrea said that it is important to remember the more you require of an entrant, the higher the barrier to entry will be. The higher the barrier to entry, the more awesome the prize should be to counteract that.

Duration & selecting a winner

Another important consideration is how long the contest should last. Andrea suggested the following:

  • Timeline contest: 3-4 days
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  • Sweepstakes: 1 week
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  • Photos contest: needs to be longer

Deciding how you will pick a winner is also crucial. Contest apps like Agorapulse will select a winner for you based on the parameters you put in place at the start. Agorapulse also has a free app that allows users to run contests on their timeline and to randomly pick a winner from valid entries.

Terms and conditions

It’s very important to decide on the terms and conditions of your contest. This will help you if you need to deal with cheating and they should also address any necessary legal considerations. Andrea suggests that you can include the terms and conditions in the note section of your Facebook page, on your website or within your Facebook contest app.

Promote your contest

Promoting your contest is vital to the success of your campaign. Use as many avenues as you can think of to get the word out. Andrea suggested emailing your current subscriber list, this offers the added benefit of potentially turning customers into fans.  You should post reminders about your contest daily on Twitter and 3 to 4 times per week on Facebook and other social platforms. Ask promotional partners to do the same on their pages and profiles. Changing your Facebook cover and adding a sidebar or banner to your website are also great ideas.

Facebook ads

All this promotion will help but you will also need to advertise your contest using Facebook ads. Remember that images have to contain less than 20% text when you use the promoted post option. Target fans for engagement and don’t forget to drive traffic to mobile friendly sites using a mobile friendly link. Most Facebook contest apps will include one.

There are lots of ways to use Facebook ad targeting to increase contest entries and grow your list.

Andrea 2

Measure your results and see how you can improve. Andrea recommends running regular contests so that your fans get excited and want to connect with you again.

Converting contest entries into sales

Now that you have run your contest and gathered email addresses the next step is to convert those entries into sales.

  • Offer a special deal to everyone who entered
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  • Keep contest entries on a separate list so that you can track conversions and measure ROI
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  • Follow up by adding entries to an email list that uses auto-responders like AWeber and InfusionSoft. When you contact people who entered mention that they connected with you on Facebook.
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  • Offer value through your list, with tips and info. Don’t just sell.
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  • Use your Facebook page to follow up by engaging with new fans and running more contests

Key takeaways

To run a successful Facebook contest there are a few crucial best practices that you need to adhere to. Here they are:


Andrea’s Top Tip

Facebook is going to change, email is yours. Start moving Facebook fans onto your email list.

 FREE TIMELINE CONTEST APP –. Check it out here