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Written by Richard Beeson

June 5, 2014 at 9:00 am

Facebook Timeline Contests: Everything Your Business Needs for Success

A different version of this article was published on March 18, 2014 on John Haydon’s blog.

Facebook’s opened up a fun new avenue for pages to entertain fans and boost engagement. Businesses and organizations may now reward fans for their activity (likes and comments, but not shares) on the page’s Timeline.  You can read the official scoop here.

Don’t be fooled by the seeming simplicity of these promotions.  Your time and prizes will cost you.  You will have to monitor your entries and watch for fraud.  The rules have been loosened, but there are still rules.

Before we dive in, just keep in mind that counting likes on a post or manually checking the comments for a right answer or a nice photo is not fun… And without an application to help you with that, you’ll have to do it! We’ve built a totally free Timeline Contest Management app that you can try out here. It will help you run sweepstakes, Quizzes and Photo Contests without the burden of checking likes and comments manually or in a spreadsheet!

Let’s start with the basics: 

The 411 on Facebook timeline contests

You can reward fans and visitors for:

    o

  • Posting on your Page (including photos)
  • o

  • Private messaging your page
  • o

  • Liking a page post
  • o

  • Commenting on a page post (including comments with photos)
  • o

  • Accumulating likes on their posts or comments (including comments with photos)

You can’t:

    o

  1. Ask users to tag themselves in a photo they are not pictured in
  2. o

  3. Ask users to share a post
  4. o

  5. Ask users to post something on theirs or their friends’ timelines.

Basically, you can run a quiz by posting a question and rewarding a correct answer, a sweepstakes amongst likes, comments or both on one of your posts, a random draw amongst private messages, or a photo contest in which fans can PM, post or comment with photos to obtain likes.

You must:

    o

  • Have official rules for your contest (included in the text or linked within your post)
  • o

  • Offer terms and eligibility requirements in your rules (ex: age and residency restrictions)
  • o

  • Acknowledge that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook (this language must be included in your post)
  • o

  • Comply with local, state and country rules regarding promotions, and prizes

You may not:

    o

  • Run a contest on a personal profile
  • o

  • Offer alcohol as a reward. There is no way to verify participants’ ages.

 

Timeline contests are easier to launch, but you won’t avoid the legal stuff (rules are still required)

Unfortunately, there’s no escaping the legalese. Once your post is properly crafted, it will likely end up looking like a long disclaimer rather than a fun promotion. Like this one:

sixt legalease

This is a properly formatted Timeline Contest post. Fun, huh?

Most of you will probably not do that, but keep in mind that your contest will not respect the “law”. The risk is not high, but it exists.

 

You are responsible for compliance with your local regulations

French contest rules must be registered with a notary public, Italian contest entries must be collected on a server located in Italy, and in Brazil, you can only run sweepstakes in very limited cases. California has different regulations for online giveaways than Connecticut.

Whew…

Again, most page admins will not really comply with their local regulations, the risk of legal battles is low, but it exists. Just keep that in mind.

 

Pros and Cons vs. a Real Timeline App

Timeline Contests will boost engagement while entertaining your fan base.  The more engagement you get now, the further your content will reach in the future. If your page’s overall organic reach is dwindling, a Timeline Contest may be just the thing to kick it up a notch. Most page apps do little to improve engagement on your page. After a healthy Timeline Contest with a heavy engagement period, more fans and unique users are likely to see your future posts. That’s good for your page and your business!
They won’t help you grow your fan base or collect qualified data (emails) from your participants.  Users can be asked, but not required (or verified) to like your page in order to participate. Fraud may be rampant.
Most contest apps come with a fan gate for recruiting fans, and a form for qualifying them. If your goal is gaining new fans and knowing who they are, a Timeline Contest won’t help you.

Some contest apps even come with built in fraud protection.  Fraud is real, and rampant in Facebook contests.  These guys know what they’re doing- creating multiple fake email accounts with multiple fake Facebook profiles and working in tandem with each other to provide votes and correct answers.  Most of your participants won’t bother to read your contest rules.  Scammers will pick apart each word in every line.

Some third party app providers have built fraud protection directly into your contest. Avoiding scammers can be easy.

Some third party app providers have built fraud protection directly into your contest. Avoiding scammers can be easy.

 

If you run a sweepstakes on your page, plan to spend some time verifying your winners are legit.

If you run a voting contest (i.e. “comments or photos with the most likes”) it will be nearly impossible to verify the users who obtained the most likes didn’t employ tricks such as a vote exchange scheme or votes from fake Facebook accounts.

If you run a quiz type contest, keep in mind users can edit their comments. You have no way of knowing if an answer was correct when the first time or if it was edited after the user saw other participants’ answers.

Keep the size and nature of your audience in mind, and be sure to award prizes that will only attract genuine fans.

 

Bottom line:

If your goal is to keep up interactions and increase engagement, run a Timeline Contest, and consider keeping your prizes small.  Just be prepared to invest some time monitoring your entries closely.

If your goal is to recruit new fans and collect qualified data, or you’re giving away larger, more valuable prizes, choose a Contest App with built in fraud protection.

 

Some Examples of Timeline Contest Ideas

Sweepstakes

1 – Like to win: “it’s giveaway time! Click “like” for your chance to win (your prize)! Winners will be randomly selected at (your selection time). Their names will be posted on our facebook page and in the comments of this post (this will allow you to tag them and make sure they’re aware of it)!”

Then, you’ll need to randomly pick the winner(s) among the people who liked the post.

Pros: very easy way to get a LOT of likes.

Business Tip: make sure the prize offered only appeals to your core audience. Offering prizes that appeal to a very broad audience will get you a TON of unqualified participants. This is not your goal.

 

2 – Comment to win – fill-in the blank: enter a sentence with a blank asking your fans to fill it in, then randomly pick a winner among the commenters. Ex: “for my next vacation, i’m heading to ___________”. There’s no right or wrong answer for this kind of contest.

Pros: this is an easy way to get a LOT of comments on a post- a little more engaging than a ‘like’ sweespakes.

Business Tip: make sure the prize offered only appeals to your core audience. Also, make sure that the blank you’re asking your audience to fill in is somehow related to your business.

 

3 – Tell your story: “tell us about your latest experience with (your brand) and we’ll randomly pick x winners from the comments”. Then, you’ll need to randomly pick the winner(s) amongst those who commented on the post.

Pros: this is a great way to collect highly valuable testimonials you can use later.

Business Tip: Find and use a free Timeline management tool with a setting which only allows one comment per user in the draw option. Then, use a page management tool to tag the best comments for future reference.

 

4 – What should we do next?: ”tell us what (product/feature/service) you’d like to see next from (your brand) and we’ll randomly pick x winners from the comments”. Then, you’ll need to randomly pick the winner(s) among the people who commented on the post. Again, your new timeline contest tool has a setting which only allows one comment per user in the draw option.

Pros: this is another great way to collect highly valuable testimonials you can use later.

Business Tip: Find and use a free Timeline management tool with a setting which only allows one comment per user in the draw option. Then, use a page management tool to tag the best comments for future reference.

 

5 – Like + tell us why you should win: it’s giveaway time! Click “like” for your chance to win (your prize) and tell us why we should pick you in the comments! Winners will be randomly selected at (your selection time) and their names will be posted on our facebook page and in the comments of this post (this will allow you to tag them and make sure they are aware of it)! Then, you’ll need to randomly pick the winner(s) amongst the people who liked and commented on the post.

Pros: more engaging than the like or comment sweepstakes alone!

Business Tip: This is a very efficient tactic to promote an event.  Since users will write meaningful comments about your event for their friends to see, it will have a very good viral impact. You should definitely include a tracking link in the post to make sure you measure the impact on your bottom line. This tactic will also work for any products or services that can be purchased online.

 

Quiz

6 – How well do you know our product?: quizzes are an entertaining way to test your customers or prospects’ knowledge about your product while letting them know about a feature you offer they may not be aware of!

Pros: a good way to engage in conversation with users who know your product and use it.

Business Tip: use this contest type to showcase your least known features and educate your customers.

 

7 -Name our latest feature! (an interesting variation of the previous quiz type)

Pros: a good way to increase awareness on your latest features or product models.

Business Tip: The goal here is to make sure that the maximum number of users will be aware of your latest feature, so don’t hesitate to promote that post with Facebook ads or run different variations such as: “what is the latest feature released by Agorapulse?” And “what is the name of our latest feature?” And “Our latest feature is: A) powerpoint export, B) fan ranking, C) Photo contest”.

 

8 – How well do you know our industry? Sometimes, it’s a good idea to keep it about your industry instead of harping on and on about yourself and your products. This will give you more creative contest ideas to consider!

Pros: This opens up a whole new world of creative ideas and keeps putting you in front of your fans without making them sick of hearing about you

 

9 – What are we launching next? Preparing to launch a new product or service is a great opportunity to run a quiz and do a little teasing at the same time! If you’re a restaurant launching a new dish, you could ask the following: “we’re launching a new menu item at our restaurant this weekend! Answer correctly to win a $30 voucher for dinner. Winner announced here this thursday at 3 p.m. est is the new menu item (a) fish (b) chicken (c) steak, or (d) turkey?”

Pros: a good way to get your fans excited about your new item, while getting early traction and feedback.

Business Tip: Make sure your post proposes 3 or 4 possibilities users can choose from. Otherwise, the results of your quiz may not be accurate (quiz filters match exact keywords).

It’s always better to propose a defined set of possible answers to make sure the spelling of your keyword or phrase will match when you run it through a free timeline contest software tool. However, you can still use the quiz to ask open questions without requiring a right or wrong answer. In order to do this, and still get all comments through the filter, ask the respondent to add one hashtag in their answers. Like “#quiz”. That way, you’ll filter the comments with the hashtag and get all the comments entered. You’ll then be able to read them all and choose your winner.

 

Photo Contests

10 – Share a photo of yourself in our store (hotels, or restaurant). If you have a store, ask your visitors to take a photo of themselves while visiting. Then, ask them to tag themselves (they just have to appear on it!). This can be a very efficient way to spread the word about your location for free!

Pros: a great way to get a lot of visuals of people in your store and free publicity.

Business Tip: This type of contest is great for hotels and restaurants! Definitely ask the participants to tag themselves in the photo so it will appear on their timeline and give you a lot of free publicity. According to Facebook rules, participants must be present on the photo and this cannot be a condition to enter, just an option.

 

11 – Share a photo of yourself with our product. This a variation of the previous photo contest type. It will do the job for online retailers without physical locations, and those with physical locations will gain more participants since they won’t have to be present in the store to enter.

Pros: Great for brands that sell their own products (not so much for retailers that sell products from others, like wal mart). Great for increased participation since participants don’t have to be in your store to enter.

Business Tip: Here again, definitely ask the participants to tag themselves in the photo so it will appear on their timeline and give you a lot of free publicity. According to Facebook’s rules, they just have to be present in the photo and this cannot be a condition to enter, just an option. You should also ask them to share a personal story about how your product as helped/entertained them to gather even better material for your testimonials!

 

12 – Show us how you use our product. If you have a product that can be used in many ways, this type of contest could be a very good idea to uncover creative uses you may not have thought of. It can also be a great way to educate other customers or convince prospects of the many things they’ll be able to do with your product.

Pros: Great to create educational materials on how your product can be used and how creative your clients are with it.

Business Tip: Only go for this type of contest if you have a product that can be used creatively!

 

13 – Show us your favorite feature of our product (with a screenshot). If you’re selling software, this is the ideal type of contest. Ask your users to take a screenshot of their favorite screen or feature of your product and explain why they like it.

Pros: A great way to get feedback on what your current users like and to create marketing materials showing what your users love and why with real life visuals.

Business Tip: Definitely ask them to upload a screenshot and a short description about how they use the showcased feature.

 

14 – Show us your least favorite feature of our product (with a screenshot). This is a variation of the previous type of contest. It may sound counter intuitive to ask for negative feedback, but finding out what your users want you to fix is probably just as important (if not more) than knowing what they like.

Pros: A unique way to learn the flaws of your product and fix them. Users appreciate transparency and your willingness to fix what is not working today.  This is a great PR tool for a brand that is suffering.

Business Tip: Ask participants to be as detailed as possible in their description of what they’d like you to fix and award the prizes to the ones that have submitted the most constructive feedback or have uncovered the most important flaw.

Again, to easily manage a Sweepstakes, Quiz or Photo Contest on your Timeline, don’t hesitate to use our free Timeline Contest Manager 

Run Free Timeline Contests on Facebook!

Your turn, any creative idea I didn’t think of that would be worth adding to this list? Let me know!

selling on Facebook

Mary Mallard

October 13, 2015

Nicholas Grizzell

January 22, 2015

Jenny Brennan

December 31, 2014

Richard Beeson

Richard is a Client Happiness Jedi for Agorapulse, based out of San Francisco and Paris, advising agencies and brands across the globe on Facebook page management and marketing. He sings Bachata in the shower and dances salsa 3x a week whether he needs it or not.

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