Facebook has become a no brainer for travel destinations of all shapes and sizes (family owned, B&B and International hotel chains) for the same reasons as any other industry-  ads bring customers, relationships bring repeat customers and their friends. Social media is all about relationships, and Facebook is the king of social media. Facebook apps have proven to be the best way to complement a good content strategy and build relationships that pay off, but it’s becoming difficult to make the right choice.

Facebook contest apps vary from simple to complex.  Here are some must have items you’ll need in order to run a successful campaign for your travel destination:

-Mobile optimization:  Choose a vendor which provides Facebook apps which are optimized for mobile. You’ll have the power to offer on site campaigns and recruit the very best fans for your page- those who are already enjoying their stay with you! I wrote an entire blog post about how to leverage mobile and Facebook for travel destinations, don’t miss this one!

– An embed feature for your website:  Embed your Facebook campaign on your website, and recruit your site’s organic traffic into your Facebook fan base.  Your website’s visitors will be able to like your page, give you their email and other qualified information, and participate in your sweepstakes without ever having to leave your page.  See an example of a Facebook app embedded on a website here.

-Fraud protection:  You are not a specialized brand- everyone wants what you are offering. As a travel destination, your Facebook campaigns will be prime targets for online scammers and cheaters.  But, you don’t have to be vulnerable.  Some app vendors provide fraud protection with their Facebook apps.  Make sure to choose one of these to recruit quality fans only.

Each Facebook app offers a different spectrum of purpose.  Their features vary, and depending on which goal you’re working to accomplish: recruiting new fans, collecting qualified emails, engaging your existing fan base, or promoting brand awareness.  How can you be sure to choose the one that best fits your goals?

Don’t worry. We’ve been hard at work benchmarking the most common types of apps to help you make the right choice.


#1 Sweepstakes

A Facebook sweepstakes is very simple to set up (good point for the admin) and very simple to use (good for the users). User experience is generally pretty quick, helping you to convert a higher percentage of participants, and get more fans in the process.  Though, it’s not as fun or memorable as your other options, so virality may be low, and you won’t likely be on your participants’ minds for very long.

The pros: Easy to set up. Easy to use. A great choice to recruit fans, and engage your existing fan base. Definitely the app of choice if you want to maximize the number of participants without spending a lot of time on the effort.

The cons: If you want your participants to get involved, have a good time, spread the word for you and remember you next year, this is not the best app for your goals. The user experience is a non-event, there are very few Open Graph options, and the numbers for leveraging virality from a Sweepstakes through share and invite buttons are dismal, sometimes as low as 2%.

Winning a week of vacation is probably one of the best prize a Facebook sweepstakes can offer!

Winning a week of vacation is probably one of the best prize a Facebook sweepstakes can offer!

When should you use a Facebook sweepstakes app and why?

As a travel destination, you have the best possible prizes: vacations! Be it a one night’s stay or an all-inclusive week long adventure, you have what everyone wants! Just consider the difference between these two announcements:

“win a free oil change!”

“win a free stay in the Caribbean!”

 Be thankful that you’re not in the oil change business.  😉

You’ve got the gold.  Even though the sweepstakes remains a very simple app without a fun social experience for users, the potential prizes are so attractive this app will always be a good choice, especially for gaining new fans. So, recruit! Recruit! Recruit!


#2 Instant-win

An Facebook Instant Win app is just as simple as a Sweepstakes.  The only difference- it works like a slot machine, so users know immediately if they’ve won or lost.  Instant gratification and the tease of a possible win tomorrow will tempt users to return for another chance.  You’ll get more fans and conversions due to the quick user experience, and it’s a little more fun than the Sweepstakes, so it’s slightly more memorable.

The pros: Easy to set up. Easy to use. An excellent choice to recruit fans, and engage your existing fan base. It’s another good choice for maximizing the number of participants without spending a lot of time on the effort.

The cons: The Instant Win contest still doesn’t cut it as the ultimate brand awareness tool. There are few Open Graph actions, and minimal virality options available (share and invite buttons). Also, as you’ll have to offer multiple prizes (to have multiple “winning instants”), this type of app is not a good fit if you only have one big prize to offer, go for a sweepstakes in that case.

instant win app

The advantage of the Instant Win is that winners are notified immediately and can enjoy their prize instantly. Great if you are doing this with guests on site.

When should you use a Facebook Instant Win app and why?

The Instant Win is almost the same app as the sweepstakes except for the way winners are drawn, so the common reasoning for running a travel destination sweepstakes campaign applies to the Instant Win as well.

A sweepstakes may not be as attractive since your guests will have to return to your site or page to find out if they’ve won, and they’re probably pretty busy having fun, but the Instant Win’s instant gratification can be a bit more tempting, it’s a particularly good fit for offering perks to clients while they are travelling or staying with you. Why not offer a complimentary glass of champagne, a breakfast, or any other perk?  Most destinations already offer something.  Why not get a Facebook fan for your hospitality? Most of your clients will probably be willing to enter knowing that should they win, they can benefit from their gift right away!


#3 Photo Contest

Your fans upload their photos of your locations and staff to win a prize.  If you’re looking to engage and reward your existing fan base while driving up interactions on your page, look no further, a Facebook photo contest is what you need!  You are the hot location or the gorgeous hotel!   Your guests can’t wait to show you and their friends how much they loved it!  We all know that customers trust other customers more than they trust company ads, and that’s what the proper use of social media is all about.  If you’ve been wondering how you can bring your customers into the fold and benefit from their loyalty and trust, this is the answer.  The photo contest has everything you need!

Facebook’s Open Graph loves photo contests- every vote will contribute to your virality.

Remember to choose a provider who has built fraud protection into your app. Since votes will play a role in the election of the winners, some people will try to game the system. You want to make sure you can identify and ban them easily.

Sweepstakes and Instant win campaigns are very low maintenance, just turn them on and let them go.  Managing a photo contest, however, will require more time and attention. You certainly want to avoid funky (or not so funky) photo submissions, so moderation will be an absolute necessity. Make sure your app allows you to moderate fan submitted content with ease, preferably prior to publishing.

The pros: Easy to set up.  An excellent choice to engage your existing fan base, since fans can play an active role in the game by submitting their entry and/or voting for others.  Fans will love and remember their experience.  Facebook loves photo contests, every vote will be story told to your participants’ friends.  That’s a big plus for brand awareness. Plus, a Facebook photo contest will provide you with ton of guest-generated photos of your locations you’ll be able to engage your fans with on your timeline. That’s a great and easy way to gain an abundant source of content for your community management efforts.

The cons: Poor fan recruitment.  While fans love photo contests, the necessary effort in itself may inhibit participation. Poor fan recruitment also means poor email collection. If your goal is to collect a lot of qualified emails, stay away from the photo contest.

Guests get to show off their experiences and promote brand awareness in this prime location’s photo contest.

Guests get to show off their experiences and promote brand awareness in this prime location’s photo contest.

When should you use a Facebook Photo Contest app and why?

A photo contest is, in almost every way, the opposite of a sweepstakes or Instant Win. As the barrier to entry for the users is much higher, you’ll likely get a lower number of participants. So, don’t use it to recruit fans. However, as participants get involved, they are usually the most motivated ones, and potentially your best fans. Also, as they will probably invite all their friends to vote on their entry, you’ll get a ton of votes and visitors, generating free brand awareness. Finally, you’ll be showing your destination through your fans’ eyes, and gain a lot of great visuals you can leverage for your future content marketing efforts.

Want to really spice it up?  Tell your fans their photo may possibly be the image in your next ad campaign, or your next Facebook Page cover photo.  They’ll feel valued as artists and as part of your process.

The best people to propose a photo contest to are your current or past customers, because they’ll have content to share! But, if you embed this contest on your website for everyone to see, and advertise is as a way to share previous guests’ experiences, future customers will inevitably get more excited about other customers’ photos than the typical ad campaign.

As a general rule, use the photo contest for branding, content creation and fan engagement. However, there can be exceptions to that rule, especially if you have a super sexy destination and offer super sexy prizes to several winners.


#4 Fan Vote

Just provide some good pictures, or, even better, videos of several destinations and let your fans choose the one they like best!  A Facebook Fan Vote is the win-win app for engaging your fan base.  If you’re offering several destinations under the same brand (hotel chains or vacation resorts), it could be interesting to ask your fans to vote for their favorite destination among a selection. If you’re a tour operator wondering which hotel or resort you should add to your catalog, why not ask your fans to give you some valuable feedback?  You’ll get helpful insights from your customers, and have fun with them as well. Randomly draw one or several winners from your participants to make it fun for them.

It’s not as time consuming as the Photo Contest, but it comes with the same great virality options (votes =  stories to your participants’ friends).


The pros: Easy to set up- just upload your images.  Easy for your fans (just one vote to participate). Easy to manage.  An excellent choice to engage your existing fan base.  Fans will love and remember their experience.  Every vote will contribute to your Open Graph virality.

The cons: Poor fan recruitment.  This can be improved by organizing a sweepstakes and prize among your voters.

fan vote

Past, present and future guests will love voting for their experience on Facebook.

When should you use a Facebook fan vote contest and why?

Though you will gain new fans through your fan vote campaign, recruitment is not this application’s strong point.  A fan vote contest is a nurture campaign, which enables you to learn and benefit from your customers while assuring them of their value to you.

Want to really spice it up?  Use the best customer photos from your previous photo contest campaign and let your participants know where the photos came from.  Seeking a new branding slogan or model?  Why not let your customers choose what would attract them?  Does your venue offer live entertainment?  Why not let your Facebook fans choose which band will highlight your next event?

Social media is all about relationships, and a fan vote contest is one of the best for nurturing those who love you most.


#5 Quiz

Thus far, we’ve drawn a line between engaging your current fans and recruiting new ones.  A Facebook quiz will do both.  Popular destinations held in high esteem as well as small B&B’s alike will enjoy recruiting new fans with a Quiz.  And, no matter your size or stature, you’re sure to offer a fun experience to your past, current and future guests, though quizzes generally don’t have as high a draw as a Photo or Fan Vote contest.  Offer a mixture of prizes to random participants and your highest scorers to really drive up the potential.


The pros:  Recruiting new fans and engaging your existing fan base.  Positive and memorable user experience.  Great virality options through Open Graph, as well as Share and Invite buttons (award more points to participants who have participating friends).

The cons:  Time consuming- for the admin to set up (you have to draft creative questions and answers), and for the user to participate (as opposed to a one-click sweepstakes, for example).

A quiz challenges participants to prove themselves and offers them the chance to show off.

A quiz challenges participants to prove themselves and offers them the chance to show off.

When should you use a Facebook quiz and why?

In short, anytime you have time!  A quiz is the perfect balance between fan recruitment and engagement.  You’ll need a theme, a lot of copy, and lots of images to accompany each correct and incorrect answer, so don’t approach a quiz campaign unless you’re ready to dedicate some resources to it.

A quiz is a chance to show off.  Whether your brand is a household name, or a local B&B remember to keep your questions fun and challenging.  Your participants will appreciate the reward of showing off and telling others about their interest in you.


#6 Personality test

A Facebook personality test is basically a quiz, so the same logic pertaining to travel destination quizzes applies.  Fans take your quiz and are given a personality profile based on their answers.  This is another popular app for fan engagement.  Participants’ friends love to discover each other’s profiles, so you can rack one up for virality as well.  Much like the quiz, don’t approach this app unless you have time to draft creative profiles with images and questions to associate with them.

The pros:  Recruiting new fans (for popular organizations or themes) and engaging your existing fan base.  Positive and rememberable user experience.  Great virality options through Open Graph.

The cons:  Can be time consuming- for the admin to set up, and for the user to participate.

personality test

BudgetaAir makes great use of a personality test by assigning a getaway location to each participant’s profile.

When should you use a Facebook personality test and why?

A personality test is a great engagement tool, so use yours for the primary goal of nurturing your customers into repeat purchases.  If a campaign is well thought out, booking agencies or brands with multiple locations can be helpful in making the decision on where to go for their customers next vacation.  Smaller hotels and B&B’s can take advantage of the local themes and inside jokes to bring their participants into the experience.  You’ll score on brand awareness with Facebook’s open graph virality options (votes= stories to participants’ friends), so you’ll recruit too, just don’t count on the same recruitment levels as a sweepstakes or instant win.


#7 Coupons

A good Facebook coupon app will provide you with customized coupons (detailed information, attractive branding, QR codes…) and qualification data from your participants.  These features are must haves to successfully run a travel discount or small giveaway from a getaway campaign.

The pros:   Easy to set up and administer. Moderate recruitment, but travel destinations will enjoy a high conversion from customers to Facebook fans. Collect customized data from your participants. Quick and easy reward for your fans.

The Cons:  Low virality- receiving a coupon is a single action campaign, so, similar to the sweepstakes or instant win, open graph won’t provide great automatic sharing options.

Facebook coupon campaigns embedded on brand websites can convert shoppers into customers as well as fans for your page. That’s something a Facebook offer can’t do.

Facebook coupon campaigns embedded on brand websites can convert shoppers into customers as well as fans for your page. That’s something a Facebook offer can’t do.

When should you use a Facebook Coupon app and why?

A coupon campaign’s recruitment of new fans for a travel destination will be based on a previous purchase (current guests) or by how tempting the coupon is for a future purpose (future guests).  So, try to consider a coupon campaign more of a conversion tool than a recruitment technique. You probably already give something away when guests arrive.  Why not get a Facebook fan for your hospitality?  Offer your guests a free drink at the bar, or a dessert at your restaurant as they check in.  If you charge for parking or wifi, why not offer them a night for free?  Use and display a QR code at the front desk so your guests will be able to scan your code, like your page, and get their coupon from their mobile device in less than two minutes at check in.  Use a QR scanner to redeem each coupon on location directly from your guests’ mobile devices, and you’ll find a high conversion rate between arriving guests and Facebook fans.

Want to tantalize prospective customers?  Embed your coupon campaign on your website!  You just may convert a shopper into a customer.


In conclusion, make sure you have the right app with the right protections to reach the most people with good protections.  Be sure your Facebook app is optimized for mobile, and can be embedded on your website to obtain your furthest reach.  You’re not offering car parts or food condiments.  You’re sexy, you’ve got what everyone wants.  Internet scammers and cheaters will prey on your social campaigns.  So don’t put your campaign out there without built in fraud protection.

When it comes to reaching your goals, any app will engage your existing fan base, some better than others, depending on the experience you want to give and receive from your participants.  If your goal is promoting brand awareness or nurturing fans into becoming repeat guests, apps with a real user experience (such as the quiz or the personality test) are much better options than a sweepstakes or instant win, which barely offer any experience at all.

When you’re looking to recruit new fans, the simpler the better. The less effort required to enter, the bigger the number of participants. Aim for a sweepstakes or an Instant Win. However, when it comes to travel destinations, size matters.  If you are a small local hotel or a B&B location, a quiz or photo contest may make more sense (too simple is not always best in a small inn or resort context).

If you’re out to convert your website traffic or current guests into fans for future nurturing, a coupon embedded on your website or displayed via QR code at the front desk is definitely worth looking into.

Of course, there’s no reason you can’t try all three approaches simultaneously. 😉

What is your experience with Facebook contests and apps? Any contest or app type you love or hate? Let us know!