36% of the entire global population uses Facebook monthly. And while we’re certain each of those 2.91 billion people has their own unique personality and specific interests (pineapple on pizza? Crocs in regular or sport mode?), we’re also sure that 100% of them have one thing in common: they love free stuff.
Hosting a Facebook contest or giveaway is an excellent (and cheap) strategy for promoting your business—plus, it’s a nice way to give back to your brand’s loyal followers. That said, there are also a lot of ways—from obnoxious to outright illegal—that Facebook contests should not be run.
Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to plan and execute a Facebook contest that’ll thrill both your audience and your analytics.
What is a Facebook contest?
A Facebook contest is a contest that involves Facebook users entering to win goods, services or other things of value (for example, clout) provided by the contest organizer. Think of it like a physical draw you’d enter at a supermarket, but instead of participating by writing your name and contact info on a slip of paper, you’re entering electronically, by liking a post or writing a comment.
What is a Facebook giveaway?
A Facebook giveaway is a popular subcategory of Facebook contests — in fact, most of the contests you’ll see on the platform can be classified as a giveaway.
Giveaways always involve the gifting of something of monetary value to the contest winner. For example, a photographer might hold a contest and gift the winner a free photoshoot. Or a candle brand might give away a set of their new Fall scents (pumpkin spice, obviously).
But sometimes, you’ll see Facebook contests that aren’t technically giving anything away—for instance, an animal shelter might hold a “cute dog” contest and simply share a photo of the winner instead of having an actual prize of monetary value. In most cases, though, the words “contest” and “giveaway” are interchangeable.
How to plan and run a Facebook contest
Running a Facebook contest is easy enough, but there’s a few things to know before you embark on your first giveaway — both for the success of your Facebook marketing strategy and to make sure you’re not breaking any of the platform’s rules.
Step 1: Know your goals
Why are you running a Facebook contest in the first place? It’s to improve your social media game, of course—but how?
Ensure you know what your goal is. Building brand awareness, boosting engagement, getting likes, marketing a new product, gaining followers and learning more about your followers are all common goals. When planning your contest, make sure to keep those goals in mind.
If you’re not sure where to start, Hootsuite has a whole online training session on best practices for running social media contests — check it out.
Step 2: Define your Facebook contest rules
You’ll want to set your own rules (for example, no one who works for your company can win — bummer) for your Facebook contest, but you also need to be mindful of the social media platform’s official rules when it comes to giveaways.
Facebook’s most recent updated contest rules break down into three major parts.
You are responsible for running the contest legally. In other words, Facebook isn’t going to help you avoid breaking state, provincial or federal laws by, say, accidentally running a lottery instead of a contest.
Hint: a lottery includes any contest where participants are required to spend money to play, i.e., buy a product.
You are responsible for obtaining from participants “a complete release of Facebook” and an acknowledgement that Facebook has nothing to do with the contest. One tried-and-true place to house all these regulations, notifications, and consents is a giveaway landing page.
Requiring people to use their personal timelines or friend connections to participate is not allowed. Here’s where the old rules fall by the wayside. Asking people to tag a friend or share a Facebook post on their timeline used to be a standard contest requirement. No more!
Here’s the direct word from Meta itself:
“Promotions may be administered on Pages, Groups, Events, or within apps on Facebook. Personal Timelines and friend connections must not be used to administer promotions (ex: “share on your Timeline to enter” or “share on your friend’s Timeline to get additional entries,” and “tag your friends in this post to enter” are not permitted).”
That said, the benefits of these latest changes outweigh the inconveniences.
Those practices were actually pretty annoying to most people. Decreasing the overall pollution on Facebook means a better experience for users, which means people will continue to use the platform (and enter your contests).
So, to recap what’s allowed versus what‘s not:
Acceptable Facebook contest entry requirements:
- Like this post
- Comment on this post
- Like comments on this post (i.e., vote by liking)
- Post on this Page’s timeline
- Message this Page
Practises that are not allowed (and might result in your contest post being flagged or deleted):
- Share this post on your timeline
- Tag your friends
- Share this post on your friends’ timeline
One grey area is asking people to like your Facebook Business Page. Technically, this isn’t against the rules, but it’s not recommended because there’s no easy way to track the folks who have done so.
That said, you can encourage people to like your Page and enter for a chance to win via a less suspect method.
Step 3: Pick a prize
Pick a prize that aligns with your brand, and is something your followers are going to get excited about. For example, giving away a product from a new launch is a great way to promote the launch (and the non-winners might just buy the product anyway).
Also, take a moment to think logistically about your prize and how you’re going to deliver it to the winner—for instance, an ice cream business is better off mailing a branded t-shirt than ice cream.
Step 4: Create your assets
All the details of your contest can be communicated via plain text, sure. But that’s not very engaging, and people aren’t going to enter if they don’t even notice that you’re holding a giveaway. Whether or not you’re a graphic design pro, there are plenty of apps out there that make photo editing (and adding things like text, stickers and graphics) super easy.
Step 5: Promote your contest in advance
Let your fans know that you’re having a contest by sharing it in advance. You can create hype by sharing info about your prize (or, if you have multiple prizes, you can share one per day leading up to your contest launch).
Use a scheduling tool—like Hootsuite’s calendar, for example—to plan out the posts and make sure you’re posting at the best time of day.
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If you’ve held contests in the past and the winners have shared photos of themselves with the prizes, consider sharing those photos to promote your next contest—just make sure you ask for permission.
Step 6: Post your contest
And, liftoff! Publish your contest on Facebook and watch those entries flood in. Make sure to moderate the contest post and address any questions or confusion that might crop up.
Psst: you don’t have to stick to just Facebook—you can run the same (or a similar) contest on Twitter and/or Instagram and/or Youtube, too.
Step 7: Continue to share your contest leading up to the deadline
Here’s where that scheduling tool comes in handy again. To make sure your contest doesn’t get buried in engagement announcements or minion memes (or whatever else is bogging down your followers’ feeds) by sharing it often.
As you approach the contest deadline, make sure you communicate to your followers that time is running out. A countdown until the entry deadline is a great motivator for lazy entrants—get it before it’s gone!
Step 8: Pick the winners
Are there any rules for picking winners of Facebook contests? Technically, no. There’s nothing stopping you from choosing the person with the coolest name or your friend’s mom to win —except, obviously, your ethics.
Picking a winner totally randomly is the best way to go. There’s plenty of free apps and websites that you can visit to pick a random winner:
- Comment picker will pick a random comment from your post (so, it’s a good one to use if folks enter by commenting).
- Namepicker and Osortoo also pick a name from the comment section.
- Woobox can pick comments or “likers.”
Step 9: Notify the winners and close the contest
Contact your contest winner to let them know they’ve won (tip: try and sound as human as possible in your message, so the winner doesn’t think it’s fake!) and “close” the contest. In other words, edit all of your contest posts and add a line stating that the contest is closed. This lets latecomers know that the contest is over (and makes sure you’re not getting spammed with comments weeks after the winner has been picked).
Step 10: Share the winners (with their permission)
This is a bonus step. Once you’ve picked your winner, you can publicly share their username (as long as you’ve laid out that possibility in the contest rules). Or even their photo, with permission. Make sure you get the consent of the winner before doing this.
Sharing who won isn’t mandatory, but it does help with your brand’s transparency. Proving you did pick a winner at all ensures that the concert is legit, and you’re not just doing it for the likes or comments.
4 Facebook contest ideas
1. Collaborate with an influencer (or celebrity)
Working with influencers, KOLs or other influential people (like celebrities, if you have that kind of access and budget) is an awesome way to promote your contest. You’re automatically increasing the reach of your contest by appealing to both your followers and your collaborator’s followers.
Kaytee’s recent (if weird) collab with Rainn Wilson is a good example of that.
When collaborating with an influencer, KOL or celebrity for a Facebook contest, remember to:
- Choose a person whose brand is in a similar industry to yours, or who your audience can easily relate to.
- Do your research on the person—make sure you’re not associating your brand with anyone whose beliefs don’t align with yours.
- Read Hootsuite’s best practices for influencer marketing.
2. Make a game of it
Instead of simply asking followers to like or comment on a post to enter your contest, consider making the entry process a little more challenging (and, as a result, more fun).
Fashion e-commerce company Myntra used a simple video graphic for their giveaway—participants had to guess how many wireless headphones appeared in a video in order to enter.
When making a game out of your contest entry, consider this:
- Don’t make entering too hard—the point, after all, is to have lots of entries, not to make your contest exclusive. Entering a contest shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes, max.
- Make the game related to your brand or to the product you’re giving away (for example, “Spot the difference” between two photos might be an effective, simple contest idea for a photographer).
- Be sure the person who wins actually gets the answer correct. The easiest way to do this is to use a random comment picker, then find the comment and verify the answer is right. If it’s not, spin again.
3. Ask your followers for help
You might not think of a Facebook contest as a good source of brand feedback or inspiration, but it absolutely can be. Take this post from a San Francisco pizzeria:
The company is seeking out a new name for a product and taking to Facebook to ask for suggestions. Folks who comment with new name ideas are entered to win a $500 gift card plus one pizza a week for a year (whoa).
This is a great way to get your community involved in your business and to create a meaningful connection with your followers.
For this kind of contest, make sure you:
- Keep true to your word. If you’re saying that a contest entrant is renaming a product, you’ve got to actually pick from the comments. With that in mind…
- Don’t make the contest about something super important. Even if your followers are a community of respectful, reasonable and creative geniuses, you don’t want to give them too much power over your brand (don’t let them rename your whole company, for example).
- Share the results! In this kind of contest, you should definitely share what the winning suggestion is. Sharing a couple runner-ups is a good way to get more traffic, too—your honorable mentions are likely to want to share that honor on their own feeds.
4. Encourage followers to share with friends
We already went over the fact that “tag a friend to enter” is technically not allowed—that’s due to Meta’s rules for promotions.
(Note: many, many businesses ignore these rules. In fact, it was tough to find examples of contests that didn’t involve tagging friends for this blog post. Still, those are the rules, and not sticking to them puts you—and your social account—at risk.)
However, there’s a sneaky way around this, as exemplified in this concert ticket contest:
Technically, this radio station didn’t ask folks to tag their friends—the vague language of “let us know who you would bring” means that hopeful participants could enter by simply commenting something like “my mom.” But people tagged their friends anyway, which put the contest on the friends’ radar, as well.
For this kind of contest:
- Make sure you don’t explicitly ask followers to tag their friends.
- Ask them a question that involves naming another person—for example, “tell us who you’d share this romantic dinner for 2 with!” or “tell us who you’d convince to come bungee jumping!”
Remember, it’s also against Meta’s giveaway rules to ask followers to share the post on their own or a friends’ timeline in order to enter the contest.
Bonus: 3 Facebook giveaway ideas
1. Give away a product from an industry partner
Even if you’re not a brand that makes an easily gift-able product, you can still host an awesome giveaway—you just need to collaborate with another business. Not only does this mean you can pick a prize that your followers truly want, but it also creates positive relationships with other folks in your industry.
For example, Modern Cat magazine’s most obvious giveaway prize would be a subscription to their magazine. Instead, this giveaway is a partnership with a cat food brand. It’s hosted by the magazine and gives away a product that the readers of the magazine will find appealing.
When collaborating with another brand for a giveaway, be sure to:
- Partner with a brand that aligns with your business values, and has a similar audience (Modern Cat wouldn’t partner with a dog food brand).
- Make sure the terms of the giveaway are clear, and sort out logistics—will the price be delivered to you to pass forward, or straight to the giveaway winner, for example?
- Consider including the other brand in the giveaway entry method: a like or comment on their Facebook Page can count as a single entry, too, which helps to further promote your contest and solidify your relationship.
2. Celebrate a milestone
You don’t need an occasion to give a gift, but it’s always nice to root your Facebook giveaway to something brand-related—for example, hitting a career or social media milestone. Common milestone examples are gaining a certain amount of followers or the anniversary of founding your business. Professional soccer player Katriina Talaslahti hosted a giveaway to celebrate hitting 20 thousand followers.
For this kind of giveaway, make sure you:
- Frame the giveaway as a gift to your followers to thank them for your support
- Pick a professional or personal milestone… or both. In the above example, Katriina launches the giveaway to celebrate hitting 20k followers (professional) and picks a winner on her birthday (personal).
- If you’re celebrating a regular milestone (for example, a business anniversary that comes around, well, annually) consider marking your calendar for upcoming years—you can make your giveaway a tradition.
3. Jump on a trending topic or current event
Making your contest relate to a timely event helps to communicate urgency. You want people to enter now, while they can, and tying your campaign to something that is temporary is an effective strategy. Good news: this can be a loose tie; it’s all about how you sell it.
For example, there’s this winery giveaway that’s linked to a football game:
And this pet store giveaway that’s linked to “back to school” season.
The winery isn’t really related to the football game, and dogs don’t go to school (or wear backpacks, usually) but both of these brands linked their contests to current events in a creative way.
For this kind of contest, keep this in mind:
- Choose an event that your followers are likely to care about. For example,the winery above chose a sports team that their community supported, and the pet store chose “back to school” for pet owners who think of their pets as children (so, most of them).
- Plan far enough ahead of the event that you’re not scrambling to make assets. Keep stress levels low by planning weeks before whatever current event you’re aligning your contest with (for example, plan your Valentine’s Day giveaway waaay before February 13).
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