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Running a Contest on Facebook Successfully and Legally

Posted by in Facebook Marketing

Run A Contest On Facebook

This post is the second in a series of four posts designed to do two things:

1. Get you acquainted with how to market your product or service on Facebook.

2. Get you saddled up and set out on the road to Facebook marketing success!

Before We Begin contest-on-facebook

Disclaimer: Sorry guys, but I have to say this, just so that we’re all clear. I’m not a lawyer. None of my employees are.



Point is, this post is designed to help you, but it isn’t designed to take the place of the advice of an attorney or your own better judgment.

Contest vs. Sweepstakes

The distinction between the two has been covered to the point of absurdity by every other blog out there, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include it here, if only for the one person who still isn’t aware of the difference.

In a contest, the winner is chosen based on some sort of qualification, be it a skill (“the best illustration wins”) or some sort of merit (“the person we deem to be most deserving”).

In a sweepstakes, the winner is chosen completely at random, without any sort of qualification or decision structure.

It is important that you take note of this and use the right verbiage when advertising and discussing your event. For the purposes of this post, I will be using the word “contest” generically, just so we’re all on the same page.

The Rules

The first step to running a successful contest on Facebook is to make sure that your contest (and possibly your page) stay on Facebook, by following the rules. You see, Facebook has set out some very concrete guidelines where contests are concerned, and it has no compunction (and every right) to pull both your contest and your page down if they feel you’ve violated those guidelines.

(I promise I’m not going to fill this entire post with disclaimers, but you should take note that this post is by no means an exhaustive account of all of the rules and guidelines related to running a contest or sweepstakes on Facebook.)

The big kahuna

The biggest rule of all is that any contest you run on Facebook has to be run through a third party app.

The biggest app by far is one called Wildfire. It costs money (starting at around $50 per week at last I checked), but it’s probably the best out there, and is used by some of the biggest players on Facebook (Coke, Lowes, Tide, etc.)

Don’t have $200 to blow? Don’t worry. There’s a free (well, mostly free) app that’s been gaining a lot of traction amongst Small Business owners and entrepreneurs called Freepromos.

I haven’t used it myself, but it’s received glowing reviews from a bunch of people that I respect hugely, and from what I’ve been told it’s completely free to use for pages that have less than 5,000 fans.

Frequently Asked Questions

“How do I add a third party app to my Facebook page?”

There’s no need for me to take up your valuable time by replicating the installation instructions here. Rest assured, installation is easy and painless, and whatever app you choose will walk you through the process quickly and easily.

“Do I need to use an app if I’m just talking about or advertising a contest that I’m running elsewhere?”

If you’re running a contest on your website, blog, in real life, or anywhere else apart from Facebook, you don’t need to use a 3rd party app if all you do is talk about/advertise said contest. You can’t ask people to do anything on your Facebook page, however… i.e.

“Don’t miss out on a chance to win an iPad2, visit our blog to enter and like this page for an extra chance to win.” (The bold part is the part that doesn’t fly).

“Can I ask people to like my page, upload a photo, or post on my page’s wall as a condition of entering my contest?”

Yes and no. You can force visitors to like your page before having a chance to enter the contest, but you can’t require fans to post anything or submit anything through Facebook as a prerequisite to entering the contest. (That’s where the 3rd party app comes in, because you can ask them to submit things there!)

The Prize

The prize that you offer should be something that’s valuable to your target demographic and related to your products or services. I personally advise my clients against offering one of their actual products or services as the contest prize.

The whole point of the contest, in the end, is to whip up a frenzy of activity and excitement around your brand and, thus, eventually make some sales, right? Given that… why would you give away for free whatever it is you’re wanting people to buy from you later on?

Make Entries Valuable to You

Too many Facebook pages just require you to click a button or, at most, enter your e-mail address in order to enter a contest. While an e-mail address is certainly something of value (see: e-mail marketing), there’s no reason that you should stop there. The prize that you’re offering is something of value, right? So get something of value in return! Make it worth your while!

Ask your contest entrants to fill out a survey (market research), interact on your blog (you do have a blog, right?), submit a testimonial (or if they haven’t used your products/services, a horror story about a competitor) to use in future marketing endeavors, and so on. The point is, make the entries more than entries… make them valuable to you, as long as people are going to go to the trouble anyway!

If you have any questions, or need me to clarify something. Well, please, ask away :)


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  • http://www.logallot.com Sonia

    Thanks for the information on the apps, but I didn’t know about the stipulations  behind running a contest on Facebook. Thanks for the tips and adding the question part because I did have a few running through my head as I read this. I will be back for the next series.

  • http://www.johnpaulaguiar.com John Paul

    Thanks Sonia.. Glad the post helped :)

  • http://smbizblog.com Carter Schimpff

    Glad you enjoyed it, Sonia! If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!

  • Danielle Lum

    I searched for that Freepromos app you mentioned but couldn’t find it. Can you post a link? 

  • http://smbizblog.com Carter Schimpff

    Not a problem, Danielle! It looks like they recently changed their name from Freepromos to Easypromos, but it’s still a great deal! Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/easypromos

  • Meo Cuenca {meocuenca}

    great job of pointing out the basics that are so often missed & thanks on the “making it valuable tips”!

  • http://just-ask-kim.com/ Kimberly Castleberry

    Perhaps Easy Promos not Free Promos? Please provide a link when you reference tools.

  • http://www.screendrip.com Charlie Screendrip

    Really good points about contests. I haven’t tried out Easypromos. I will have to have a look. Thanks for the tips.

  • http://smbizblog.com Carter Schimpff

    It’s all about the basics! So often people try and get too complex without establishing a good solid foundation first. I’m glad that you enjoyed the tips!

  • http://smbizblog.com Carter Schimpff

    My apologies, Kimberly. I didn’t know what John’s policy on links would be. If you look above, I’ve included the (new) link in a response to Danielle Lum’s comment. Sorry for the confusion!

  • http://smbizblog.com Carter Schimpff

    Glad you enjoyed it, Charlie! Let me know how your experience with Easypromos goes. I’ve heard plenty of good things about it, but haven’t had the opportunity to try it myself yet.

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