How to Run Facebook Contests for Your Small Business

Everyone loves getting something for free. That’s the long-running appeal of any sort of branded contest. Long before the internet made sweepstakes entries easy to produce and distribute to your audience, brands were giving away gift cards, brand-new cars, and other big-ticket items to reap the benefits of consumer engagement.

Facebook contests offer the same kind of appeal — with some notable differences. Brands can get away with giving away smaller prizes and still attracting broad participation from online users. Facebook is also a convenient platform for distributing these contests to a large, dispersed audience. If you’re new to creating Facebook contests for your small business, here’s an overview.

Choosing your Facebook contest

First, choose the kind of contest you want to run, as well as the reward. Do you want to run a free sweepstakes and draw winners at random? Do you want to host a user-generated content contest and pick the best tagged photo to declare as the winner? Consider both the contest and the long-term value. For example, UGC can generate engagement rates that are 6.9 times greater than brand-generated content, according to Kleiner Perkins.

When choosing your contest, keep your ultimate marketing goals in mind. Are you trying to generate new leads for your business, sell products, or promote general brand awareness? Your contest should drive the kind of engagement that will help you achieve these goals.

Contest promotion tips

First things first: Make sure you read and understand Facebook’s promotion rules for businesses. There are certain restrictions on contest promotions: you can’t collect any money as part of the contest entry. And while engagement criteria such as likes and comments are allowed, asking users to share the post is off-limits, as Marketing Donut points out.

Since Facebook posts receive little organic reach nowadays, you’ll need to include some paid spending to promote your contest early and hope it gains additional traction as word gets out. Create these ads and promotional strategies ahead of time to help your business hit the ground running when the contest starts. Use other existing marketing channels such as email, in-store signage, and your business blog to help spread the word for free.

Picking the right prize

Your contest prize should be brand-aligned so it’s relevant to your audience. If you’re a software-as-a-service company, offer a complimentary period of use for your platform. If you’re a local shoe company, give a gift card. Make sure it’s something your customers want, as well as something your business is able to offer. A $10 gift card, for example, won’t generate nearly the attention and participation that a $100 gift card will attract. Make the prize worth your audience’s effort.

How do you know if your contest worked?

Once you’ve completed your Facebook contest, use your performance metrics to determine whether the contest generated strong ROI for your business. As Neil Patel points out, the most telling data points are the response rates — that is, the percentage of contest viewers who actually participated — as well as the overall size of the audience reached by the contest.

Contests need a large audience to deliver the value businesses are seeking, which is why promotion is so critical to success. Remember, it’s not just about the reward you offer. You need to run a contest that fits your brand, engages your target consumers, and attracts enough participants to offset the cost of giving a prize away for free.

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Jonathan Rhoades

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