How to Run Effective Facebook Contests

 In Education

Facebook is a valuable tool for connecting with your audience, organization members, or prospective customers. Sharing posts and photos is a great start, but passively hoping for likes and shares isn’t always the best way to spark buzz and interaction. Make the most of your business’ social media presence with a Facebook contest. Attract potential clients while engaging devoted followers and showing off your company’s charm! Here are our tips on how to run a Facebook contest.

1. Know the rules

Don’t get caught up in the excitement and simply hope for more likes on your page. You may be surprised to find out that asking contestants to like your page or share a post actually breaks Facebook policies! Your contest won’t be successful if Facebook bans your page! Once you know the do’s and don’ts, you’ll be ready to craft the perfect contest or sweepstakes while keeping Facebook happy. (See Facebook’s official policies here.)

The contest must have clear rules.

Facebook requires all contests to have coherent, distinct rules; keep it simple and avoid vague intentions. If your contest is more open-ended in nature, offer examples to guide potential participants. Confused readers won’t participate, no matter how creative or desirable the prize is. 

Facebook is not sponsoring your initiative.

Facebook is your friend, but not your sponsor. Remember that Facebook isn’t hosting your contest, you’re hosting your contest on Facebook. Include a brief sentence acknowledging that Facebook has no stake in your contest. 

Paid participation in any form is not allowed.

You cannot sell lottery tickets or demand purchase of your product for entry. Contestants cannot send you anything of monetary value to be judged or to qualify. Sure, you won’t make any quick bucks here. However, your goal should be to draw in interested people who would stick around as continued customers. Aim for more than entrants who will buy or participate the bare minimum just to qualify for prizes. 

Actions through Facebook cannot be required to participate. 

You can’t ask for people to like pictures, share posts, tag friends or anything of the sort. Simply put, you cannot require or suggest Facebook interactions. Luckily, there are creative solutions. Instead of asking for likes, create an associated image that is like-worthy. Instead, implement a contest structure that encourages greater participation and help from friends to boost chances of winning. Also, you are allowed to lead participants off Facebook to interact/submit information elsewhere — just make sure it doesn’t get too convoluted. Click to Read Facebook’s Policy.

TIP: Facebook rewards (positive) engagement with posts – but did you know “liking” a post does nothing for Facebook’s algorithm?

Encourage your followers to react with the “love,” “surprise” or “laughing” reactions instead. The caveat – you can’t TELL them to do so. Instead, you can say something like, “Show this post some love!” to encourage positive reactions. Remember – the “sad” and “angry” post reactions will hurt your organic reach via the algorithm.

Contests must be run through business profiles

Make your contest personal, but not on a personal profile. Facebook doesn’t want to see personal accounts host events and contests for companies; use a business profile specific to your company to present your contest.

Get permission if applicable.

Permission is important. People deserve to know if you plan on using their words or photos to promote your business. For example, you may host a photo contest in which participants will post their personal photos interacting with your business or product. Let participants know that you may use these pictures later on. This is optional of course, but it’s also a good idea to inform potential participants that you will not use their photographs if you don’t intend to.

2. Set a goal and objectives

What are you hoping to get out of this contest? Do you want more current customer engagement, more attention from your target audience, or do you simply have something to give away? You may have more than one goal, and that’s okay so long as the goals are cohesive and straightforward. A clear directive will help guide you through creating a successful contest. 

3. Pick the right type of contest to achieve your goal 

Some contest formats are better than others at achieving certain goals. Here are some examples of contests and the benefits of each:

Sign up for the email list to be entered to win

Email subscribers are a powerful marketing asset – growing your list with interested members of your audience keeps them engaged and informed. 

Photo contest

Gain user-generated content and entries from only the most committed people who are willing to put in extra effort. 

Comment to win

This is easy to participate in and to judge, especially if you choose the winner from the comments at random.

Fill in the blank

Have participants fill in the blanks of a quote or caption an image. This contest adds an element of fun and creativity for entrants. Pick your favorite, or select a winner at random.

Crowdsource contest 

Ask your followers for suggestions or preferences about your group or products to gather feedback. For example, ask entrants to choose their favorite flavor of ice cream that you sell. 

Tip: Keep your prize value in mind when determining your contest entry requirements.

Balance is important. Evaluate your prizes and determine that they are appropriate for your goals, audience, and the effort required to enter. Giving away a car will stir up buzz for your contest, but probably won’t create long lasting customers. Big prizes are always enticing. Contests with valuable prizes can get away with entries that require more effort. If your prize is less pricey, participation should be very simple. The entry effort should reflect the prize value.

3. Execution is everything

Contests serve a purpose, but remember that people will expect follow through. Your contest should last long enough for people to spread the word, but not last so long that people forget they entered. 

Never forget the power of bright colors and high-quality graphics. Show off the prize and draw in participants with a simple call to action and eye-catching cover images. 

4. Announce the winners

Facebook contests are about having a social media presence, so post again to announce the winners (you could even do a Facebook Live video to announce – post the date and time you will be doing so in advance!). Tag and congratulate the winners while thanking everyone else for participating. Either take initiative and direct message the winners about their prizes, or request that the winners reach out to you. If you choose the latter, make this very clear in the entry post and the winners post. 

Remember not to be too “sales-y” in your execution so as not to discourage your followers that made the effort to participate. You could also consider giving away a “runner-up” prize for an added element of surprise.

Contests are supposed to be fun, but be sure to stay consistent with your brand’s tone and messaging.


Below is an example of a contest that Wilmington Today ran to give away opera tickets.

Wilmington Today Facebook contest post

Wilmington Today Facebook contest post image

  • The contest has clear rules, deadlines and instructions
  • The contest encourages engagement by having a “caption contest” on the image
  • The image is related to the prize they are giving away (and the prize is clearly defined)
  • It gives two ways to win (one is at random)
  • It includes the Facebook disclaimer at the end
  • It includes emojis and stylized fonts for attention

What’s on the Horizon for Facebook

Facebook is constantly updating their rules and algorithms. There is news that Facebook will soon start suppressing contests, giveaways and free downloads. This makes it especially important you stay away from the “get this free” or “enter this giveaway” text. Remember, Facebook wants you to create meaningful interactions with its users, not click bait. 

With the changing Facebook algorithm, we would probably revisit our Wilmington Today contest and remove the words “contest” and “free”.

We recommend considering the utilization of bots and paid advertising in Facebook Messenger for the future as this is where the platform will be putting an emphasis, but ultimately, you shouldn’t be putting all of your eggs into your Facebook basket. Be sure to have a presence on other platforms, a well-performing website and a robust email list so that there are multiple channels to communicate and engage with your fans.

Remember – creating meaningful engagement is the winning formula!

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