8 Test Practices for Facebook and Instagram Contests [Checklist]

This content provides tips on how to test your contest or giveaway to ensure a smooth and successful experience for participants.

By Jessica Miller-McNatt ・5 min read
Best Practices
Campaign & Contest Ideas
ShortStack Tips & Tricks
Social Media

If your business is looking to whoop up some fun and excitement, running a contest or giveaway is an obvious go-to tactic. Contests and giveaways are like throwing a party - the intention is for participants to have fun and for you to impart some warm, fuzzy feelings in relation to your brand. Even for participants who don’t walk away with a cool prize, contests and giveaways are usually a relatively easy way to make people enthusiastic about your company.As a Help Desk Agent at ShortStack, I have more than a few tales from the support trenches in which the efforts put forth to achieve this sentiment backfired, and the contest or giveaway actually left participants feeling angry. The good news is these instances are relatively rare and completely avoidable.All it takes to keep your participants smiling is some simple testing.Before you launch your contest, make sure you’re testing these seven crucial things that could save you a headache down the road, as well as keep smiles on your participants’ faces.

1. Test how the contest looks on a variety of devices/browsers

Your contest, giveaway, quiz etc., may look beautiful on the big, shiny Thunderbolt monitor before you -- but have you inspected it on an iPhone 6, a Samsung tablet, or a 15-inch Surface pro? It's a best practice to check out what your campaign will look like on several different screens, and in various browsers. Our graphic designer uses BrowserStack to simulate different devices, operating systems, and, yes, browsers.

Awake's Spring Break giveaway

As for browsers, you can prioritize which ones you design for by understanding how much of the population uses which browsers. For example, don’t spend a ton of time designing your contest to look good in Opera if only 1.6 percent of the population uses it. W3Schools publishes up-to-date browser statistics monthly so you can see where your priorities should lie.

2. Test the entry form and view the data you collect

If your contest includes an entry form, submit an entry into the form and see what happens. Can you confirm that your entry was collected? Did you get any error messages? Submit another entry - if you’ve put entry restrictions in place, are they working? In other words, if you’ve set up your form to only collect one entry per user, your second entry should have been rejected.

Form Example

Example Entry Form

Navigate to where your data is being collected and view your entry/entries. Make sure the data is collected and that you’ve collected everything you’ll need for future marketing. For example, if your intention is to offer a birthday discount down the road, make sure you’re collecting a birthdate from each of your contest’s participants.

3. Follow the same steps participants will

Beyond submitting entries into the entry form, follow all of the steps your contest requires.

Instagram Hashtag Giveaway

Hashtag + Form Giveaway Template

View and Create Your Own

As a support agent, I often get support requests that go a little something like this: “My contest required that participants share the campaign and tag two friends. How do I see if they did this so I can choose a winner.”Not only does the practice of requiring sharing/tagging go against Facebook and Instagram’s policies, if this person had tested their campaign, they would have known -- before their launch -- that this is not possible. There isn’t a way to track who shared the campaign, nor to see if friends were tagged.  

4. Export your data and look it over

Test the entries you submitted into your form. Do this by looking over them and making sure they contain all of the data you’re looking to collect. If you’re using a contest platform like ShortStack, the export will be in .csv format and will include some bonus data that doesn’t show up in the database when viewing the entries in ShortStack (for example, the IP address of the user). It may be helpful to look over the export just to make sure it will have everything you need, especially if you plan to import the data from these entries into a another platform like MailChimp or Constant Contact.

Export Entries Example

ShortStack Export Process

5. Test how your contest looks when shared

If you’ll be promoting your contest or giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc., you’ll want to preview what it will look like once it’s shared. There are two ways to share your contest - copy and paste the contest’s URL into a post, and, if your contest has social share icons embedded in it, click on those to see how that will look.Some contest builders allow you to customize share prompts for each social media platform. For example, you can customize your Facebook Share dialogue differently that you can for Twitter.

Facebook Test Page

Facebook Test Page Example

6. Ask friends and colleagues to test your contest

It’s great to get an outsider’s perspective on your campaign. You may remember the air freshener commercials claiming we become “nose blind” to certain smells in our home? The same principle applies to something we’ve looked at over and over again. If text is unclear, or a step in your participation instructions is vague, there’s a possibility you’ll never catch it because you simply can’t see it.

Recruit someone who’s never seen your contest before to take a look. Ideally, you’ll get someone with a completely fresh perspective to test it out.

Ask a friend or relative, a spouse, or even the stranger sitting next to you at Starbucks (offer to refresh their latte, or buy their next round of cake pops) to submit an entry and give you a little feedback about the process. You might find that an outsider’s perspective provides the most revealing information.

7. Go through the process of selecting a winner

Here’s another woeful tale from the Help Desk trenches: A user has run a giveaway in which participants vote for a specific prize they’d like to win. One of two things was overlooked - the participant’s contact information was collected, but there is no data collected as to what their prize selection was. Or worse, participants clicked on a vote mechanism to vote for the prize they would like to win, but no other info was collected. In other words, there are no names and/or email addresses to select a winner from.

Simply going through the motions of selecting a winner can reveal any data you may be missing, or an oversight in your contest’s construction.

8. Think about potential outlying situations and account for them in your terms & conditions

It's a good practice to sit around a conference table and brainstorm possibilities that might arise during your contest, and what you can do to prevent some of them. For example, cheaters may rear their collective ugly head from time to time and try to take advantage of your good-natured giveaway. How? By using multiple email addresses so they can have multiple entries, participating in a “vote-group” in which a large group of people will vote for the entry specified, or by deleting their browser cookies so they can continue to cast votes.Sneaky, right? Don’t worry! There’s lots you can do to keep cheaters in check. Adding a clause to your rules or terms and conditions that stipulates “We reserve the right to disqualify anyone suspected of cheating” is always a good idea. Consider an entry restriction method that goes beyond checking email addresses. In a voting contest, add verbiage in your rules stating you'll pick a winner through a different means (for example, by a panel of judges) if cheating is suspected. Also, using a vote restriction mechanism other than by a browser cookie, can help deter cheaters as well.

Terms and Conditions Template

Terms & Conditions Landing Page Template

Need help writing some Contest Rules? Here’s a handy guide. Investing a little time in these tests can save you from scrambling to make a fix down the road.If you’re using ShortStack to build your contest or giveaway, our Help Desk agents are always happy to “kick the tires”on something you’re looking to launch. Just send us an email at

See how easy it is to create your first Instagram contest or promotion.

Get Started Today. No credit card required. Risk-free.

About the author

By Jessica Miller-McNatt ・5 min read

Jessica Miller-McNatt has been with ShortStack for over a decade and has served in every role from Marketing Team Lead to Customer Success. Her journey in martech continues to fuel her fascination for what drives growth. Jessica's favorite weekends are spent in the North Georgia mountains, chasing waterfalls and exploring with her family.

Get marketing tips straight to your inbox

Thank you!
Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We’ll email you 1-3 times per week—and never share your info.