Best Practices for a Facebook Timeline Contest

This content provides tips and best practices for hosting a successful Facebook Timeline contest or promotion. It covers topics such as setting goals, crafting engaging posts, promoting the contest, collecting user-generated content, using apps, selecting winners, contacting winners, increasing page likes, and calculating ROI.

By Dana Kilroy ・6 min read
ShortStack Tips & Tricks
Social Media

Now that contests and promotions are allowed on Facebook Page Timelines, there are a handful of best practices businesses should keep in mind before they decide to host one of their own. In today’s post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about how to run a successful (and beneficial-to-your-business) Timeline contest or promotion.

Let’s get started!

Create a plan/set a goal

With any type of Facebook promotion, the first step is to create a plan and set some goals. During this process, ask yourself, “What is it that I want to gain from this promotion?” For some businesses, the goals might be sales oriented, with a focus on collecting email addresses for a mailing list; for others, it could be purely about boosting engagement and Page Likes. Whatever your business wants to accomplish with your Facebook Timeline promotion, will dictate which best practices in this article are right for you.

Craft your perfect Timeline contest or promotion post

The language you use for your Timeline contest is important.

To craft a Timeline contest post that complies with Facebook’s new promotion guidelines and will inspire lots of engagement, use these tips:

  1. Use the appropriate call to action (CTA). For example, if you’re hosting a “Like to enter” contest, be direct in your post. Tell users in the first or second sentence of your post, “Like this post for a chance to win!” Then you can get into the details of the contest. The same tip goes for “Comment to enter” Timeline contests, just replace “Like” with “Comment.”
  2. Include an image. Photos on Facebook generate 53 percent more Likes than the average post (Hubspot). And choosing the right kind of photo can be even more beneficial. Use a photo that features your contest prize and is human-centric (this is FACEbook, after all). For instance, instead of sharing a photo of your prize against a sterile white background, use a photo of a person holding or pointing to your contest prize. We did this for our first ever ShortStack Timeline contest and saw great results.
  3. Include necessary disclaimers and rules. According to Facebook’s latest promotion guidelines, you are required to include verbiage within your Timeline contest post acknowledging that your promotion is no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You must also include a complete description of your contest’s official rules, along with terms and eligibility requirements. When you include all the necessary copy, your Timeline contest post can get pretty ugly/verbose. Fortunately, there’s a better alternative -- we’ll get to it later in this post.

If you need some Timeline contest or promotion inspiration, we put together a list of 5 awesome ideas.

Promote your Timeline Contest or Promotion

When businesses combine a Timeline contest or promotion with Facebook’s new embed feature and ShortStack’s new Comment/Like Importer they have a super powerful marketing tool.

Here’s why: When you feature a piece of content, like a status update, from your Facebook Page on a high-traffic place like your brand’s blog or website, it encourages users to engage simply because it’s right there in front of them and most important, it’s easy to take action! The barriers to entry, in the case of Timeline contests and promotions, are no longer there when you embed the post in your blog or website.

The other day, for example, we used an embedded post in our blog post to announce our t-shirt giveaway. Below is a screenshot of what we did. (BTW, you can still Like to enter to win through the end of today: Wednesday, September 4th!)

Collect User Generated Content (UGC)

The most powerful kind of UGC you can collect from your fans (and other Facebook users) are photos. User-submitted photos are great because they can be shared later on Facebook to feature fans in posts or they can be shared on your business’s other social profiles like Pinterest. Photos submitted by your fans can also give your business really useful insight into who your fans are. These are just a few of reasons that photo contests and promotions on Facebook are so popular.

Since Facebook now allows photo comments on posts, it’s super easy to host a Timeline photo contest or promotion! For your next Timeline contest, ask users to comment with a photo for a chance to win an awesome prize from your business. When your Timeline photo contest is over, use a tool such as ShortStack’s Comment/Like Importer to import all the photos to a database to save and use for later.

Use an app to host your contest's official rules

You know how we mentioned earlier that there’s a better alternative to having super lengthy Timeline contest or promotion? An app is the best option for hosting official contest rules and Facebook’s required disclaimer.

If you want your Timeline contest post to be short, sweet, super easy to enter -- AND in compliance with Facebook’s updated promotion guidelines -- create a complementary contest app and link to it in your post. If you do this, your next Timeline contest post could look and be simple as this:

“Like or comment on this post for your chance to win a $50 gift card! For more contest details and rules, click here to read: [link to your contest app].”

Use an app to collect valuable data from contest entrants

If you want to grow your business's mailing list, consider hosting a Timeline contest or promotion and building a complementary contest app with an entry form.

In the copy for your Timeline contest or promotion, drive users to your Facebook app by sharing a link to it. Also, provide an incentive so users will want to go to your app. For example, users who enter into your contest via your app can receive extra entries, giving them a better chance to win your company’s awesome prize. We did this earlier this week when we first rolled out our new feature.

Select a random winner

Everyone wants a fair shot at winning! Users entering into your contest via a post comment or Like, want to know that your business is using the fairest method possible to select a winner.

To choose a random contest winner -- or winners-- you can use our random contest entry picker.

Contact your Timeline Contest winner

Facebook used to be really strict about how Page admins could contact contest winners. The biggest rule they had was that a company representative could not contact winners on Facebook -- it had to be via email or through another off-Facebook method. This rule can no longer be found in Facebook’s promotion guidelines. It’s our understanding that Facebook has dropped this part of their promotion guidelines and now businesses can contact their contest winner in whatever way they would like -- including on Facebook.

Increase Page Likes with your Timeline Contest or Promotion

It’s important to remember: Facebook still does not allow Pages to require users to Like their Page in order to be able to enter to win a contest. You can only ask them to Like status updates. This means non-fans who see your Timeline contest in their News Feed can also enter into your Timeline Contest.

The only way to really drive Page Likes with a Facebook contest or promotion is to host the contest using a fan-gated app.

To drive new Page Likes with your Timeline contest or promotion, incentivize users to visit your contest fan-gated app by linking your app’s URL in your Timeline contest post. Often the best incentives include: additional contest entries for users who also enter your contest through your app or a special discount code that’s revealed when they Like your Page (this way everyone who visits your app can be a winner!).

Calculate the ROI of your Timeline promotion

At the end of your Timeline promotion, revisit your goals and check to see if you met them or not. If you hosted a basic Timeline promotion, record how much engagement, i.e. how many comments or likes, your contest earned. If you hosted a more layered and integrated Timeline promotion with the help of an app, gather data about how many people clicked to view your promotion versus the number of people who entered. Save your contest entrants’ email addresses in a database to use for later.

If your business or client is planning to host a Timeline contest, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below! We’re curious to know what kind of contest you’ll be hosting and why you’re hosting it, i.e. do you want to gather data, engage with fans, or both? And as always, feel free to ask questions if you have any.

  • * This post was updated, with tips about planning and ROI late in the day on September 4th, 2013.
  • * This post was updated for the second time on September 5th, 2013 with the newest Comment/Like Importer tool video.

About the author

By Dana Kilroy ・6 min read

Dana Sullivan Kilroy is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience delivering compelling content. Her work has appeared in national, award-winning publications and sites, including: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Fast Company, Inc.

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