Everything You Need to Know about Running a Facebook Contest, Competition or Giveaway

Everything You Need to Know about Running a Facebook Contest, Competition or Giveaway

It’s been a number of years now since Facebook has updated the News Feed to clamp down on what they call “engagement baiting.” This includes using contests to bait engagement and sharing. The changes don’t mean you shouldn’t be running Facebook contests. You just have to be more careful about how you share and promote them.

In fact, there are still at least a half-dozen reasons to consider running a Facebook contest to promote your business. A contest is just one part of an overall marketing strategy, but it’s one tactic that’s relatively easy to execute. And in the scheme of things, Facebook contests are very inexpensive to run.

A well-planned Facebook contest can:

  • Increase engagement with existing fans
  • Increase brand exposure to potential fans
  • Bring in new leads

Curious to see if running a Facebook contest can help you meet at least one of those goals? Then let’s move on, and take a look at the steps it’ll take to run a successful Facebook contest.

1. Set goals

On the face of it, running a Facebook contest sounds so easy: Let your customers know you’re giving away a prize and wait for them to fill out your entry form. But a successful contest requires more than just enticing people with a prize. A contest should be part of your bigger marketing strategy, and as such, requires just as much planning as your advertising and other efforts.

The role of a contest is really to attract leads. And in the context of a Facebook contest, a lead is an email address. Using contests to build lists of engaged people can benefit your business for years to come.

Some of the top Facebook contest goals we see from our users include:

  • Add Facebook fans
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Collect email addresses
  • Gather user-generated content
  • Crowdsource for new product or service ideas
  • Increase customer loyalty
  • Immediate sales
  • Announce new products and services or events
  • Learn more about customers’ preferences
  • Increase traffic to website or store

Yes, you could use a Facebook contest to collect more Likes for your page, but 1). you have to be really careful how you ask for Likes because you can no longer incorporate Liking a Page as a step in your giveaway, and 2.) Likes aren’t really worth much unless you have a way to get in touch with all those folks at some point down the road. And yes, you can use a comment/like importer tool to collect Facebook user IDs, but there are definitely more effective ways to create useful lists of prospective customers.

2. Determine your ideal customers

One common mistake we see businesses make with Facebook contests all the time is targeting anyone who can fog a mirror. Evidence? The iPad or iPhone giveaway. The problem is, if you’re trying to appeal to everyone, then you could very well end up appealing to no one.

We write often about the importance of using the “right” prize for your contest. So when it comes to settling on a prize, think about what would be relevant to your target market rather than something that is expensive and universally appealing. Targeting specific demographics will increase the likelihood of attracting the right people to your contest.

Targeting specific demographics will increase the likelihood of attracting the right people to your contest.

If you happen to have several target demographics, you could even run multiple contests to appeal to each group. You could run one contest with a prize and theme that’s more appealing to women and a separate one for men. You could run another contest that appeals to people in specific regions of the country, or is targeted to certain age groups. If you’re using ShortStack’s readymade templates, you can customize the look and the messaging of each contest — in minutes.

3. Choose a prize

As I mentioned earlier, your prize doesn’t need to be expensive…it only has to be relevant to your ideal customer and, if possible, unique to your business. Choosing a prize that’s interesting to your target customer is way more important than offering up something pricey.

So, if you own a bakery, give away a sample box of your signature cupcakes. If you’re a florist, a giveaway featuring your best-selling seasonal arrangement will attract the people who will think of your shop the next time they’re ordering flowers. Restaurants that host contests featuring “dinner for two” as a prize are using a contest as a smart marketing tactic, and so are hair or nail salons that give away beauty services. You might have fewer entries to a contest with a gift card for your products or services, but those entries will be people who are sincerely interested in your business rather than on the iPad you’re giving away.

4. Decide on the type of contest

There are three basic categories of contests you can run on Facebook: giveaways/sweepstakes, photo contests and “refer-a-friend” promotions. Giveaways are the easiest to start with, while photo contests are a great way to increase engagement and collect user-generated content. Refer-a-friend contests require a little more work to enter, but they’re also the best way to motivate your customers to help spread the word about your contest and your brand, and for you to collect leads. (See why it’s important to have determined your top goal before you start?!)

Built with ShortStack’s Giveaway template

View and Create Your Own

If you’re running a contest for the first time, or if you want to get your contest out in the wild quickly, a Facebook giveaway is the way to go. They’re popular because they’re so easy to enter. In fact, at ShortStack we see brands that run a giveaway or sweepstakes just about every month through the year.

Photo Contest

A photo contest, especially a photo-vote contest, is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your contest because people who enter are motivated to share their entry with their friends so they can collect more votes. For a photo vote contest, you can choose a winner at random, or choose a winner at random from the top 10 vote-getters (this can help reduce fraud).


Built with ShortStack’s Photo Upload Contest template

View and Create Your Own

A photo contest is also an ideal way to collect user-generated content. Consider requesting photo entries that show existing customers using your product, visiting your location, etc. (Just be sure it’s not a requirement that people purchase your product in order to enter — that would make your contest a lottery and lotteries are illegal.)

Photo contest using product

Built with ShortStack’s Photo Upload Giveaway template

View and Create Your Own

Refer-a-Friend Promotion

By adding a referral component to your contest, you can get double the number of entries (or more). It works like this: When people enter your contest, you give them an extra chance to win every time they share your contest form with a friend and the friend enters. It’s a win-win, since people who refer friends increase their chance of winning and you increase the number of people who enter.

Refer-a-Friend contest built with ShortStack

Built with ShortStack’s Refer-a-Friend Giveaway template

View and Create Your Own

Like to Win

Like-to-win contests are very easy for even the smallest business to run because all you have to do is post a photo, video or caption and ask people to “like” it and, voila, they’re entered. Even though we’re not huge fans of this kind of contest because it won’t help you collect email addresses, it is one way to generate engagement. To choose a winner at random, you’d use our comment/like importer tool with a random entry selector feature to choose a winner.

Import Likes and Comments from Facebook

ShortStack’s Like Importer

Comment to Win

Similar to a like-to-win contest, a comment-to-win contest asks people to comment on your photo, video or caption in order to have a chance to win. You could use this kind of contest to crowdsource ideas for your products by asking a question like, “What is your favorite way to use our product?” and then choosing a winner from among everyone who leaves a comment. To choose a winner, you’d use a comment/like importer tool with our random entry selector.

Similar to the like-to-win contest described above, you can inspire engagement with a comment-to-win contest, but you won’t be collecting email addresses this way.

DoTerra Facebook contest


Like and Comment to Win

If your goal is engagement and interaction, you can ask people to both like and comment to win. The amount of effort is still minimal but it is slightly more than asking people to like your post. To ensure you get the number of entries you hope for, make sure your prize reflects the extra effort you’re asking people to make.

Comment and Like to Win


Mad-Libs Style Contest

If you turn your contest into a game, you can expect your fans to want to play along with you! A Mad-libs style contest, where you ask a question or make a statement and ask your fans to fill in the blank as the way to win a chance at your prize, is fun and easy.

Fill in the blank contest


Q&A Contest

Want to gather information about what your followers are interested in? A Q&A contest is a simple way to collect feedback.

Westin Austin giveaway with survey

Built with ShortStack’s Earn Extra Points Giveaway template

View and Create Your Own

Crowdsource Contest

You could also show two of your products side by side and ask people to comment on which color or style they prefer. Taking note of their feedback might help you decide which one to produce more of.

Instagram Hashtag Showdown

Interested in this idea? ShortStack can customize this template for you.  

5. Decide how people will enter and write rules

As you can tell from reading about the different kinds of contests, your top goal or two will determine how people will enter your Facebook contest. If your goal is to build a list of leads you can market to throughout the year, you’ll want to make sure people have to fill out a form to enter so you can collect their email addresses. If your goal is to add more likes to your Facebook page, then a simple like-to-enter contest will do the trick. But no matter what, you must let people know how you will choose a winner, whether you will use any UGC you collect for future marketing, and other requirements you have set up.

The best way to let people know about your guidelines and requirements is to write a detailed list of rules and host them on a landing page.

Contest Rules Landing Page

Built with ShortStack’s Contest Rules Landing Page template

Create Your Own

6. Set a time frame

Whether you want your contest to run for four days or four weeks, make sure you include the time frame in your rules and guidelines. If you have a short entry period, you will want to make sure you have the resources to get the word out quickly (more on promoting your contest appears below). We recommend letting your contest run for between two and four weeks to get the most engagement. If your contest period is too short, you might not get the results you want but if it’s too long, people could lose interest and get tired of seeing your promotional posts day after day.

Multi-day giveaways — where you offer a new prize each day for several days in a row — are a terrific way to get people coming back to your page day after day. These “advent calendar” style giveaways are really popular during the holidays, but you could run one any time of year to countdown to a product reveal or an event.

Built with ShortStack’s Multi-Day Giveaway Calendar template

View and Create Your Own

7. Spend time choosing the right words and images

The average person sees hundreds of posts on Facebook every day, so if you want your contest to stand out in the news feed, you have to write an attention-grabbing announcement. Try using these copywriting tips to make your post stand out. Make sure you include a prominent call to action like “Enter here” or “Submit.”


You also want to use images that look professional and show off your brand in the best light.

If you’re including a form people need to fill out to enter, keep the form simple! If possible, ask only for a name and email address. Asking for more increases the odds that people will click away from your contest before they enter.

8. Promote your Facebook contest

While your contest is running, try to post about it at least once a day (but not more than twice a day) on Facebook and your other active channels. Include an announcement in your email and be sure to add the dates the contest will run so people are motivated to enter immediately.

If you have a budget for Facebook ads, spend some money getting the contest in front of your target audience.

9. Get in touch with everyone who entered

One of the best reasons to run a Facebook contest that requires people to fill out your form to enter is … you can get in touch with them right away! You can use an email autoresponder to confirm their entry to your contest (and maybe include a coupon for a discount to your products and services to motivate them to make a purchase right away) and you can even schedule emails to send them other special offers while the contest is running.

Email Discount Code

Built with ShortStack’s Discount Code Autoresponder email template

10. Take note of what’s working — and modify what isn’t

A benefit to running a contest for a couple of weeks is that you can take note of what’s working and what’s not along the way. You can see real-time traffic and modify where you focus your promotion efforts. You can experiment with ads on Facebook and Instagram and then put more money into ads on the platform that’s delivering more entries. You can do A/B testing with ads to see which verbiage is bringing more entries and adjust your efforts based on what you learn. Some of the numbers to keep an eye on:

  • Participants
  • Likes and Follows
  • Shares
  • Emails
  • Sales

ShortStack provides in-depth analytics in real-time while your contest is running

Track your contest’s performance within ShortStack

11. Notify the winner — and everyone else

Once you’ve chosen your winner, be sure to make a public announcement so people know there really was a winner. You should also notify the winner via email and, while you’re at it, email everyone who entered to let them know a winner was chosen. To soften the blow of not winning, consider sending everyone who entered another coupon or special offer, and let them know you’ll be emailing them an announcement about your upcoming contest as well.

Scheduled Winner All template

Track your contest’s performance within ShortStack

So there you have it! Everything you need to know about running a Facebook contest! People can’t resist a good contest, so think about how one will fit into your overall marketing strategy. And if you have any questions about the steps outlined here, or if you want to learn more about how ShortStack can help you plan and create your next contest, don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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Everything You Need to Know about Running a Facebook Contest, Competition or Giveaway
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