5 Secrets from a Successful Facebook Sweepstakes Contest

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From Costco food samples to vacation sweepstakes, there’s nothing Americans love more than freebies. Facebook is ground zero for capitalizing on our love for freebies to grow a social media fan base and increase brand awareness. One of the easiest contests to run is a simple Facebook sweepstakes contest where entrants only have submit their email addresses for a chance to win a prize. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a tropical resort vacation. This year, our team successfully completed a Facebook Yeti cooler giveaway for a client that increased the company’s Facebook fan base from 100 to 1,000 followers within a month.

Facebook Contest Success - Your 5 Step Plan

  1. Set clear objectives. 

    Like any marketing tactic, setting clear objectives for your Facebook contest is essential to measuring success and advancing your big-picture marketing goals. Facebook contests can be great for building brand awareness, increasing page likes, driving traffic to your website and boosting engagement– it all depends on whattype of contest you run and who you target.

    The basic “sweepstakes contest” has a very low barrier to entry: participants only need to submit their name  email to participate in the contest. Other popular contests include photo captions (contestants leave a comment with a ‘caption’ for a product or brand image) and ‘favorite product’ contests (contestants visit a company website and then leave a comment on the Facebook page with their favorite product or service offering they’d most like to win). Other popular options include trivia contests specific to your brand and “fill in the blank” contests.

    Remember, the more requirements you add, the greater the barrier to entry, which means either fewer participants or more upfront work to build momentum and drive engagement. If your goal is simply to build a fan base, opt for a “sweepstakes” contest with a low barrier to entry (Facebook rules state that you cannot make it mandatory to require a 'like' of your page to enter contest - but most will like your page, just remember to include a small multiple choice question in the entry 'Did you like our page?' - Yes or No) .

    If your goal is to increase brand awareness or strengthen engagement, add another requirement like a product comment. You can also require contest participants to tag someone in their comment with whom they’d like to share their prize, thereby expanding your brand’s reach (this is a very successful tactic on Instagram).

  2. Early engagement builds momentum. 

    If you’ve ever spent time analyzing organic post reach, you know that Facebook’s algorithm is biased to popular content. The more popular an organic post is, the greater visibility that post receives on a newsfeed, driving even greater engagement. Facebook contests are similar. Contests that gain traction quickly benefit from an algorithm visibility bump. Conversely, contests with little engagement can end up buried. This creates a bit of a Catch-22 for companies. Companies need strong, early engagement to build momentum but Facebook’s algorithm will do little to help your contest get that initial engagement. To boost engagement, keep your audience pool as wide as possible and invest in paid promotion. You don’t have to run ads the entire length of the contest, but even running ads for the first few days can help build that early traction you need to drive engagement. 

  3. Target run time: 30 days. 

    Sure, a major international brand might get away with running a contest over just a few days, but for small businesses and locally-based brands, we’ve found that 30 days is the sweet spot. A month-long contest provides sufficient time for your contest to gain early momentum and maximize reach– without dragging the contest out too long. Most importantly, if you find initial engagement is much lower than expected, 30 days gives you time to evaluate the analytics and retarget for greater impact. After all, you don’t want to waste a great prize giveaway on a contest with only a handful of participants.


  4. Run an “open” contest. 

    When you run an ad on Facebook targeting potential customers, the general rule of thumb is to keep your audience as selective as possible. We have found that the opposite applies to a Facebook contest. The wider your audience, the easier it will be to build that initial traction for promotion. We find that keeping the contest open to all adults (aged 21 and up) living in a set geographic area produces the greatest engagement.


  5. Use the right platform.

     If you want to collect email addresses or other contact information, third-party software will help you organize all of the data you collect. The Woobox platform, for example, includes a customizable entry form that allows you to collect the exact data you need from customers or use #hastag content from Facebook. The platform also makes it easier to manage contest features, like awarding bonus entry incentives to entrants who tag friends in the comments or get other entrants to participate. Facebook for contests app is another easy and affordable way to get your contest up and running quickly. Paid features include a customized tab for your Facebook business page, forms and analytics. 

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Aleks Vizulis

As operations manager at 21 Handshake, I bring an analytical perspective to the discussion table. My vision is to take projects from 'just strong' to superb. Often you will find me capturing behind the scenes photos in the 21 Handshake office or at a clients location. I play a fierce round of 18 during warm weather and catch me on the slopes during the other months of the year!

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