How to win at running Facebook competitions that stand out

It’s long been regarded as the one sure-fire shortcut you can bank on in social media – but today competitions are more competitive than ever.

You can still count on running a competition for an engagement boost on Facebook, Instagram or whatever the platform – but like any other organic post it’s harder and harder to earn attention.

That’s partly because of the saturation of accounts offering prizes in return for likes, making audiences a little more discerning than they were just a few years ago.

To differentiate yourself from the competition you’ll need to think creatively.

The importance of strategy

There’s a difference between giving away a few products and having a solid competition strategy.

A good strategy develops your brand on Facebook and grows your page healthily – giving your optimum opportunities to engage with a target audience.

A poor strategy can devalue your brand (you look desperate) or appear as if you’re just trying to buy likes (you look cheap). Neither has much value in the long-term.

Your strategy splits into two:

  1. What you’re giving away
  2. How often

What to give away

Don’t be surprised if competitions generate more interest than offers, at a lower cost to your business.

I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised at the entry rate in a competition for something ‘realistic’ (like say, theatre tickets or a lawn mower) compared to something out of reach (like a minibus).

You don’t have to necessarily have to give up the earth a lot to drum up interest in your brand. If the prize is of a lower value, people tend to think they’ve got a chance.

Relevancy to your target audience is far more important. Like targeting Nike’s new football at teenagers:

If you’re a car dealership, you don’t need to give away a car. You might giveaway free servicing for a year though. Presumably this comes at high cost to your customer, but a lower relative cost to you.

The power of experiences

Just like the rest of your posting strategy, if your competition is going to work it needs to engage the people you’re trying to reach.

Is your target audience going to be excited by you giving away a product that you’ve got too much stock of?

Instead focus on the experience. The world is becoming increasingly obsessed with experience over product.

If you’re a restaurant then don’t give away a meal on a Tuesday night because it’s an evening you’re struggling to fill. That defeats the object of what you’re trying to achieve, and crap Tuesdays nights are a separate issue.

Instead, give away a Valentine’s night meal – the ultimate date night, with Prosecco on arrival and exclusive entertainment.

The prize has to be worth winning to get people to want to visit your restaurant. And to be worth winning it needs to differentiate itself from your competition.

What not to give away

Don’t run a competition to win a promotion. Ie – don’t run a competition to win 20% off.

People will be able to tell if you don’t really want to give anything away. You have to give value to get value.

Effectively this means treading the fine line between looking cheap and looking desperate.

You’ll be able to tell when you’ve found that fine line. It’ll be when you’ve found a prize relative to the scale and value of your product range.

It’ll be when you feel excited for the reaction of your customers when they find out about the giveaway.

Most of all, it’ll be when you feel comfortable with what you’re giving away.

How often

I advocate having regular competitions in your Facebook strategy (or any other social platforms for that matter).

I think it gives you regular opportunity to engage with your audience in a way no other post does.

Don’t do it ALL the time though. You’ll just devalue your brand.

Do it for special occasions – anniversaries, Christmas, Valentine’s – find the milestones that fit with your brand. Make sure there’s a reason for doing it – like going back to school.

This way it’ll look like it’s something your brand is doing to celebrate – rather than attempting to drum up business.

I think you can get away with doing competitions more than regular promotions – like 20% off for everyone. Save those for the really special occasions. Once you get into the habit of them, you drive the value of your offering down and it’s difficult to build it back up again.

Know your platform

This blog is all about Facebook but the ideas work on other platforms. The crucial part is knowing where your audience are, and how your competition will work on that platform.

How to actually run the competition

Whatever it is you’re giving away, make sure you take loving pictures and video of it. Make it look as good as it can.

A video message from you will go a long way – cut it together with some images of what you’re giving away.

Film this on your phone if need be and use some web-based software like Animoto or Wave, that lets you simply combine clips, images and text.

Combine that with some well thought out copy for your post. A competition post is like any other post, it should be attention grabbing and engaging.

On a basic level you need to describe what you’re giving away. Make sure you devote plenty of space to this, make it sound amazing and that you can barely bring yourself to part with it.

Make liberal use of emojis but don’t overcook it. If you can, quote from review and recommendations of the product from your Facebook page to give it some added punch.

Set the rules

Next up, you need a way for people to enter. The simplest way to do this is pose a question and then pick a winner at random from the answers in the comments.

Make it an easy question. Make it really easy to enter so you get lots of entries. More entries equals more comments equals more reach.

Alternatively, think about what else can get people to comment. Ask who they would share the prize with (you’ll get the benefit of a tag with this).

Here’s a few other tried and trusted tricks:

  • Caption competition – the best one wins
  • Name our new product/toy/baby/idea
  • Fill in the blank – eg our restaurant is the best in the world because ________
  • Post your best picture or video of something in the comments
  • Vote for your favourite product
  • Take a selfie with us and post in the comments

The current received wisdom on running competitions in this way is that it is ok to:

  • Ask people to like
  • Ask people to comment

But it’s not ok to:

  • Ask people to share
  • Ask people to like another page
  • Ask people to tag their friends

Lots of people still ask people to share and tag and get away with it. Feel free to risk it but beware that Facebook looks down on this.

As part of its great 2018 algorithm overhaul Facebook has tried its best to get rid of ‘engagement-baiting’. That means it doesn’t like Pages which beg for shares and tags.

You don’t want to end up in the Facebook doghouse with a tiny reach or even worse, no page at all.

My advice is don’t do it. Instead, you’ll find people sharing it anyway.

There’s nothing wrong with thanking people for sharing it. You’ll find that subliminally encourages more people to share.

If you’re worried about how to put together a competition, or want a tool to select a random winner then you can worse than look at Agora Pulse’s contest app.

Small print

Make sure you tell people when the competition closes and when the winner will be announced.

Stick to these rules you set for yourself otherwise you’ll be greeted with a wave of complaints and bad feeling around your brand.

Then it’s good practice to just include some small print to cover yourself. I usually include the following:

  • Facebook is not responsible for this promotion – this Page is responsible for its lawful operation.
  • The promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Boost the post

Hopefully you should guarantee your competition is going to generate some powerful organic reach.

So if you put some budget behind it, even if it’s just a token amount, you can count on the post engaging audiences you’ve not reached before.

And if you’ve set the rules so people have to like your page in order to qualify, you end up with lots of likes from people you’ve not interacted with before.

Announce the winner

Put the effort into announcing the winner – it’ll go a long way and it gives you another really engaging post that should do well.

Try going Live for this. Make sure you thank everyone for entering before you announce the winner on camera.

Make the Live fun. If it’s a Christmas competition stick your festive jumper on. Wear an Easter bonnet at Easter.

As well as a fresh post make sure you comment at the top of the previous competition post so everyone knows it’s over.

If you’re feeling confident, you could do the whole competition as a Live – just be extra sure of all the rules before you start the video.

Make the most of your winner

When you’re winner gets their prize be sure to get them to do a little message to camera thanking your business for their wonderful prize and post that as well.

Do a picture post as well if you can. Anything to extend the wonderful oodles of good feeling surrounding your competition.

Remind people of how wonderful you are, and make sure your winner shows off how much they love their prize. They’ll be marketing your product for you free of charge.

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