Gini Dietrich

Facebook Contests: Seven Tips for Flawless Execution

By: Gini Dietrich | November 23, 2010 | 
We just finished hosting our Facebook photo contest, where John Heaney was the winner for “Legally Gini.”

It was great fun because, well, it made fun of me (though a friend called and said, “Is someone going to get fired over this?”). Look, I have four brothers. I learned A LONG time ago to laugh at myself or I’d have been miserable with their constant teasing (my sister isn’t that mean).

But an interesting thing happened halfway through the contest. The wheels began to fall off.

One would think it wouldn’t be a big deal. Post a photo of your CEO, engage your fans to have them use that photo in other photos (a la sad Keanu Reeves), post to the Arment Dietrich Facebook wall, let your fans vote, and the winner gets a Flip camera. Not hard, right?  Well, no.

Turns out, Facebook doesn’t allow you to post photos to a business’s fan page. Who knew? (well, Danny Brown knew). And if you don’t repeat yourselves over and over and over again in your Facebook status updates, people don’t know how the voting works or when the winner is to be announced. And, when voting commences, if the finalists post their photos to their networks and tag your page, it looks like you’re constantly updating your wall to your other friends (which is very annoying). And you can’t announce winners of contests on Facebook (which, thankfully, we figured out before we announced).

So, during our staff meeting yesterday morning, we discussed our Facebook contest key learnings in hopes that you don’t make the same mistakes and execute a flawless program.

  • Have a purpose; ours was to celebrate reaching 1,000 fans by giving back, and we chose a Flip camera as the prize because we believe video humanizes you. Living what we preach.
  • Write one blog post of all rules, guidelines, and dates to launch the contest…and link back to it from your fan page daily.
  • Over-communicate dates, rules, and guidelines. Just when you think you’ve said it too much, say it again. And, for good measure, one more time. Did I mention over-communicate?
  • Don’t require your finalists to crowdsource their votes, unless you use an outside widget, such as Vizu (so they don’t have to like your page to vote). Our goal was simply to have our current fans vote; not to encourage new “likes” to our page.
  • Figure out a way to let your friends and fans know there is a contest happening and they likely will see a lot of updates from you. We did this on a Friday afternoon because we figured people wouldn’t mind so much. We were wrong.
  • Notify the winner via email or a phone call, get their permission to talk about it, and then say (not announce) who won on Facebook.
  • Know the Facebook guidelines. You can’t post photos directly to the page so use a third-party widget, such as Flickr. Make sure Facebook hasn’t changed the policies by reading the most up-to-date version. And don’t chance it. They can, and will, disable your page.

All-in-all, it was a great contest and lots of fun (my face on a body builder’s body is really pretty funny!) and we had a TON of community engagement. But we also learned that if the contest isn’t executed flawlessly, it won’t matter what kind of prize you give away or how much fun people are having, you’ll end up losing some of your fans.

P.S. Congratulations also to Brice Faubel and Carlos Cruz for being finalists!

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • CLGraphics

    Yeah… Thanks for posting that… Thought we had EVERYTHING covered on our Nov. FB contest … which is designed to drive up Likes and increase our network there. After reading your post I re-read the FB guidelines and yeah… no ‘announcing’ on FB … which we were going to do actually… so glad we won’t do that! BTW – we put our rules on a pdf via a link on our website landing page that was linked to our FB wall that worked out pretty well. …

  • HowieSPM

    Grats to John Heaney

    I run contests for a client on both Twitter and Facebook at the same time. I have much more success on Twitter. It is much more contest friendly because it seems way more people see the effort on Twitter. I am not sure why because I feel the Twitter Feed has much more volume. But I also think people live on Twitter and just check in on Facebook.

    You actually had the most participation as a percentage of Fans of any Facebook contest I have ever studied. They tend to be big failures if you measure engagement (percentage of Fans participating), mostly I feel because 1] Agencies purposely set the bar really low and know Mashable will help make it sound like a success and 2] people just don’t see the posts.

    Its also a function of ethics. Most people watch the Twitter feed and their mentions. They rarely go to the actual twitter page. So if I post 5 times a contest link on Twitter in a day no big deal. You see that on a Facebook Fan page which the link in your feed brings you and you see 5 posts all the same it looks like spam even if they are spread out through the day.

    Lastly that Danny Brown is one dangerous man. Be glad he is on your side. He single handedly brought down the Soviet Union over a vodka dispute.

  • CLGraphics

    @HowieSPM We integrate our FB activities with twitter posts. You’re right, tossing a few things out on Twitter is much easier for folks to digest than updating your status and wall posts over and over and over and over and over and over … any way – Yeah, you’re right! 🙂

  • SeanMcGinnis

    Great post Gini. Quick question – if you had it to do over again, would you use Facebook as aplatform for this type of contest (given the limitations)? What other viable options exist in terms of a platform? just curious if this topic came up in your after action review.

  • ThePaulSutton

    Really good post. We regularly run contents on facebook for different clients and I’d have to say that all of them have broken a rule at one stage or another. Most of the regulation seem totally pointless to me, but that doesn’t change the fact that they exist, so this is a great crib sheet.

  • You still haven’t paid for me that tidbit of info either, Dietrich – I’m sending Troy Claus in. 😉

  • PabloEdwards

    Contests seem like the way to go. It is a little investment for hopefully a big payoff.

  • I hear a Visa commercial parody here but try as I might I couldn’t bring it together. The photos are truly priceless though!

  • ScottHepburn

    @SeanMcGinnis Hey Sean. I ran a contest with the Carolina Panthers and about a dozen other brands. We wanted photo-sharing to be a key part of the event/contest. Ultimately, while Facebook has the most restrictive rules, it was hard to ignore the reach it offers (65 contestants x avg. of 550 friends = huge). TwitPic/Twitter and Flickr weren’t even worth considering.

    These rules do bind your hands…unless you want to pony up thousands of dollars to build a custom app, and even that solution has drawbacks.

    Still, hard to beat FB as a vehicle for promotions like these.

  • ScottHepburn

    @HowieSPM I agree that Mashable has distorted our perception of what qualifies as a successful Facebook promotion. The new measure of success isn’t whether we achieved a marketing goal, but whether we were featured on Mashable. Heck, even I’m guilty of craving that Mashable mention.

    You’re right that engagement levels on Facebook contests are really low as a percentage. I’m not sure that’s the only metric worth tracking, though. After all, isn’t the residual benefit of appearing in newsfeeds one of the reasons we like Facebook contests? If 10 people engage in a contest, but they have 500 friends each, that’s 5000 potential peer/friend impressions.

    I’m not saying these are the RIGHT things to measure or the ONLY things to measure — just that the benefits of a FB campaign may be greater than the low participation rates suggest.

  • HowieSPM

    @ScottHepburn Scott well written. Here is my view. I wish I knew how many people saw a post. My rule of thumb is for each post if 10% of your fans, friends etc see it, that is stupdendous. Everytime I log in I have over 300 updates waiting and if you are not in the first page it is never seen.

    So when I see a brand with 1million fans trying to give away something worthwhile and they get only 500 Likes + Comments something is wrong. I think its that the live feed is so full of clutter nothing gets through. We also have no idea how many click throughs happen. And Facebook has been trying to stuff more and more into the feed vs creating a clean interface that allows us to separate say photos from friends, etc.

    The reason Facebook doesn’t want to give data is it will dimish their perceived value. Network usage is down 22% per user since April. They used to say 55mins per user. Now it says 700billion minutes. Of course when you do the math that comes out to 43mins.

    So expectations need to be realistic. I am not against Facebook promotions I just want honest information. Mashable is not the only ones who spin. There are plenty fo media outlets that do for various reasons.

    But never underestimate off line power WOM. It still trumps social for influence in every study I read. And all you need is to convert one fanatic via Social and you might gain 10 customers you never see online =)

  • ScottHepburn

    @HowieSPM Good points. Although, I may pick a fight with you over the social vs. WOM demarcation. Word of mouth IS social, by nature…and social media plays a role in the transmission of WOM. Good companies use social to connect with and energize their WOM champions.

    I agree, more measurables on FB would be good. A page owner can view “impressions” (although, FB doesn’t clearly explain what counts as an impression…and it’s probably a distorted stat anyway). More impressions can increase engagement, and with FB’s algorithm, more engagementn can increase impressions.

    The moral: Good timing + engaging content = more visibility in the News Feed.

    But, yeah, determing what content is engaging could be easier. “Likes” and comments are a poor barometer — too many other variables.

  • ginidietrich

    @hackmanj Have you seen all the photos? The one mollimegasko did (disqualified because she works here) made me pee my pants!

  • ginidietrich

    @Dannybrown Troy Claus Uh. I’m more scared of you than Troy. He and I are bosom buddies.

  • ginidietrich

    @ThePaulSutton We were pretty scared Facebook was going to shut down our page. They didn’t (not yet, anyway). I mean we’re one in 550 million.

  • ginidietrich

    @SeanMcGinnis Nah – we’d totally still do it on Facebook. We’d use a third party app or not “require” people post photos directly to our wall. But it was a great contest and we had a TON of involvement. Way more than I expected. I’m with @ScottHepburn . Hard to beat FB as a vehicle for something like this.

  • ginidietrich

    @HowieSPM @CLGraphics We actually tried integrating Twitter with Facebook, but people felt like we were doing it as a way to get them to “like” our page. The goal of our contest was different: It was to celebrate the fact that we had hit 1,000 fans with our fans. Not encourage new ones. So we stopped using Twitter to promote it. But if you were doing it to boost your numbers, totally see using Twitter.

  • ginidietrich

    @ScottHepburn @HowieSPM Think we could get Mashable to pay attention to this because of the level of engagement?! Anyone know a good PR pro?

  • KaseyCrabtree

    Congrats to John Heaney! Now I have a flip cam I can borrow! 🙂

  • @GiniDietrich mollimegasko Is that the “muscle girl” Dietrich, the very first submission? They are all pretty funny, very creative group 🙂

  • ScottHepburn

    @GiniDietrich @ThePaulSutton I’ve always subscribed to the “Facebook has bigger fish to fry than me” mentality, but I’ll admit, the fear of having a client page shut down by Facebook is pretty compelling. The genesis of social media is rebellion against big companies trying to fit us into boxes. Funny how things come full circle.

  • ginidietrich

    @hackmanj It is indeed! Hilarious!

  • 3HatsComm

    Bookmarking this for a future, “Facebook: How To” aggregate post. These pictures are hilarious, nice to see you having some fun with it.

  • ilovecm

    Great post!!! I’d add in one more point:

    Prepare for the (somewhat) inevitable negative feedback from a small minority of the ones who don’t win. So long as the contest has been held fair and square there’s no problem, just be ready to communicate this.

  • ginidietrich

    @ilovecm Great, great point! Thank you!

  • ginidietrich

    @3HatsComm Thanks Davina! Hope you had a happy holiday!

  • ginidietrich

    @KaseyCrabtree I think the camera is a stocking stuffer so you’d better get to johnheaney before Christmas!

  • @ginidietrich @KaseyCrabtree johnheaney Kasey is free to borrow the Flip as long as she remembers to delete the … ahem… “personal” videos before returning

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