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!

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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