Now that Facebook has changed its Promotions Guidelines, allowing people to use Facebook features such as likes and comments to enter contests on the social network, the landscape has changed for small business owners and entrepreneurs. No longer do you need to use a third party application to engage your online community with a contest.
But just because it’s easier now to run a contest online, doesn’t mean there aren’t guidelines you should follow. Let’s explore some of the options you have for running a contest online, whether on Facebook or elsewhere, and look at some best practices.
- Choose a Goal for Your Contest: One of the biggest mistakes businesses make when hosting a contest is not having a goal. Before you set up any contest, make sure you know what business goal you want to accomplish as a result of the contest, that will justify the time and expense you will put in. For example, you may be hoping to collect email addresses for your mailing list, which will ultimately lead to more sales. You may wish to increase your Page’s likes and reach, which will lead to greater brand recognition. Whatever your goal, make sure you have one, because it will help you structure your contest to achieve that goal.
- Decide What Tool You’ll Use for Your Contest: Sure, Facebook is an easy choice for your contest, but it’s not the only choice. Depending on your goals and your budget, you might choose to host your contest on your blog, on a separate tab on your Facebook Page, or on a social network such as Pinterest or Instagram. If your goal is simply to gain likes and shares on Facebook, you may just want to do a contest post on your Facebook Page that encourages those user behaviors. If you want to collect user information, you may want to set up a contact form on your blog (using a contact form plugin on your blog or a Google Docs form) or on a separate Facebook Landing Page (using a 3rd party application like Pagemodo) that will serve as your entry mechanism. If your goal is to engage users on social networks beyond just Facebook, you might use a Rafflecopter widget on your blog or website that provides additional entries for pinning, tweeting, Instagramming, commenting, etc.
- Choose a Motivating Prize: When you have a goal for your contest, you also have a good idea of who you want to reach. Make sure you understand what motivates that type of person, so you can choose a prize for your contest that will attract them. For example, if you want to attract people who would be interested in organizing products, you won’t give away a book about sports. Rather, you’d give away a book about how to organize, or a product that helps someone organize their home.
- Choose a Time Frame: Avoid a contest that lasts too long, or you’ll lose momentum and interest. Many contests are most effective when they last a week or less.
- Write Up Your Rules and Keep Them Simple: It’s a good idea to write down the rules for your contest ahead of time so that there are no misunderstandings that could alienate the very people you’re trying to reach with your contest. Include such things as how to enter, what people will win, the dates for the contest, and when and how you’ll announce the winner. They don’t need to be complicated, but make sure they’re easy to understand. Post these rules on your website or blog (or a separate Facebook landing page) and provide a link to them wherever people enter your contest.
A contest can be a great way to attract new people to your business. But you need a strategy behind your contest to attract the kind of people that you’re looking for. So take a little bit of time to plan your contest based on your goals, and you’ll enjoy greater success.
What’s your favorite way to run a contest online? What tips do you have for making a contest effective? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!