When marketers first think about how to run a Facebook contest, many will assume giving away an IPad and making a status update when it launches is enough to generate interest. These people make me cringe. Usually they think this because they saw a success story on Mashable about a company that gave away an IPad and got 1000’s of entrants.

Please do not expect this to be the case – these success stories are rare – and even if they do result in 1000’s of entrants, they will be of little use to the company – I’ll explain why shortly.

In this article I’ll talk about the five biggest and most frequent mistakes I see marketers make when running a Facebook contest and how to avoid them. Let’s get started!

1. Giving Away an IPad

If you learn one thing from this article, please be to not give away an IPad as your contest prize.

Making an IPad the prize will generate a lot of entries in your contest, but they will only be from people who are interested in IPads, not in your business or the things you sell.

Now, you may say, “but my business’ target market is interested in IPads – won’t i still get targeted entrants?” Yes, you will get entries from people in your target market, there is no way of knowing if they are interested in the products you are selling right now, or will be soon.

The biggest return on investment from a Facebook contest (IMHO) is the acquisition of targeted leads that you can turn into customers. The only way to make sure that every person who enters your contest is someone who is interested in your products is to either give away a product you sell or a gift card to your business as your contest prize.

I always recommend using a gift card of $50 – $100 as the prize for our customers’ Facebook contests. This type of prize does two things:

1. It makes sure every entrant is interested in your products – as they will obviously only be able to use the prize to purchase items from your store.

2. It will create the largest possible target audience for contest entrants. If you giveaway away a certain prize, you will only get entries from people who are interested in that prize. This will serve to deter entrants, especially if the item you’re giving away is gender-based or can only be used for niche activities.

In a recent contest that I ran on Wishpond’s Facebook Page I gave away a one-year subscription to Wishpond’s Social Suite as the contest prize. This prize will attract any marketer interested in using any of Wishpond’s applications, and will make sure they are interested in using our software NOW. I could have given away something such as Facebook Ads credit, which would have attracted marketers who are interested in using Facebook to grow their business, but this would serve to attract a lot who aren’t interested in using software like ours.

The image below shows how we used the cover photo as a call-to-action to drive clicks on the Tab that housed the contest. Check out my recent article – 5 Ways to Turn your Facebook Cover Photo into a Call-to-Action that Converts – for more information on how you can do this to.


2. Not Promoting Your Contest After the Initial Launch

OK, second-most-often-made mistake I see: Marketers who make one status update about their contest and then let it die, thinking that it will grow on its own. It won’t. Here are a of couple reasons why:

First, based on Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm, only about 16% of your Fans see each post you make, so if you make one post, 84% of your fans will never know about your contest.

Second, it may take seeing a post more than once to get people to take action. If you follow-up regularly with time-sensitive posts, for example “There’s just 3 days left to enter!” then people will be more likely to get sucked in. Check out an example from a recent contest we ran on Wishpond’s Facebook Page:


So what is the optimal number of posts to make?

I recommend making one post on Facebook and one Tweet per day during the run of a contest. This makes it likely that all of your fans and followers will hear about the contest at least once, without annoying anyone. On your Facebook Page, “Pin” the initial launch post to the top of your Timeline, like we did on the Wishpond Facebook Page during a recent Facebook contest:


I also highly recommend using a Promoted Post or Promoted Tweet to boost your contest. These only require a small investment and help you reach thousands of targeted users. Check out our recent ebooks – The Complete Guide to Facebook Contests and A Simple Guide to the New Twitter Ads – for detailed walkthroughs on how to create Promoted Posts and Tweets for you contest.

Don’t have the time or patience to post everyday?

If you want to set up all of your promotional posts at the start of your campaign, you can use a service like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to schedule all of your Tweets and Facebook posts to go out over the lifetime of your contest – and even monitor how much engagement each post gets.

3. Not using a mobile-optimized contest application

On average, over 35% of participants in Wishpond-powered Facebook contests participate using a mobile device. So make sure to use a 3rd-party application like Wishpond’s Facebook Contest Apps that work on mobile. Check out the image below to see how a Wishpond-powered Facebook Sweepstakes looks on a desktop computer and a mobile device:


But wait, there’s one more thing..

You need to include a mobile-accessible link as the call-to-action in each post you make. If you make posts that have links to the Facebook Page Tab where the contest is housed, mobile users will be taken to a “404 Page Not Found” screen – because Facebook does not allow you to access Page Tabs on mobile. So unless you include the proper link, your mobile-optimized contest will not be accessible by mobile users!

Here’s how we remedy this situation at Wishpond:

On the “Promote” page of the Campaign Creation Wizard of the Wishpond Admin, we provide you with a mobile-accessible shortlink to use in each of your posts. When a person clicks on this link, Wishpond checks to see if the person is on a desktop computer or mobile device, and then directs them to the contest entry page. Check out a sample Facebook post below with one of the mobile-accessible links provided by Wishpond:


4. Not Promoting the contest on your website

I know a lot of marketers are very picky about what they put on their website, especially if it does anything to drop the conversion rates of their home or product pages. For this reason, many are reluctant to give up any real estate on their website that drive people to a contest on their Facebook Page.

I find this a bit nuts..

Most visits you get to your website will not result in sales, so it would be great if you gave those people who won’t be buying something an incentive to give you their contact information to be able to sell them later. If they leave without giving you anyway of contacting them, then you’ve lost them forever.

And driving website traffic to your contest is a great way to plant a seed and get people sharing with their friends. You probably get about 1000% more traffic (as least) to your website than your Facebook Page, so capitalize on this traffic! And many of your web visitors won’t be fans of your Facebook Page, so a contest is a great incentive to get them to Like you.

There are two ways to add a call-to-action on your website to drive clicks to your Facebook contest:

1. Use one of the slides on the homepage banner as a call-to-action.

Check out an example below of a website using the main banner on their website’s homepage to promote their Facebook Contest. The banner linked directly to the contest on Facebook:


2. Add a call-to-action in the top navigation of your website. did this by adding a simple ribbon on the top navigation of their website, which linked directly to their contest. Check it out below:


Pro Tip: Set the link to the Facebook contest to open in a new browser tab. This will make it easy for people to go back to surfing your website after they enter your contest. You can easily do this by adding “target=_blank” to to the link tag in the HTML of your website.

5. Not Following Facebook Promotion Guidelines

When running a Facebook Contest, there are a few guidelines defined by Facebook that dictate how to run a Facebook contest. In brief layman’s terms, here are the top four rule to follow:

1. Include a written disclaimer on the contest entry page that the promotion is in no way sponsored, promoted or administered by Facebook. Here is an example from a Wishpond-powered Facebook contest of this written disclaimer:


2. You must not use Facebook features, such as the Like button, as a contest entry or voting method

3. Contests cannot be run on the Timeline Wall of a Facebook Page, they must be housed in a Facebook App Canvas Page or within a Facebook Page Tab

4. You must not notify contest winners solely on Facebook – you must contact them via email, phone, etc.

Check out my full explanation of Facebook Guidelines for Contests and Promotions for more details.

Here’s a great example from Post Planner of a Facebook contest by that is in clear violation of Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines:


What is wrong with this contest? Lots of things!

1. People have to Like the page to enter the contest. This is a big no-no. While Facebook does allow you to fan-gate the information of a contest inside an app — which forces people to Like the page to continue — you cannot require any Facebook actions (Likes, Shares, etc.) as part of entry to the contest.

2. People have to Share the image to enter the contest. This again is in direct violation of the Facebook guidelines above. You cannot require that people do any sort of Facebook function to enter a contest. Funny thing is I see this page posting these image contests every day — and you can see they already had 165 shares when I snagged this image.

3. The Page doesn’t say how they’ll actually pick the contest winner — which means the page admin could just pick his buddy or a fake person to win every time.

4. The Page will have to notify the winner via a Facebook post, which is also against the guidelines.

5. The contest is purely an image. FB guidelines require all contests to be run on 3rd party apps.Using a 3rd-party Facebook contest app like Wishpond makes takes the hassle out of running a contest on Facebook. We even provide one-on-one strategy sessions free of charge to help you create an awesome contest that brings you new Likes, emails and engagement. Contact us at [email protected] to set one up today.