Don't Let It Happen to You: Mistakes That Guarantee Facebook Contest Failure / Social Media / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

If you've ever run a Facebook contest, you know they're harder than they seem. Here are four things to avoid for a successful campaign.

Remember when Facebook used to require the use of an app to run a contest?

If you’re shaking your head yes, then you’ve been using Facebook for Business for more than a year now.

If you have a puzzled looking on your face, let me tell you, that ‘struggle was real.’

While Facebook may have changed the way it allows users to administer contests or promotions, it did not create a free for all.

Whether your motivation for running a contest is to build brand awareness, drive engagement, generate leads or something else, following Facebook’s guidelines is in your best interest.

Related Article: Facebook Marketing Tricks Your Competitors Wish They Knew [INFOGRAPHIC]

You don’t want to end up with a contest that’s counterproductive after you’ve already invested so much time into planning and executing it, or worse, having Facebook shut down your page for not playing by the rules.

Mistake No. 1: Creating a Contest Unrelated to Your Product or Service

I can go on for days about how using Facebook for Business is beneficial for brand awareness and more, but you really want it to generate leads and sales. To make them happen, your contest should tie into a product or service you sell.

Mistake No. 2: Targeting Everyone

Having had worked with numerous businesses over the years as a freelance marketer and working in-house on payroll, I’ve often met business owners who think their target audience is everyone.

In actuality, you have one or more ideal personas you’d like to work with, whether they are located locally or nationally. Those ideal personas make up your target audience.

On the opposite end, you also have the people who you don’t want to work with. They are what HubSpot defines as Negative Personas. I sometimes call them Energy Vampires.

Energy Vampires Defined HubSpot

Identifying your targets is Marketing 101 and critical in running a Facebook contest that is more likely to generate leads from the right people. Don’t overcomplicate your contest – running one the correct way already requires several hours of work – target one persona per contest.

Related Article: 7 Cool Facebook Tricks You've Never Heard Of

Mistake No. 3: Failing to Define Clear Guidelines

When you are structuring your contest, keep WEPT in mind.

Winner Selection Criteria

There are typically two ways to choose a winner. The first and easiest one is in a random drawing using a site like The second it to define specific criteria that a judge or team of judges will use to determine a winner.

Entry Qualification

What does a target need to do in order to enter? Is it just one simple thing or perhaps a series of steps? For example, an entry might count as:

  • A Facebook comment
  • A Facebook like
  • A Facebook comment that answers a question.

Note: Per Facebook’s terms, the following entry qualifications are prohibited. Asking people to:

  • Share something on their timeline
  • Share something on their friend’s timeline
  • Tag their friends to enter


One of the reasons Facebook contests work so well is because people love free stuff. “Zero is an emotional hot button – a source of irrational excitement,” writes Duke Professor Dan Ariely in his book "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Lives."

The fact that your targets will be getting something for free can already be exciting. However, if you are a less established brand that does not have a series of fans, a prize valued at $10 might not be enough to get your targets to enter your contest. When selecting a prize, consider:

  • What can my company realistically afford?
  • Which products or services do we have a high margin on?
  • What am I willing to give away that my target audience cares about?
  • Will the prize directly or indirectly tie into what I’m selling? Example: prize = free 30-minute bathroom cleaning, product = two-hour house cleaning service session


Define when the contest will begin, when it will end, when a winner will be selected and when he or she will be contacted – and stick to the dates. (See Mistake No. 4.)

House these guidelines on a landing page or blog post and include a PDF link to a series of official rules, sometimes called contest terms and conditions (T&Cs). The T&Cs need to include any legal jargon that releases Facebook by each entry or participant, and acknowledges that Facebook no way sponsored, endorsed, administered or is associated with the contest. It’s also a good idea to include:

  • Eligibility requirements (while these should be on your blog post or landing page, reiterate them here and include more details as applicable).
  • Who can enter (Ex. Must be 18 years of age or older, must live in the United States.)
  • How the winner can claim his or her prize.

Mistake No. 4: Not Delivering Promises

While it may not happen today or tomorrow, breaking any contest promises will someday result in someone calling you out on it, potentially turning your brand into laughing stock, even if for a brief moment.

Deliver on your promises. If you have to change the contest terms for any reasons (and prior to launch added a clause in your terms and conditions noting so) announce the change on Facebook. Don’t expect people will look for it.

Related Article: It's Not All About The Likes: Why More Facebook Likes Can Actually Hurt You

Bottom Line

Facebook contests can be highly effective in customer acquisition. They require careful planning and nearly flawless execution. If you are ready to dive into a contest, I encourage you to first evaluate what your goals are for doing so, what you can offer, and if you have the budget to, either run a contest yourself or hire a social media specialist to do so. Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you!

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