If you’ve been paying attention lately you know that Facebook recently announced a big change (what else is new?) in its rules about contests and promotions on business pages.
In the past, the only way you could run a contest was to use a third-party app such as ShortStack to run them, otherwise, you ran afoul of Facebook rules. This made it very difficult for small businesses to run contests without spending considerably bucks with a vendor or agency to help them with a contest. Now, you can choose to either run your own contest on Facebook or use an app.
Of course, there are still rules. You can’t run contests on personal timelines, for example, and you can’t ask people to tag themselves in photos. You need to read the rules and follow them. However, you can do many things that you could not do in the past, such as:
- Collect entries by having users post on the page or comment or like a page post;
- Collect entries by having users message the page;
- Use “likes” for voting;
- Notify winners on Facebook after the contest is over.
So hurrah! You can now run your own contest! This is a good thing, right? Well, yes and no.
The positive side is that this makes Facebook contests easy to administer, free, workable on mobile devices, and simply possible for many small businesses when they weren’t before. You’ll increase your engagement — fast — and page rank (a complicated Facebook algorithm that measures how many users see your posts and how often).
On the downside, your contest posts can get lost or buried unless you post them several times (you’d then have to manually compile winners). You can’t get email addresses from entries as you can from commercially available apps. This is the real advantage of using third-party vendors to help you with your contest — they provide software that can help you leverage your contest for data that you can then use for subsequent marketing — but of course, that solution is not free.
On the other hand, if you weren’t in a position to hire such a vendor to help you with a contest before, having the ability to run a simple contest is better than nothing. You weren’t getting email addresses before, so the fact that you aren’t getting email addresses now may not be the worse thing. Just know what your goal is for the contest going into it. If, for example, your goal is “exposure,” or “to generate excitement,” maybe a “do-it-yourself” contest is enough for you to see if it works for you.
If you do decide to do a contest, consider using a visual, such as a photo or video, to generate the most response. Visuals always get more response than simple text. Require a comment so that you can tag the person who wins in a comment. Make sure your post is pinned to the top of your page for visibility. State the rules of the contest clearly. Keep the contest fairly short — no more than a week.
One of the things that contest winners will need help with is choosing a random winner from those who enter their Facebook contests. Already there are some apps that have popped up to help with that. Two free solutions are Contest Capture and Woobox. No word yet on how well they work.
One thing is for sure: whenever Facebook sneezes, there will be plenty of hands extended with tissues. Translation — watch for many more apps and small businesses rising from this latest Facebook development in the near future!