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Planning a Facebook contest? Make sure you follow the rules

November 28, 2012
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Planning a Facebook contest? Follow the rules
Facebook is the world’s largest social network — with more than one billion members — and its mission is to make the world more open and connected.

There used to be a time, not all that long ago, when companies could place a contest on one of their social media pages with little regulation. Those days are no more, according to Chris Tromp, senior director of digital services at Lambert, Edwards & Associates.

“Facebook used to just let you throw up a contest,” Tromp said. “You’d write a timeline posting, something like, ‘Hey, the first 10 people that post a reply here win something free.’ They’ve now come out with some standards of conduct on their page in terms of use on their platform. They encourage you to use one of their approved third-party vendor contest providers. There are a number of those out there . . . and they are 100 percent compliant with Facebook’s terms of use.”

Tromp said that Facebook is still by far the most used social media platform for these types of contests, and he has helped clients with a wide variety of promotions on the site, including photo contests, graphic design competitions, essay contests and simple fill in your information and be entered to win contests.

When planning a contest via Facebook, Tromp said, there are multiple concerns a company should address.

“Some applications are better for executing certain kinds of contests than others,” he said. “Another factor would be cost. Some are more expensive than others. Another factor would be the level of customization. Do you want a true white-labeled solution where there is no third-party branding? Some providers make that an option, others don’t.

“You typically pay based on how many days your contest is in duration; a short contest will be less expensive than a long contest. You have to be mindful of extra costs: design costs, copywriting costs, perforating costs, overall contest strategies, consultation, the time to install on a Facebook page.”

He also said that barriers to entry should be a consideration. Are you designing a contest that is easy for people to participate in, or is it so creative or involved that it may actually deter participants?

Additionally, companies have to follow all the legal requirements for a contest.

“Most of the third-party applications will include a space or a content block inside their applications where you can add your own privacy policy and your own terms of use,” Tromp said. “Before an application can be installed on a Facebook page and turned live, you must actually tell the application that you are using that your contest complies with Facebook’s terms of use.”

Although it might seem like there are more social media-based promotions around the holidays, Tromp said the reality is that the increase isn’t confined to the season. Contests are growing in general as people’s social media time increases.

Launching a Facebook contest may seem easy, and, generally speaking, it is, but Tromp said there are actions companies should take to improve their chances of success with a contest.

“A big, best practice that I think people often overlook is that just because you stand something up doesn’t mean people will come,” he pointed out. “You still need to do your promotions, and I think a combination of traditional promotion and social media online promotion is a very valid tactic."

Tromp added that his firm "looks at things holistically" and gave as an example a very successful social media contest that LE&A helped Mercantile Bank launch last month: Mercantile Bank’s 15 Days of Giving.

“Mercantile bank gave away $1,000 for 14 days to 14 different charities. On the 15th day, any charity that had received at least one vote the prior 14 days was up for a random selection, a random winning of a $5,000 cash prize. So there were 14 charities selected, and they were selected based on the number of votes from the community who came in and voted.”

Tromp said more than 15,000 people participated, which he terms a very large show of support.

“That’s an example of where public relations came together with traditional advertising,” Tromp said. “You saw billboards and other ads in different places as well as a social media promotion.”

Tromp pointed out that social media is really about telling a story, and the Mercantile Bank contest allowed each charity to tell its story and garner support from those touched by what the charity is doing in the community.

Allowing voters to easily share the contest with their friends also contributed to the contest’s success.

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