Top 5 Benefits of a Facebook Sweepstakes or Contest

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Lately we have been asked to help set up and manage Facebook sweepstakes. Our clients are putting in a lot of time and money into social media and they want to see their efforts produce results. Facebook contests and sweepstakes are a great promotional tactic that helps engage and increase fans.

Benefits of a Facebook Sweepstake or Contest

  1. Likes – Yes, the almighty top-level metric and warm blanket of congeniality for brands. A sweepstake or promotion will attract more of your target market to “Like” your page. You can offer the sweepstakes or contests to all current fans and new fans must “Like” your page to enter. The goal here is that once they “Like” you, your posts will appear in their news feeds. This offers a chance for re-engagement with your brand during and after the promotion.
  2. Emails – You can get richer profile information on your fans by asking for email, date of birth, gender, address, zip code, mobile phone or other information as part of the entry form. This is also an opportunity to ask research or poll questions.
  3. Engagement – All brands want customers speaking positively about them and to them. Watching metrics like post consumption, link clicks and positive feedback will allow you to measure how well you’re doing in this area. By increasing engagement, you’ll also push your page updates to more fans, increase awareness, and rank higher in graph search (Facebook’s search engine).
  4. User-Generated Content – A photo, video or story contest will produce valuable content created by fans. This is the kind of content that fans love to share with their friends. They are proud of their pictures and stories and want to tell their friends about them. In return, your brand reaches new audiences through loyal fan ambassadors.
  5. Market Research – We recently asked Pet Supermarket fans to “Tell Us What You Love About Your Pet” as the sweepstakes entry. The answers were moving, funny, sometimes sad, but mostly endearing. People love their pets and love talking about them. The most interesting result was that this promotion helped us better understand Pet Supermarket customers and hear their feelings behind their relationships with their pets. These sentiments can be used later to refine the way Pet Supermarket presents its messages to customers. Think of entries as valuable market intelligence and potential ads for your brand written by customers.

No Goals, No Glory

Before you start, set your goals. How do you know you had a successful Facebook sweepstakes if you don’t know the end goal? Goals will also help you plan your sweepstakes and determine how big the prize (incentive) and promotional effort should be. Goals can include:

  1. Increase in total Likes by X% of current fans
  2. Increase in new emails by X% of current database
  3. Increase engagement or awareness

Types of Facebook Promotions

Sweepstakes – The simplest and most popular, this type of promotion collects all eligible entries and selects a winner(s) randomly. Sweepstakes usually get the most participants because they are easy to enter. Just fill out the entry form and you’re in. If gaining “Likes” or increasing your email database is the objective, sweeps are a good choice.

Contests – These require that participants present some skill within the required contest guidelines. Participants compete against each other and/or within a judging criteria. For example, a simple contest can ask participants to add a photo caption to a photo you provide or it can ask entrants to show the best picture of a sunset. The barrier to entry is higher than a sweepstakes (make sure you have a good number of fans before starting), but engagement is also higher if that’s your goal. In a contest, you’ll also need to decide how you’ll choose the winner. This article on judging and choosing a winner will help.

If you’re going to set up a Facebook promotion, give the new Facebook guidelines a look to ensure you’re compliant with their rules. If you need any help, let us know.

How to Judge a Contest: Guide, Shortcuts and Examples

What is a Contest?

A contest is an activity where skill is needed to win. Unlike a Sweepstakes where a random draw identifies the winner, in a contest the participants has to take an action that requires some degree of skill. That degree of skill depends on what the promotion or event is asking the participant to do. For example; in an essay contest, participants enter and compete by submitting original writing.

The Legal Contest Formula 

Prize + consideration (monetary fee or demonstration of skill) = legal contest (in most jurisdictions)

Are Contest Legal in the US?

Yes. All 50 States allow contest promotions. All contests are allowed as long as the sponsor awards the prize based on skill and not chance.

See Contest Rules and Laws by State.

The Judging Criteria

Contests also have an element of competition that requires the Sponsor or agency to set clear contest judging criteria so participants know how their entries will be judged. This criteria will also tell the judging body what to look for and how to assign value or rank entries.

As a marketer, you can save yourself a lot of potential trouble, and complaints, if your judging criteria is clear to all participants and judges. For example: “Essay Submissions must be in English, comply with Official Rules, meet all requirements called for on the Contest Website and be original work not exceeding 1,000 characters in length.”

The “How-To” Guide for Judging

In a contest, the judging criteria is an attempt to focus the participants, as well as the judges, on the expected outcome of the entry. Properly designed judging criteria aims to minimize the judges unconscious biases and focus their attention on the qualities that are going to be weighed and assigned a value or score. For example, a judging criteria score sheet may rank values as “33.3% for creativity, 33.3% for originality; and 33.3% for adherence to topic.”

Judges (ideally more than one) should be experts or have some degree of expertise in what they are judging. This is not a requirement, but it helps the Sponsor or contest administrator select the winner. The contestants also gain a sense of fair play when they see the winner was chosen by experts.

How to Pick Judges for the Contest

If you can’t find expert judges, then individuals or a group with a clear understanding of the judging criteria and no conflicts of interest or bias could serve as judges. Beyond the judging criteria, the judges should have seen enough examples of the work being judged to determine what is considered poor, average and exceptional within the criteria.

Judges Goals

Ultimately, judges aim to assign a total value or points to each entry and select the winner based on total amount of points earned.

Judging Shortcut

A shortcut to judging large numbers of entries is to use social media networks to judge on your behalf up to a certain degree. For example, you can run your contest on Facebook and have the fans vote for the top five entries. From there a more formalized judge or contest administrator can select the winner based on the criteria. This can work well, but there are risks associated with fan voting. One of the risks is that participants can simply ask their friends to vote for them regardless of the quality of the work. It undermines the promotional effort when a poor entry gets lots of votes. This is why we don’t recommend that fan votes make the final decision on who wins.

Protect Your Contest With Judging Criteria

Having your judging criteria set will also protect the integrity of the contest and guide judges if there is a tie. A well-articulated judging criteria will explain what to do in the event of a tie. For example; “In the event of a tie for any potential Winning Entry, the score for Creativity/Originality will be used as a tiebreaker.” Or “If there still remains a tie, Sponsor will bring in a tie-breaking Judge to apply the same Judging Criteria to determine the winner.”

Rules for Social Media Contests

Contests are allowed in all social media platforms as long as you follow state laws and the social media platform’s own set of rules.

Can You Charge Participants an Entry Fee?

Yes, as long as the winners are chosen by skill and not chance (randomly).

Remember: Prize + consideration (monetary fee or skill) = legal contest (in most jurisdictions)

Contest Official Rules Examples

Better Homes & Gardens America’s Best Front Yard Official Contest Rules

Bottom Line: Contests are a Great Marketing Tool

Contests are worth the effort and repay the sponsor handsomely. They’re fun and generate a lot of buzz, awareness and potential sales for the sponsor. Just make sure your judging criteria are set in place.  If you need any help with your contest let us know at

Need help witha Contest? See our Contest Management Services

Want to build a sweepstakes by text? See our features and pricing.

Morton Salt 100th Birthday Sweepstakes Prize Is Not Salt, But You’ll Need Salt!

mobile sweepstkes, momares

Not Salt

When you sell salt, giving away your product is not a good option as a sweepstakes prize. That’s why Geico doesn’t giveaway insurance or Bufferin aspirin bottles. They just aren’t very attractive prizes. Salt, as important for food flavoring as it is, it is not a very desirable prize since salt is readily available, inexpensive and boring.

A Prize They Want

This is why the folks at Morton Salt are giving away other prizes like Wüsthof Knifes and Cuisinart Mixers. These prizes, or better yet, culinary tools are all related to the things majors salt users love, which is to cook. And salt users would like to win new cooking tools thus enticing them to enter the sweepstakes and instant win game. Morton Salt has effectively tied their prizes (desirable cooking tools) and brand to an activity their number one customers enjoy in hopes that when the buy salt, they’ll buy Morton Salt.

It’s Missing Mobile Entry for the Busy Text (SMS) Addicted Mom’s

I would have liked to have seen a mobile entry component to the sweepstakes. I can image busy moms and chefs finding it way easier to text MORTON to 65047 to enter for a chance to win, instead of having to “Like” Morton on Facebook and then complete a form to enter. I do like the prize selection and instant win component. Well done Morton Salt and Happy 100th Birthday!

How to Choose the Right Sweepstakes Prize

Offering a prize that resonates with your target audience is key in attracting future customers. We like to say that, whenever possible, your prize should be your product or service. If you’re a pet product retailer, giving away a year’s worth of free pet food is a good idea as it’s something your customers would want.

But if giving away your product or service is not possible or simply not very exciting (like free tax return services or a year’s worth of car insurance) this is when you need to get creative about your prize.

Yes, you can always give away cash or a gift card, but the idea is to tie your business to a prize that is attractive to your customers.

You want to be speaking to your customers even if it’s through a third-party brand.

Here’s what I mean… let’s say you own a chain of ski rental shops. Your business is renting skis, not selling. Awarding $1,000 worth of ski gear may be out of the question, plus it does not fit your business model. Not a good mix.

What you know is that your customers are skiers and visit ski resorts and facilities.

One prize that would work very well would be an all-expenses paid ski trip to the Four Seasons Resort in Vail, Colorado, with rental ski gear provided by your business.

You get to speak to skiers, your prospective customers, by offering them something they would love to win. It’s also a way to tie your brand to a bigger brand (Vail, Colorado and the Four Seasons) or a brand that reaches new customers for you.

Think of Regal Cinemas partnering with Pepsi to offer a trip to the Oscars. Regal Cinemas is piggybacking on the Pepsi brand and the Oscars event to elevate their brand and attract new customers. And you can do the same, no matter what niche you’re in.

How to Pick The Perfect Sweepstakes Prize? Answer the following questions…

  1. What market is my business in? (Sports retail, pet products, insurance, car rental, etc…)
  2. What does our ideal customer look like? Gender? Age? Marital Status? Geographic location? Income level?
  3. What’s your budget for the prize?
  4. What is the prize you will give away? How many?
  5. Is the prize something that people will get excited about? Not just want, they have to desire it!
  6. Does this prize resonate with your target audience?

Here’s an example:

Market: Fashion
Ideal customer: Female, ages 21-35, single or married, income level of $45,000+
Budget: $4,000
Winners: 1
Prize: $4,000 Shopping Spree
Is prize exiting to your prospective customers? Yes
Is the prize relevant to your business? Yes

Think creatively when selecting a prize. If you are an action sports retailer, a professional photography session of the winner and friends surfing your local break would be a great prize. If you sell Ford cars, a trip to meet the 2015 Ford Mustang Master Sculptor Kevin Goff at the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center sounds awesome. Both prizes tie well into and enhance the brand. The right prize is key to designing a successful sweepstakes and is also fundamental to reaching new customers and elevating your brand.

Comments? Tell me on Facebook, Twitter or email me at

3 Good Reasons Why QR Codes For Sweepstakes Entry Are a Bad Idea

Instead of making the process of entering a sweepstakes easier and faster, QR codes make the process of getting to the sweepstakes entry form cumbersome.

  1. Participants needs to understand what to do with the QR code. Does your target understand what the pixel black squares are  for?
  2. Participants needs a QR a code app to read the QR. Do they have a smartphone? Doe sit have a QR code reader app? Do they have to download a QR code reader app?
  3. It takes 3 additional steps to get to the sweepstakes entry from a QR code. 1. Launch QR app. 2. Scan QR code and 3. Go to the destination website.

You are better off just printing your sweepstakes entry page URL or simply asking participants to send a text message  to enter the mobile sweepstakes. Ex. Text BRAND to 65047 to enter.