A Facebook contest is perhaps the easiest way to connect with customers. But ensuring the success of your contest is a job easier said than done. While some marketers fail to leverage the true potential of the social media platform, others over-promote their brand only to end up being penalised by Facebook.

Here are five common mistakes marketers should avoid when running a Facebook contest:

Don’t Over Promote Your Contest – Feels Like SPAM

This is perhaps the most evil of all sins and is most certainly liable for a severe reprimand by Facebook. Facebook social media promotion guidelines clearly state that “personal timelines and friends connections cannot be used to administer promotions”. This means you cannot set rules asking participants to like, share, or tag a picture/message in order to take part in a Facebook contest. The drive to discourage over promotion was substantiated by their announcement about penalising seemingly organic posts that ‘push people to buy or install a product’, or ‘push them to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context, or those that ‘reuse the exact same content from ads’.  The announcement came last year after their survey when Facebook asked millions of readers about what they feel about their posts. It was found that a lot of users were irritated because of posts that looked like ads. Let’s say, a restaurant owner has managed a successful contest and you being ‘inspired’ by the campaign, begin a similar one with exactly the same words and the same prize. Such ‘inspired’ Facebook contests are banned only detected by Facebook’s automated systems, or if a user reports them as spam.

Promote Your Facebook Contest

This one seems to be in complete contrast to the earlier point. But it is also true that marketers often fail to effectively promote their Facebook contest. Unless you have an extremely strong user base, there’s little chance of success without proper promotion. Facebook adverts are the best way to ensure that you have an edge over others. They’re not free, but certainly not expensive- for a minimum spend of $1, ad rates average at around $0.25 per thousand impressions. But if your budget doesn’t allow or if you don’t want to spend on advertising, consider promoting the Facebook contest through a blog or other similar networks. Blogs are a great idea to promote your Facebook contest because it allows you to give more details related to the campaign. A common mistake is to make one status update and let it die without proper follow up. There are two reasons why this should be avoided; for one, it takes more than one post to encourage people to participate. Secondly, the Facebook Edgerank algorithm suggests that only 16% of fans can see each post you make. So, if you make only one post, a sizable number of fans may have missed the post.

Limit Unrelated Facebook Contest Prizes

It isn’t uncommon for organisers to give away iPads or iPhones as Facebook contest prizes. Popular giveaways are a definite fan magnets. However you may end up attracting people who’ve participated only for the prize. They may or may not be interested in your products/services – there’s no way to know! If the competition is primarily designed to get people to know more about your product or service, you are most certainly losing the golden chance to show off by giving away unrelated prizes. Contest winners are more likely to share their achievement on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. Why would you lose this golden ticket of opportunity? To make sure that every participant is interested in your product/service is to give away a gift card to your business or a product/service you sell. The gift card seems to be a better idea, because you not only get people to buy items from your store, but also create a target audience. You may also want to be careful about giving away prizes that sound too good to be true. People may assume these updates to be a scam and may choose to hide the message. These are considered to be negative reviews for your app and your Facebook contest may end up being banned once it reaches a certain threshold.

Read Facebook’s Guidelines Before Starting a Contest

Plenty of Facebook contests are shut down because organisers fail to follow Facebook’s guidelines on running/managing a contest. The guideline makes it very clear that when Facebook is used to run, manage or communicate about a contest, the contest promoters are solely responsible for its lawful operation including giving clear details about the terms and conditions, eligibility, etc. Facebook has similar rules for merchants running an offer. It clearly states that such offers should be for a limited time period and can be sponsored only by merchants and manufacturers of the product or service.  Facebook can remove registration rights of those who violate these basic guidelines. Similarly, marketers cannot post a message on their wall and call it a contest. Nor can they announce winners with a single status update. Announcement about winners can be shared on the wall only after the winner has been notified using a non-Facebook method such as telephone, email, etc. You cannot hold a Facebook contest that breaks local, national, or international laws. Activities like online gambling, online casinos, bingo, poker, etc. are illegal in some countries; Facebook contests promoting these activities can be started only in countries where this is legally allowed and only after prior authorisation from Facebook.

Use Third Party Applications For Contests

Although third party applications are no longer needed to run Facebook promotions, it makes sense to do so. Contest that are run directly on your page’s timeline are good, but they’re limited by their conditions wherein organisers cannot seek non-Facebook data about their fans. This is where third party applications are useful to run contests. Promoting Facebook contests using these applications allows organisers to gather user database and increase conversions.

In conclusion, please read the terms and conditions for posting Facebook contest. Yes you may see plenty of incorrect and unauthorised competitions within your timeline, however this doesn’t make it right to run your own campaigns incorrectly as you risk getting banned or even worse losing your account. Well run and ethical Facebook competitions will see a great benefit for your business and loyal returning customers.

Facebook Contest 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid