Ask any social media person how you should go about getting more likes and followers on Facebook and it’s more than likely competitions will be mentioned. There’s no doubt that the lure of giving something away will attract plenty of followers, lots of “liked and shares” and links on lovely places such as Loquax. But time and time again, we see issues with brands and pages running Facebook competitions that land promoters right in the brown stuff!

So, before you run a Facebook competition – just have a quick read through – as we explain just some of the things that can crop up.

1. The Guidelines

Facebook does have guidelines for promoters who want to run competitions. It’s worth noting them “just in case”. For example the guidelines say that “the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant”.

It also says that “you must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles or pages” but again many brands do because they’re using likes and/or not using a third party application such as Easypromos.

The “just in case” part is for if/when Facebook ever decide to turn the screw and actually apply their guidelines. A lot of pages still offer prizes at X number of likes and winners are contacted by Walls and messages etc. To be honest it’s a surprise that Facebook haven’t created their own forced contest app for pages – imagine the data collection they could be doing with such an idea.

Top Tip: Just be aware that there are guidelines… you never know when Facebook will enforce them!

2. Voting Competitions

We’ve been involved with online competitions for 14 years now. We’ve watched Facebook evolve, we’ve seen good and bad things when it comes to competitions. So, when we (Loquax) say “voting competitions are a really stupid idea” – that means they’re a stupid idea! A voting competition will not result in the best entry winning – it will result in the person who can “cheat” the most winning.

Voting competitions attract groups of people who swap votes, pay for votes, have multiple Facebook accounts for votes – in fact pretty much do anything whatsoever for votes. Grand Marnier for example recently ran a competition for a “Sunset Photo”. The winner was to be determined by most votes. It took them until 3 days before the closing date to realise that what they were told at the start was true…. it wasn’t a “best sunset” competition but a “most clicks” competition.

In the end they got a judge in to decide the winner.

Similarly, a charity were offering 4 iPads in their Facebook competition. Towards the end of the promotion they realised that the winning “stories” were pretty poor – in fact so poor they would have gained no PR by using them (one of the aims of the competition). The top entries were simply using vote sites not “asking friends and family” as so many promoters ask. In the end they also changed their rules and went to the judge it yourself option.

If you do go down the public votes route, try and mix the prizes up. For example offer a token prize to the most voted entry, and the biggest prize to a judged entry.

Top Tip: Avoid voting competitions! Get an independent judging panel and pick a winner that way.

3. Photo Competitions

I like photo competitions as they give an added challenge to using your camera (mind, I really wish I’d not drowned my camera in the sea yesterday – that’s another story). A lot of Facebook promoters like photo competitions too. But if people cheat on voting, guess what… they’ll cheat with photo competitions too! It’s not unknown for images to be lifted off Google and entered into a Facebook competition.

Thankfully there are eagle eyed entrants who like to spot cheats. Photobox for example almost awarded a prize to a photo of a “Royal Toilet” lifted from The Daily Mail. They were alerted to the problem by another participant and acted swiftly to disqualify the “winner”.

On The Beach Holidays have encountered a similar problem. However, despite being told that a couple of their winning photos are plagarised they’ve awarded prizes. They’re now saying they’ll investigate any issues, but the damage has been done.

Top Tip: Use reverse image search sites like Tineye.com to check validity

4. Sob Stories

“Tell us why you should win” is a very bad competition question. If you choose this route you will get a rollercoaster of emotional answers that will pull on your heartstrings. But are they genuine or just sob stories. This is a real tough one for competition promoters. Therefore try and avoid questions that generate answers that range from “i have man-flu” to “i’m suffering from the recent loss of a family member”…. and much more beyond that.

Top Tip: Keep your competitions fun and light – it will make picking a winner a lot easier!

5. Listen To Your Wall

Not listening is a massive problem for many a promoter. If you announce your great prize promo on Facebook and it results in negative feedback (e.g. voting competitions attract cheating or that photo is borrowed) then act upon it. Don’t decide you know better.. because you probably don’t.

The great thing about Facebook is that it opens up transparency in a lot of competitions. It shows up cheating by entrants and it shows up errors by brands. You need to be on top of things and you need to act swiftly. As above, Photobox were very good at dealing with a problem – which left could have damaged their very successful (and enjoyable) 24 Hour Live Photo Challenge.

Top Tip: If you’ve encountered a problem head to Loquax and ask us for help!

6. Stop And Think

This is the biggest error of them all when it comes to brands running a Facebook competition. No one stops and thinks it through. It’s not just the voting and photo competitions mentioned above, it’s the smaller ones too. A “share this post and like it” competition can result in 100s of posts appearing on your wall… great for your competition, but what about your customers?

If you go to a brand’s page and see “Liked This” or “Enter Me” right the way down the page that doesn’t look great. If you see long arguments about cheating or vote rigging then that doesn’t look great either. You can run a promotion sensibly, fairly and also gain the social advantages you’re after. You just need to stop and think a little bit.

Top Tip: Look at other brands on Facebook and see how their competitions run.

Should You Be Running A Facebook Competition?

If you want to pick up numbers on your Facebook pages then “yes” running a competition is a great idea. Done properly it can be a good way to pick up followers and interact with them. The Photobox 24 Hour Live competition was in my view one that was done properly and a lot of brands could learn from that.

The trouble is many won’t learn… they’ll still be vote cheating, walls plastered with unnecessary comments, photo cheating and what have you. It’s easy to point the finger at the people cheating and/or complaining about compers – but actually the responsibility of your promotion comes down to you. If you do things right, create proper rules, adhere to them and listen to your users – then cheats can’t prosper.

Next time you’re in a social media seminar and someone says “use competitions on Facebook” ask them what the pitfalls are… if they don’t know the above, then they’ve probably never looked much beyond their own wall.