Facebook Contests, Fan Acquisition and Business Value

by Mark Smiciklas |

There seems to be strategic flaws with many of the ‘voting’ contests hosted by brands on Facebook. On the surface, promotions are often deemed successful based on buzz and ‘likes’.

But what about relevance? Awareness and acquisition are meaningful, but only if they are tied to the right audience.

The Status Quo

There are variations in how brands manage voting contests, but two models are prevalent:

  1. Awarding a prize to the person that collects the most votes for a photo, video, entry, etc.
  2. Drawing a prize from a group of people that have garnered the most votes i.e. top 20 vote getters.

In addition, many brands ‘fan gate’ contests so visitors need to like a page in order to participate. From a marketing perspective this makes a lot of sense:

acquire new fans >> provide them with relevant content >> fuel engagement >> prompt activation

But what’s the value of these fans if most of them aren’t really that interested in the brand?

Enter vote exchangesForums, websites,  and Facebook pages that facilitate the trading of contest votes.  As a result of vote swapping your brand ends up building an audience consisting of people (or fake accounts) solely there to vote in your contest so they can get votes in return. These fans are likely never going to truly engage with your organization.

I would argue that voting contests based on popularity actually erodes business value. By rewarding high vote counts brands open themselves up to diluting their core audience and hampering their ability to effectively benchmark and measure ongoing engagement. So what is the alternative?

A New Way of Looking at Contest Acquisition

My theory – by lowering the barrier to contest entry i.e. 50 votes and conducting a random draw, brands can build a participation ‘long tail’ that:

  • prompts more people to enter because there is a reasonable chance of winning vs. having to compete with contest pros that buy/exchange votes.
  • helps create business value by prompting brand communication with real people and fueling genuine word of mouth – with a low barrier to entry fans will likely share contest details/expose the brand to friends, family or colleagues. The low barrier of entry discourages users that participate in voting groups.
  • creates an even playing field for participants and minimizes acrimony – the contest is deemed to be fair, doesn’t get overrun by people exchanging votes and mitigates negative dialogue.

There is much more value in having a slower rate of acquisition and building a fan base that has the potential to be engaged … rather than rapid growth created by smoke and mirrors.

Voting Contest Best Practices

In addition to embracing a low barrier/random draw contest model, consider implementing some of the following ideas in order to build a more relevant following and improve the contest experience for your audience:

  1. Enhance your contest terms and conditions – be clear to state reasons for disqualification i.e. no voting groups, no vote buying, IP stipulations, etc.
  2. Implement options like Offerpop assured voting when using third party contest apps – Facebook authentication vs. IP tallying allows you the opportunity to audit the validity of Facebook profiles.
  3. Budget time to monitor the contest – most brands invest time communicating with contestants via their Facebook contest app but it’s also important to spend some time monitoring and auditing entries.
  4. Use Facebook Insights – large numbers of new fans from ‘out of ordinary’ regions might indicate vote exchange is taking place.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced running voting contests on Facebook? What other suggestions do you have to make the contest process more strategic for brands? The comments are yours.


About the Author

Mark Smiciklas

Mark Smiciklas is a Digital Strategist, author and President of Intersection Consulting; a Vancouver based digital marketing agency that teaches organizations how to leverage the dynamics of the web to achieve business goals. Mark is also the managing editor at Solopreneur.ca and is an established marketing and social media practitioner recognized for his visual thinking and practical strategic approach. You can connect with him on Google+.