Are Facebook Contests Worth It?


I’ve always wondered whether it makes sense to get people to Like your Facebook page by bribing them with an incentive.  How valuable are those “Likes?”  They seem more  like the people who come to an event to get the free Hors doerves or the kids who hang out at a friend’s house because the friend has a pool or the guy who gets dates because he has a cool car.  By definition,  the people who Like your page because of a contest have an ulterior motive.   I’ve been that person.  I’ve actually Liked a page to vote for a charity when I really didn’t Like the brand at all.

Now, maybe there is a certain percentage of people who were brought in with an ulterior motive but seeing some great content in their feed from you, truly become part of the community. Maybe.

And, to top it off, when you run a contest that requires voting, there are professional contest players who know how to game the system through third party “vote exchange” sites and creation of fake Facebook accounts.  They often win.

When you add it all up, it’s a recipe for disappointment.  Most people who enter are Liking your page because they have been forced to do so.  The ones who take the time to produce content for contests that require it, are overshadowed by those who know how to game the system.  It doesn’t seem like a great deal for anyone.

My experience has not been positive. The cost of running the contest and the dissatisfaction of some of the entrants, override the benefit of new likes of questionable long term value.

I’d be curious to know what your experience is with Facebook contests.  Have them been worth it?  Have you found a satisfactory ROI?


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8 Responses to Are Facebook Contests Worth It?
  1. Lewis Bertolucci
    May 15, 2020 | 11:55 am

    I think it depends… don’t you just love that answer?

    We’re (Humana on Facebook) is currently running an X-Box + Kinect and game promotion to win one of two consoles. Being in our infancy stage with social, I go with the mantra of “If you build it, they will NOT come.” In most instances, even the most engaging content won’t drive as many people to engage with your page unless you give some sort of incentive to do so, hence us running a promotion that’s around our brand positioning (well-being, using the Kinect to earn wellness ‘points’ with our Vitality product) and we partnered with the game creator, Ubisoft, on their YourShape 2012 Evolved game as well.

    In our case, and it varies by brand & objectives, I think it’s a foundational component to building our footprint on Facebook. Is there ROI, I’ll defer and say no. Given where we’re at within the social maturity model, we’re still focused on awareness, engagement, servicing, but then hope to get ROI, once we’re further along.

    • Ilana Rabinowitz
      May 15, 2020 | 1:06 pm

      Lewis, it’s hard to measure but awareness is indeed an important step in getting people to take the ultimate leap to a purchase decision. And you’ve found a way to connect awareness with your brand in a way that’s fun and helps the message “stick.” Interesting point about the fact that you made need to motivate people more in the early stages of a social media presence because the effectiveness of that presence depends on a certain critical mass. Thanks for weighing in.

  2. Paul
    May 15, 2020 | 12:02 pm

    I think it really depends on the industry. If the prize is close in value to the products then I would say its worth it. I think it’s great for small businesses because aside from prize cost, very little resources can be invested to start the contest. It also generates a “buzz” which is key, this buzz can be amazing especially with the virality potential of social media. Also each new like represents an ad display on that persons social stream.

    • Ilana Rabinowitz
      May 15, 2020 | 12:56 pm

      Paul, there are certainly subjective benefits to running a contest. If the cost is low, and the brand feels that there was some exposure, it can make sense.

  3. Beth M. Wood
    May 15, 2020 | 12:03 pm

    Hi Ilana,

    You bring up an issue that many of us in the promotion industry have been debating since the advent of that all-powerful, capitalized “Like.”

    Having managed one of these contests, I can tell you that whether they work depends on many factors. It sort of requires the perfect-storm, if you will, of:
    1. length of promotion (is there time to build WOM)
    2. engaging content that builds the brand and engenders not just “Likes” but actually “like” of a brand, its voice/personality, and what it has to offer
    3. a contest (vs. a sweepstakes)

    This last brings up a very good point: many clients don’t understand that there is a fundamental difference between a sweepstakes (game of chance) and a contest (game of skill). You mention that those who take the time to enter the contest are overshadowed by those who know how to beat the system. But, the very nature of a contest requires that all who enter follow the criteria and rules. If not, they will not make it past the first “round” of judging. Hosting a sweepstakes on Facebook might get you an impressive quantity of entries, but creating a contest, while the quantity will be much lower, will give you a greater percentage of quality entries - meaning people that LIKE your brand (or maybe the grand prize) enough to invest the time to enter correctly.
    Thanks for sharing - always something to consider!


    • Ilana Rabinowitz
      May 15, 2020 | 12:53 pm

      Terrific points, Beth. I also prefer the idea of a contest. But when the requirement is to produce some type of content like a story or photo, I wonder how it is possible for people to really judge thousands of entries because just viewing them all is overwhelming.

  4. Matt Thompson
    May 16, 2020 | 12:52 pm

    Always such a powerful debate. In my experience, it is 100% effective and 100% overused. How is that for an answer?

    First the media targeting needs to be on spot so you can do what most contests are made to do- draw people at the awareness level. I believe in a “digital handshake” where the user must view/see/interact with a piece of content before they can enter so they can see a little about you. It drives up costs a little, but at least you aren’t just giving stuff away.

    Second, the value of doing a contest needs to be measured in a lot longer terms than most give time for. The common thought is “we need to boost sales so let’s do a contest” where it should be reversed. Do a contest so you can get the right people, at the right time into your page, then educate them through a solid content marketing strategy. Contests are worthless unless you have that part. Also, to enter a contest the user gives an email address so make sure you have a solid email strategy and segmentation to measure effectiveness.

    Third (which really should be first), is how can you create value for a contest for current fans and customers so they spread the word because you listened and rewarded them? If you have sound practice getting people into your page that are passionate customers, or at LEAST customers, you can leverage sponsored stories, etc to get them to spread the good word.

    Contests work. I just don’t think a lot of people put the cart before the horse.

    • Ilana Rabinowitz
      May 17, 2020 | 6:15 am

      Thanks for your thoughtful response. People really do look for the ROI right away. As with all relationship building efforts, the results take time. Sometimes you do need an incentive to get people to take a look at you and then it’s what you do with that opportunity, not the contest itself, that makes the difference in the long run. I’ve love to read a case study about a clearly successful contest.

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