How to Run a Successful Facebook Contest

WinningEveryone wants to win!  That’s why running a Facebook contest is a great idea.  People love a good contest.  But Facebook has a lot of rules around contests that most people aren’t aware of.  Running a contest that doesn’t comply with Facebook’s terms could get you banned.  We don’t want that.

{UPDATE:  The Facebook Contest Rules have changed – you can now run a contest by asking people to Like or Comment on a post.  See the full details in my newest post:  New Facebook Contest Rules}

The biggest rule is that you need to administer the contest through an Application.  That means you need to run your contest on a tab on your Page rather than by having them respond to a Wall post or uploading a picture to your wall or similar-type no-nos.  Luckily there are several companies who are dedicated to administering Facebook contests while following all the rules.

Here are some of the applications that administer Facebook contests:

  • North Social – also easy to set up they charge per month and based on how many  fans your page has – good rates.
  • Votigo – they currently focus on larger scale campaigns and can be very customized to your needs. (Update:  now they have self-service options)
  • Fanappz – I have not personally tried them but Bob Saget uses their quiz application.
Update:  I had to add these other fantastic Contest apps!
  • Strutta – Great for photo, video or essay contests with a professional look and great features.  The pricing starts at $299 but it’s gorgeous.
  • ShortStack – This is a great app for creating all kinds of custom tabs and they have a sweepstakes entry widget that you can add.  The drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to create your entry form.
  • Woobox – Another low-cost sweepstakes application that is easy to set up yourself.
  • Offerpop – This sweepstakes application is free for Pages with 100 Likes or less.
  • Tabsite – Lots of options with different contests you can run and affordable!
  • EasyPromos – Your first contest is free
  • Contest Domination – Has Aweber and Infusionsoft integration
  • Antavo – easy to set up and run
There are lots of  different Facebook contest applications out there – find what works best for you!

Now to some of the rules and what you can and can’t do.  You can request that people Like your page to enter but you can’t automatically enter everyone who Likes you.  You can also have people upload photos and videos but only through the application, not to your wall.  To see all the ins and outs of the rules, take a look at the Promotions Guidelines on Facebook’s site.

I get into some of nitty-gritty of how to set up your contest with the Wildfire Application here:

Now you know how to set it up correctly and within Facebook’s terms, but what makes a successful contest?  I like to think of in terms of 3 P’s.  Planning, a good Prize and Promotion.


Don’t just stick your contest up on your Page and hope people enter.  Make a plan for the goals of your contest.  How many entries do you want, how many Likers, how many new subscribers?  How will you promote the contest?  Will you have a banner on your site, a blog tour (this takes planning to set up!) or press releases?  Make sure you have a promotion schedule in place so that you are reaching new people every day.


Give away something good!  You may want to poll your audience to find out what would be valuable to them.  You can give away a spot in your 12-week coaching system to draw attention to that product.  It doesn’t have to be extremely expensive to be valuable to your audience.


This is the most important part.  Get the word out every day about your contest.  Tweet it, enlist friends to help spread the word, put links to the contest on your Facebook Page every day, have a link on your website, do a blog tour, write press releases, e-mail everyone and ask them to send it to anyone who is interested.

One nice aspect of Wildfire is they have a place to browse current contests.  This may get you some additional exposure as well as be a good place to research ideas.

Whatever you do have fun, learn from your contest and run another one.  They are great vehicles for connecting to new people and giving your brand some buzz!  And if you run a beauty contest, be sure and vote for Grandma LOL!

Want MORE information about Facebook Contests?  Sign up for my free on-demand webinar about how to run a successful Facebook contests!  Get instant access here:

Grandma Mary

Grandma Mary is a slightly cranky Social Media Edutainer, helping small businesses leverage the power of social media. Learning social media is wayyy more fun with Grandma Mary.

View all posts by Grandma Mary

  • Elizabeth

    I would also recommend running a cross-promotion with other similar companies who are larger than you in social media. For example, my company, a travel operator, couldn’t afford to give away trips, but we wanted to to a contest. I networked with some highly visible merchandise retailers to gather some prizes. Free Merchandise: check. Free Publicity: check. Free Shipping: Check. They loved that we were willing to put the campaign together and cary most of the advertising. Plus, cross marketing is one of the best ways to use Social Media. Check out my current project: and

  • Zxczxcz


  • Heather

    Hey Andrea/Grandma Mary – This is a great post! Others must think so, too, because it is one of the top results when I search “how to run a Facebook contest” on Google.

    Would you be open to updating this post with a few of the new promotions apps that have been released lately? Pinpoint Social is one of the providers that should be added to your list, but there are others as well.

    Let me know what you think!Heatherheather [at] pinpointsocial [dot com]

  • This is cool..we use wildfire but looking at other options as well..thanks

  • Kirk

    I would like to suggest
    I have tried the other solutions and this application brought in the
    most traffic and revenue at a fraction of the cost. Simple and easy to setup. Definitely a must
    have for a FB, video, or photo contest. Check out their live demo.

  • HI there!

    Quick question…

     “The biggest rule is that you need to administer the contest through an
    Application.  That means you need to run your contest on a tab on your

    I have been really confused about this for some time now, does this meant that you have to have a third party app create that tab for you, or can you design your own tab through i frames and promote a contest that way? We have the capability of creating our own tabs – just not sure about the legal aspect of it…

    Any input you have on this would be great!


  • Yes, you can design your own tab with iFrames and run the contest through your own app. There are many brands and companies who have the experience to design their own. Just make sure you have links to the terms and all the rules spelled out. Watch the Facebook guidelines but if you have that all together, then you are good to go!

  • i am trying to host a contest on do I really need an app to administer it ???

  • No, if you host your contest on your own website, you don’t need a Facebook App to run it. You can just direct people to your website to enter. If you want people to actually enter right on your Facebook Page, then you would need an app. Hope that helps!

  • Also consider the country and state specific regulations. Contests and  competitions in Australia may require a permit (competitions are technically known as ‘trade lotteries’ in New South Wales), if the competition is a random chance draw. Just pointing this out as many Aussie businesses that run a competition on Facebook could be doing so without a permit.

  • Colincostello

    Use the Giveaway App to make sure you’re following Facebook’s guidelines for contests

  • Hey Grandma Mary, I’m the CEO of Votigo and wanted to let you know we recently released a low cost self-serve promotions tool that allows anyone to create a contest or sweepstakes (more apps coming soon) on Facebook, microsites or mobile. More info here: 


  • Great to know Mike!!  I know you’ve been looking at that so glad to hear it’s available!

  • The best is to have a contest that brings not only Facebook users to your Page, but also people from Twitter and Google+. We recently found an app that does the trick –, pls consider adding it to your list, grandma 😉

  • tahiwanite

    nice article

  • tahiwanite

    very nice post it absolutly very helpful a lot of people don’t know about this and better to update the blog post cause facebook do update every time the rules

  • Hi thanks for the info. I’ve tried offerpop and they are good and now have changed their pricing and plans. 

  • Monika Tripathy26

    hey can you please like and share this page

    Trying to promote a budget hotel with international standards

  • Thank you, thank you for this very helpful post. I’ve been looking & trying to understand more about running a contest in FB!


  • Mel

    In Victoria, the prize has to be worth more than $5000. Otherwise a permit isn’t required.

  • Lauragram

    We will be glad if you mention SocialAppsHQ’s Photo contest app as well

  • MayGirl

    hi, an interesting article! I was wondering if you knew whether its ok to promote a contest on ur timeline – if the contest is hosted elsewhere (say on your own website) ? .. So the FB posts would be like  ” We are celebrating our anniversary and giving away free dinner vouchers, click here to find out more”

  • Yes that is absolutely fine to to do! Even if you are running the contest on a Facebook tab you should definitely promote it by posting about it and telling people where they can enter.

  • Daenameyer

    There’s an amazing contest application that
    you can put on your Facebook page, simple, cheap and easy to use:,
    my favorite!

  • Excellent just the info i was after.

  • Jane A

    Hi Grandma Mary, I am wondering if you can help me with a FB guidelines question for running competitions. Our company is about to put out a letter to our members (Snail mail) and on the bottom of that letter it has been suggested that we ask people to like our FB Page and go into the draw to win ….. Can I do this and measure who liked us during that certain time period and then say they are the winner on FB and they need to contact us for the prize?
    Thanks in advance

  • Penguify

    Not the way you described. Facebook page guidelines:
    iv.    You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant. vi.    You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) or Pages. 

  • Yep, Penguify is correct.  You can’t have the mechanism of entry be the Like button.  Because you may get other likers who don’t want to be entered in this contest.  You need to use some type of entry form and then tell them that they have to Like your page to qualify to win.  Then draw the entrants from the list of people who have submitted their name.  Hope that helps Jane!

  • Good lord, so sorry I missed this comment – yes, you can host the contest somewhere else  and promote it on Facebook – completely acceptable!  Thanks

  • Nicolas G Troncoso

    Hi Grandma Mary,

    I am looking for a facebook contest app that can also be used as a team building platform for the selected winners of the contest where they can communicate.

    Heard of such an app?

    All the best,


  • Mike

    Hello,  I have an ecommerce website and have over over 22,000 fans.  What company would you sugest I go with?


  • thanks 

  • known2pwn318

    Thanks a lot for this info.  Here is a link to our stores first online facebook giveaway.

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  • Thanks for updating and including ShortStack in your list!

  • when running a FB contest, what is the best app that you’d recommend when it comes to increasing the amount of unique LIKE’s on a brands company page?

  • Hi Andrew! I would recommend any Facebook App that had some type of “fan-gate” or reveal tab. That coupled with a good prize that is perfect for your target audience is going to increase your unique likes the most. Many Contest Apps have fan-gates – Woobox, Lujure, Wildfire, North Social, ShortStack, Votigo, and more! Hope that helps!

  • James

    Wildfire won’t let me sign in using safari – disappointing!

  • Rohit

    Thanks for the tips I guess w can also run a promo on Wildfire at quite economical prices. you can also increase traffic to your wordpress blogsStrutta and ShortStack really work well… There are some companies which offer paid plans based on the number of fans.

  • vipul

    great article. thanks so much for writing and sharing.

  • David

    Hi Mary, thanks for this info, very helpful
    If i want to run a giveaway from a landing page on my website, and highlight a post about about it on my Facebook page, what is the best way to promote the post? should I copy and paste the link from my website and run an ad on that?, should I promote the post which only lasts a couple days, or should I run a post specific ad? thanks so much

  • Glad you liked it! I think you should run a promoted post (only to Facebook Fans – not Fans and Friends) to get this seen by your Facebook audience. But then run a Facebook ad directly to your website – not a Sponsored Post ad. The Sponsored Post ads sometimes get Likes on the post that you are charged for rather than a direct entry to your contest. Hope that helps!

  • David

    great, thanks again, I will try it. i signed up for wildfire, seems i have to set up the campaign through them from the beginning, not use in conjunction with the form on my website…..I’ll try it next time. I’ll go with your plan. Thanks again

  • Chad Watkins

    Loved the content, hated the video style, it’s really distracting and hard to follow with the voice she uses in this video. I really appreciate what she was trying to do, it just didn’t quite work. I’d love to watch a video of this lady talking in a calm, understandable, professional voice- the granny deal wasn’t entertaining to me at all, although I appreciate the effort.

  • lyonlee

    There’s a new Facebook Page Contest App available here: — it gives away one prize to the fan who gets the most people to engage on your page!

  • Sebastián Gómez

    Great post!!! I have also used Trisocial ( ) applications and are very appealing and easy to use. they have released a new application that allows you to convert fans into customers through coupons