Facebook Timeline Contests: The What, Why & How

Holding a contest on your Facebook Business Page is an excellent way to grow your Page Likes, gain organic exposure of your Page and business, and show customer appreciation. Commonly referred to as a “Facebook contest”, it’s technically and legally a “sweepstakes” and published in a post on your Facebook Business Page’s timeline.

It’s important to understand the legal differences between terms like sweepstakes, contest, and lottery, regardless of what you might casually call it. You’ll also want to check for any local or state laws you need to comply with in addition to the Facebook Promotions terms we’ll talk about in this post. The key difference in a sweepstakes versus a contest or lottery is that the winner(s) is awarded by chance. Contests are awarded based on some level of merit, and lotteries mean an entrant pays money for a chance to win (just like your state’s lottery).

For more on the legal piece of sweepstakes, contests, and lotteries, please visit this post on Social Media Examiner, written by attorney Sara Hawkins.

Facebook Timeline Contests, the What, Why & How

Facebook Timeline Contests

How to Run a Facebook Timeline Contest

We’ve written about Facebook Timeline Contests before, and to read the best older post about them (which is all correct as of the publish date of this post), click here.

There are a couple ways to approach your Facebook Timeline contest. You can simply publish a post on your Facebook Business Page, and house the entire contest on that post on your Business Page, or you can incorporate a third party app like Shortstack or WooBox to assist. Using one of these third-party apps gives you more options for your Facebook contest and lets you do things like collect email addresses or run video contests, for example. But those contests are often a bit more involved to run and usually involve an additional cost (WooBox has a free contest option, but it’s only free up to 100 entries. Probably 99% of the Facebook Timeline Contests I’ve run have had at least a few hundred up to over 1,000 entries, so this limit is probably only feasible for a very small page).

Since we work with small businesses, we’re keeping things simple in this post and will be discussing only a Timeline contest held in a post on your Business Page, and not one involving a third-party app. All of the below information, including the Facebook Promotion Terms, will apply to a contest using an app; we just won’t be talking about how to run it using an app.

What You Need for your Facebook Timeline Contest

Facebook Promotion Guidelines can be found here and the contest (post) requires these 5 things:

  • Inclusion of the official contest rules
  • Inclusion of the offer terms and eligibility requirements
  • Inclusion of how to comply with the rules and regulations governing the promotion
  • Inclusion of a release of Facebook by each entrant
  • Inclusion of an acknowledgement that the Facebook promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook

Additionally, you cannot require use of a Personal Profile’s timeline as a method of entry. To quote Facebook, “Personal Timelines and friend connections must not be used to administer promotions (ex: “share on your Timeline to enter” or “share on your friend’s Timeline to get additional entries”, and “tag your friends in this post to enter” are not permitted)“.

One common point of confusion over Facebook Contests is whether or not you can ask for a Page Like as part of your contest entry. Yes, you can, but you’ll still want to require people to specifically indicate in some way that they are entering your contest. That’s why Facebook Page admins usually ask for a “like” on the contest post or a comment on the contest post in addition to liking the Page; that way you are getting people opting in to your contest versus simply being a Page Liker from months or years back, and either unaware or uninterested in joining in your contest.

I prefer to ask for a comment plus a Page Like because comments are a stronger signal to the Facebook algorithm that your post is interesting and should be shared with more people. Comments also provide you a direct way to message any winner at the conclusion of a contest. Beneath their comment entry, you’ll have the option to like their comment, reply to their comment, or message them as your Page.

Another suggestion I have is to include in the contest rules and terms some kind of deadline for receiving a response from any winners after being notified that they won. This provides you with a way to choose a different winner if the original winner never gets back to you. I like to use a 72 hour response time, but you can set whatever response time makes the most sense for you.

What to Offer in your Facebook Timeline Contest 

What you want to give away to the winner(s) of your contest is completely up to you. And, truly, the possibilities are endless.

My suggestions for what to offer to the winner(s) of your Facebook Timeline Contest would be:

  • A product or service that you sell that’s not the least expensive and not the most expensive, and that has wide appeal
  • A product or service that’s relevant and complementary to your ideal client type (e.g. An iPad is very desirable…to a LOT of people and will tend to attract several entrants that are not your ideal client type)
  • If your business is very high dollar (home builder) or you are paid after a transaction closes (like a real estate agent), don’t feel like you have nothing to offer for a Facebook contest! I recommend choosing something that’s relevant and complementary to your business. Think about what is reasonably priced (for you) and makes sense given the line of business you are in. For example, these 2 types of businesses could both offer something like a free house cleaning, a gift card to a local home improvement or home decor store, or a free consultation with an interior designer. There’s an additional benefit going this route, too, as it provides you with the chance to do some cross-promotional marketing with another related business.

Of course, what you are offering with your contest, who is eligible, and other factors like any state or local laws you need to follow, will impact exactly what your contest post will look like, but to give you an example of the above 5 requirements, your Facebook Timeline Contest post might include language like this:

{GIVEAWAY} Hey [ideal client]! We are giving away 1 [what you are giving away] to 1 winner! To enter, simply leave a COMMENT & LIKE our Page! Entries will be received from now through 11:59 pm on Monday, September 16, 2019.

Entries will be received from Tuesday, September 10, 2019 at 6:00 am Central until 11:59 pm Central on Monday, September 16, 2019. One (1) winner to be randomly selected & announced on Tuesday, September 17, 2019. You must leave a comment on this thread and LIKE our Page to be entered to win. Winner will be notified in this Facebook sweepstakes comment thread. The [item being given away] must be picked up from our store. You must be at least 21 years old and a legal US resident to enter. Winner must contact [business name] within 72 hours of posted winner announcement. If we haven’t been contacted within that time, we will choose another winner using the same random method.

This sweepstakes is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to [business name] and not to Facebook. The information you provide will only be used for the administration of this sweepstakes. Facebook is completely released of all liability by each entrant in this sweepstakes. Any questions, comments or complaints regarding the sweepstakes must be directed to [business name] and not Facebook.

Some other Facebook Timeline Contest Tips

  • Acknowledge each comment entry with at least a “like”
  • Make sure to use a great picture for your Facebook contest post
  • Consider adding the word “giveaway” to the image being used for your contest post so that people notice it as soon as it hits their feed
  • Run the Facebook Timeline Contest for at least 5 days and not much longer than a week. People tire of it or start to forget about it if it goes on for too long
  • Pin the contest post to the top of your Facebook Page’s timeline
  • Announce the winners on the contest post itself and by private messaging each winner as your Facebook Page
  • Even if you ask for comments, people will still “like” the contest post. Make sure to click on the count of people who “like” the post, and then click to invite them to “like” the Facebook Page.
  • A free tool like Random.org is a great way to choose a winner. Simply enter the total number of contest entries into the max field, and Random.org will provide you with a randomly chosen number. Then count down through your comments to that comment number, and you have your winner. Note: the third party tools usually have a winner selection tool built-in.
  • Want to show off products at the same time as running a contest? Upload 1 photo per product you sell and are willing to give away, and ask people to comment with which product they’d choose if they won. That way you “force” entrants to click/thumb through all the product photos you’ve added to the contest post, and are, in turn, gaining more awareness and exposure of those products at the same time you are holding your Facebook Timeline contest.

Our clients have seen great success with Facebook Timeline Contests. I know it can seem like a lot to learn and understand initially, but once you hold your first giveaway, you can easily reuse your Facebook contest language and format.



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