One of the first questions I ask potential Community Managers when I’m interviewing is: “Can you do a ‘like and share to win’ contest on Facebook?” It’s a useful way to test their knowledge of running commercial competitions. Guess I’ll now be scrapping this question, as Facebook relaxed its competition rules last week.
For years Facebook had insisted brands weren’t allowed to run competitions on their wall by simply asking people to ‘like’, write a comment or share it. It said that a Facebook competition had to be administered by a third-party app. Until last week.
Now Facebook is saying that brand owners can run competitions on both timelines and in third-party apps as follows:
- Collect entries by having users post on the Page or comment/like a Page post
- Collect entries by having users message the Page
- Use likes as a voting mechanism
But you can’t ask people to tag themselves in pictures of a new product in exchange for a chance to win a prize.
On the surface, this seems a great move by Facebook. It claims to have done this because “we want to make it easier for businesses of all sizes to create and administer promotions on Facebook, and to align our policies to better meet the needs of marketers”. And to be fair, I’ve seen plenty of Pages running competitions without an app.
We want to make it easier for businesses to create and administer promotions on Facebook.
But in reality, running competitions like this does little for brand owners or Community Managers. It waters down the effectiveness of competitions by keeping it on the Page, and unlike third-party apps, it means that the marketers and sales teams running these promotions are unable to collect the all-important customer data to help them understand the effectiveness and the targeting of their campaigns.
It also begs the question as to whether it’s a bid to encourage brands to pay for more advertising.
How do Facebook competitions work?
Let’s take an example. You want to offer a free product to your loyal fans. All you need to say is ‘like this post to be in with a chance to win product X’. You could also ask your fans to tell you why they deserve to win product X to add an element of skill. You kick off the competition and by its completion, you’ve notched up more than 1000 likes and 1500 comments.
What next? How do you pick your winner? Use your mouse and scroll through the lovely long list of ‘likes’. Third party tools may help with scrolling through the comments as you can set up a separate column for them. But there’s no tool to help you review the ‘likes’ alongside the user’s profile in one easily digestible method.
And if you have taken Facebook’s advice and heavily promoted the competition, you’ll have to review even more ‘likes’ and comments to choose your winner. More importantly, how do you know that the winner is not just a fair-weather fan, rather than the loyal, engaged fan you want to reward?
Using third-party apps
Third party apps do two key things: they let brands and organisations collect useful data about competition participants. And they show details about the entrants in an easily digestible manner. But what happens if your winner deletes the entry, changes the comment or even writes negative comments against other entries? How are Community Managers expected to track this when dealing with thousands of competition entries?
Running a competition based on ‘likes’ will have a massive downside. ‘Likes’ might boost the number of entries but not your loyal fans. And remember that fans don’t even need to like your page, so anyone can enter a competition run through your Page. Community Managers will have to be on the lookout for potential manipulations if they don’t use a third-party app.
Social media has allowed users, fans, anyone to be more vocal in their opinions. And if fans see that you weren’t able to pick the best winner from a competition, they are going to post negative messages on your Page. Yes, you’ve got the engagement levels up but not the right sort of engagement!
Running competitions is about transparency and picking either random winners or judging an expert response, but how can you do this without the correct mechanism in place?
Showing your Ts&Cs
Facebook also appears to have ignored the fact that many countries – and legal departments – require the publication of competition terms and conditions. If you are running it via your news feed, how do you include the rules? You could include it in the post(!) or provide a link to the rules on your website but some companies won’t bother.
Some sectors, such as the financial services sector, are heavily regulated and require participants to confirm that they’ve seen all the rules and regulations, so what does it mean for these industries?
The cost of running a Facebook competition
For small businesses and brands looking to increase fan engagement, this relaxation helps to reduce the cost of running a competition. But how will they administer their competition and is it feasible to do this without an app?
Yes, you can mention the winner on your Page and ask them to contact you to claim their prize but what if they never look at your page – as we know many fans don’t! And a lot of brands have turned off private messages too, so that may not be an option either.
Facebook’s about face on competition rules was definitely a surprise move but with the number of Pages running competitions this way, you can see why the platform-owner no longer wants to police them.
This relaxation could see a massive increase in competitions leading to an over-crowded news feed.
But this relaxation could see a massive increase in competitions from less well-known brands leading to an over-crowded news feed for users.
Community Managers need to work with their marketing teams to plan tactics and methods to get the required responses from the target audience otherwise they’ll be sifting through entries from time-wasters and freebie hunters. And do you need a third-party app to achieve this?
My answer is ‘yes’. I’d always prefer to use a third-party app, as they’re cost-effective to run and manage. Community Managers should be spending time with their fans to see what they want to talk about, writing great content and engaging with their fans, rather than scrolling through loads of likes and comments to pick a winner. And marketers will also want to collect and analyse the post-competition data to measure the success of their campaign. I think Facebook may have missed a trick here.