Best social contest tool? Facebook Page Promotions vs 3rd-party apps

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Facebook recently amended its contest rules, but there isn't a cut-and-dry answer about best practice for marketers' upcoming promotions.

Facebook updated its Promotions Page Terms and owners who wish to run a Promotion on the social network are no longer required to use a third-party application. The news elicited a pretty positive response from users, and it’s no surprise because third-party apps usually cost extra money. Heavily customized promotional landing pages can cost up to thousands of dollars!

As a member of Brafton’s Social Media Marketing team, I was against Facebook’s move to ease the once fairly stringent promotion policies. I’d come to know – and even sort of love – the third-party apps. They were the reason some of my clients (many that were really niche and belonged to industries that you wouldn’t expect to thrive on Facebook) gained loads of new fans and upped their posts’ engagement.

After delving deeper into the new parameters, I realized that Timeline-hosted contests deserved love, too. Each company has different social media goals, so it makes sense that Facebook offers promotions with flexible rules.

The new Facebook contests: Cost-cutting and time-saving?

Allowing Page mangers to host contests on Timelines could be good news for Page Managers tackling their first promotions because it cuts the time it takes to get familiar with a new app. Otherwise, social media managers would need to learn a program, add visuals and context to the contest landing page, including:

  • Legal jargon for the official rules
  • Graphic designs
  • Additional information for readers

Once that’s done managers still need to link up the app to the Facebook page.

But third-party apps have customizable charms…

All that back-end work may sound tedious and time-consuming, but the truth is that developers and other industry-folk have developed their products since the early days of Facebook Promotions. And I personally think most apps have become more user-friendly! Sharing is encouraged with apps, and depending on the terms, the more often users pass the promotion onto others, the more “bonus” entries they gain.

The third-party apps I’ve worked with also offer customization. You can add Like gates so Facebook users are forced to like your Page before they can even enter your promotion. Sprinklr’s platform offers full customization, including buttons so users can follow your other social media networks, or even ‘pin’ the contest landing page on Pinterest – great for cross-promoting!

Here’s an example of what a Sprinklr contest looks like. Beauty Bridge is a beauty and skin products company that we’ve helped to create successful social marketing campaigns.

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That said, with Facebook’s Timeline promotions, all you need to do is post an image and some text to explain the rules. ‘Highlight’ the post, and it’ll span the whole page so no one will be able to miss it.

How new Facebook contests (will likely) work

As always, Promotions cannot appear on personal Timelines, but they can be administered on Page Timelines and via the old school app method. Here’s how Pages can collect entries:

  • By requiring users to publish text or a photo directly on the Page’s Timeline.
  • By requiring users to comment or like a post
  • By requiring users to message the Page
  • By utilizing Likes as a voting system

Page admins can’t:

  • Allow anyone who simply likes their Page to enter
  • Require users to share their Page post or photo to enter
  • Require users to post on their own Timelines or friends’ Timelines to enter
  • Require users to tag themselves in a photo to enter

The “sharing” restriction could put Page owners at a disadvantage because certain apps allow users to gain extra entries by personally promoting contests on social media sites. Beyond that, I don’t think Timeline promotions will be at a huge disadvantage.

Does simplicity sacrifice marketers’ data?

Promotions hosted through regular Facebook posts only offer Facebook’s proprietary analytics. This can simplify metrics, as Page admins will just need to check their Insights to determine post popularity.

Contest data is crucial because it can help measure success and provide insight when setting goals for future promotions.

Still, the beauty of a third-party app is that many have built-in analytics to track metrics like visits, entries and overall performance throughout the promotion. That data is crucial because it can help measure success and provide insight when setting goals for future promotions.

Take Wildfire for example. I hosted one client’s sweepstakes on Wildfire’s custom Facebook app, and we didn’t have to spend any advertising dollars aside from Wilfire’s hosting fee. We simply cross-promoted the landing page on social media and free sweepstakes directories. After analyzing the data, we determined that the first sweepstakes was a success (we even surpassed the expected number of entries) and measured which directories sent the most entrants. These figures inspired a second promotion. 

To use Facebook Pages for contests or not to use Facebook Pages?

I’ve broken down the pros and cons for Facebook’s new regulations so you can figure out what’s better for your own Page:

Pros of new regulations

You don’t need to pay for a third-party app

Easy to launch becuase just need text, an image and simple terms for everyone to follow

Seamless Timeline experience – no need to click around to find the app

Options to promots the Post for added visibility(will cost extra)

Fans don’t need to provide their email addresses or other personal information

Cons of new regulations

Page’s inbox will become clogged with fans’ entries/messages, making it difficult to search through to find customer-service related messages

Manual counting and selecting winners, making it harder to contact the winner

Harder to build fan base because users can’t simply ‘like’ the page to win or share for valid entries

Can’t collect email addresses to grow newsletter database

Cheaters can create fake accounts or buy their way to gain entries

There are numerous factors to consider when launching a new Promotion, which is why you need to plan! After getting a feel for how Page Promotions work with and without third-party apps, your social media promotion goals are the most important considerations.

No matter what you choose, ask yourself these questions when mapping out a contest:
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What content will you use to promote and explain the promotion?
  • How will you spread the word about your contest?
  • What’s the follow-up content after the contest ends?

Regardless of which route you choose, your ROI will be stronger when your campaigns are created around specific business goals. In some cases that means exploring new solutions and other times, it’s best to stick with tried-and-true approaches.

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Kristen FritzKristen is a Senior Social Media Manager at Brafton and Florida native. Her favorite things are traveling, listening to Jay Z, and reading about the latest trends in consumer marketing and advertising.
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