The new school year is upon us. And that means your social media team is busy creating a content calendar for the semester, and thinking up fun new ways to engage a brand new class of students on Facebook, right? “What about some sort of contest?” they say. Great idea. But before you get too carried away, here are three things to know before running your Facebook contest.

1) Facebook has crazy weird rules about contests.

In terms of pure viral promotion, it’s hard to beat running your contest on Facebook. However, Facebook has a set of very intricate rules regarding promotions/contests. In short, you can’t have them. At least, on your fan page itself. Any promotion or contest on Facebook must be administered through an app on your fan page.

That means no “First one to guess where this picture was taken on campus wins…” contest posts. You can lose your page for this. It’s just not worth the risk. If you’re going to run a contest, it has to be through an app. Many schools choose a contest application provider like Wildfire to make sure they’re following Facebook’s guidelines and also to avoid any programming challenges involved in creating your own app.

2) You’re going to be disappointed in the turnout.

I have seen big schools create thoughtful and exciting contests, offer great prizes – and still have simply awful turnout. You know why? Because we keep asking for video entries. And video contests offer the highest barrier to entry due to the effort required to create them. I know we think most kids can easily create videos using their computers, or even their phones. That’s true. There’s not much of a technology barrier anymore. But there is a time barrier. There is a lazy barrier.

So the broader you can be with your entry requirements, the higher your participation rate is going to be. For example, “Submit a video, a photo or a paragraph with your answer to the following question, “____?”

3) By making 1 winner happy, you will inevitably disappoint the rest.

Let’s say you do everything right. You follow all of Facebook’s rules. You offer a great prize. You keep the barrier to entry low, and get 100 awesome responses. You’re going to end up disappointing 99 of them.

For people who love being a part of your school, and put time and effort into creating an entry, these are the very last people in the world you want to disappoint or leave any bad feelings with. Does it have to be 1 prize? Can you “share the joy” a little more? After all, it’s a contest. It’s supposed to be fun.

About the Author
Eric Olsen is the Web Content Manager for Lewis University, a mid-sized Catholic and Lasallian University near Chicago, IL. Follow Eric on Twitter.


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