Women in the Workforce
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Tips for running a successful contest on Facebook

By Guest Blogger Donna DeClemente, Donna's Promo Talk

IStock_000009438408SmallContests are the heart of social promotions today and a great way to increase engagement from followers and fans while building brand awareness. Running contests specifically on Facebook in which you invite participants to submit a photo or video is a surefire way to get your fans to share their submission with friends and family especially if it includes a voting phase.

However managing a successful contest on Facebook requires that you use an application that works with Facebook’s API and that you follow their Promotional Guidelines. My company offers several of what you would call "off-the-shelf" Facebook applications that we customize for clients which are both cost effective and can be produced quickly. Contests also need to have Official Rules that should be posted in the app and accessible prior to anyone submitting or voting. We have created a social media contest package that combines our Facebook application offering with our contest legal expertise that includes a set of official rules. This package has enabled many of our customers to run these types of social promotions very successfully and cost-efficiently.

We have been receiving many inquires from both existing and prospective new clients that want to run contests on Facebook since it provides an opportunity to reach a broader audience through the voting process. The apps we use make voting simple since users can easily invite people to view their submission and then just click on a vote button. These apps help prevent abuse by enabling a one vote per-person per day option.

Many clients now want to open the contest up to a public voting and have the submission with the most votes win. The issue with this is that you may end up with a winner whose submission really wasn't the best quality, didn't follow the eligibility requirements or one that really doesn't depict the brand well. What we suggest instead is to include a judging element to help ensure that the grand prize goes to a submission that clearly follows the rules and does not make the promotion totally a popularity contest.

Another request we have recently been receiving is from those wanting to run a "Global" contest. There really isn't a global or international contest. Each country has it's own rules and regulations, especially as it relates to taxes on prizes and privacy laws. The eligibility requirements of what country residents can participate from needs to be stated in the rules. Most of our contests are U.S. and Canada based and require a person to be 18 or older (in some cases 21).

AlitaliaThe app we use allows you to determine which countries you want to allow access. We recently ran a photo contest for Alitalia on Facebook for their U.S. fans only. Since they have an International Facebook page we posted a message through the app that any user from outside the U.S. would only see and therefore not have access to the contest. This not only limits non-eligible people from entering, but also from voting. We recently had another contest in which a person initially entered which showed his Facebook profile from Mexico and then he submitted again using his bother's profile which was from California. However, the email address he submitted in the entry form was from Mexico, therefore he was not eligible.

The Contest app also provides the option to moderate the submissions which allows the contest manager to disqualify or approve each submission before it appears in the app gallery. If you choose the option that they go live you can always go back and disqualify the submission if the content was inappropriate or clearly didn't follow the rules. You would be surprised of what some people will submit.

Voting fraud is also becoming more and more of an issue. New technologies are being developed that attempt to abuse the system such as automatic bots and creation of multiple email address. Running reports that show the IP addresses of where the votes came can help determine if any of these were used. There are also other instances in which people don’t intend to break the rules but simply do not follow them correctly.

This recent New York Times article is about contest voting fraud in which they mention the use of voter forums also known as vote swapping or exchange sites. About.com has an online contest forum that members can go to and invite other members to vote for them. This article sites a contest that disqualified a potential winner because they were made aware that he was a member of this forum. While it's not illegal to run these online forums, if you have Official Rules that state that the sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any entrant that they determine may violate the Official Rules then the courts should uphold any dispute. That however doesn't stop it from becoming a negative PR issue.

There are a number of other important criteria that are not included in this post regarding contests and Facebook applications. Please feel free to contact me if you'd like more information as well as share your experience if you have any with running contests. Contest popularity is certainly not decreasing.

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