If you manage a Facebook page for a business, there may come a time when you’d like to run a contest or giveaway on your page. These “timeline contests” consist of creating a post that encourages your followers to complete an action (i.e. commenting or liking) in order to enter to win a prize. 

Running a Facebook Timeline Contest is a great tactic for increasing your reach and engagement quickly. However, if you’d like to maximize your effort, there are a few things to keep in mind before hitting “publish” on that next contest post.

Throughout my years managing social media pages for small businesses, I’ve had the experience of running many different Facebook timeline contests. Most recently, I managed a contest that gave a new prize each day for 25 days straight! It seems that every time I run a new contest, I learn something new or I make a note on what to improve on for next time.


1. Have a Plan

The first step to managing a successful social media contest is to have a plan. I suggest writing it down so you or others can reference it. Try to include the answers to the following questions in your plan:

  • What is your Goal? Why are you running the contest in the first place? Is it to increase your page’s following? To help create buzz around a new product? Or is it to simply give back to your customers? Defining a goal will help you make all of your other decisions surrounding your Facebook timeline contest.

  • What are you giving away? Many businesses choose to give away one of their own goods and services, but the sky is the limit! Be sure to clearly state what it is you are giving away and how the winner(s) will receive the prize you’ve chosen.

  • How will people enter to win? Again, there are many options for determining how you’d like people to enter to win. Be sure to check out Facebook’s rules for running a contest when deciding how your followers can enter. You may have people like and comment to enter, or even comment with a photo. 

  • What is the Timing of the Contest? When will you run the contest, and how long will people have to enter? You may want to refer back to your goal for this one. If you are launching a new product, pair the timing of your contest with the product’s release. Or, if you are looking to increase engagement, run it during a typical time when your engagement needs a little boost.

  • How will you announce the winner? Planning how to announce and contact the winner will set you up well for running a contest. I suggest announcing the winner by editing the original giveaway post, writing a comment on the original post, and replying to the winner. You could also create a separate Facebook post announcing the winner, but just know that everyone may not see it. I also suggest private messaging the contest winner.

  • What graphics / assets do you need to create? Plan out what your post will look like. Will you post a photo of the giveaway, or make a shareable graphic? Do you want to post and link the contest on your website? Will you inform your email contacts? Make a list of all the items you’ll need to create ahead of time in order to promote the contest.

2. Follow the Rules

Did you know that Facebook and other social media platforms have guidelines for posting a contest as your status update? They change a lot, so be sure to read through the rules before deciding to run one. 

Here is a brief rundown of 3 things that are currently not allowed:

  • Tag to Win. According to Facebook’s promotion guidelines, It’s not OK to ask people tag themselves in pictures of a new product in exchange for a chance to win a prize. You may not encourage people to tag themselves in content that they are not actually depicted in.

  • Share to Win. Facebook’s promotion guidelines state that personal timelines 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” is not permitted).

  • Upload Cover Photo to Win. You may not encourage people to upload your cover photo to their personal timelines.

3. Be Overly Clear in Your Post

I can’t stress enough how important it is to make your giveaway posts clear and concise. However, let me warn you that no matter how clear you think you are, many of your fans will still be confused about the specifics of the giveaway because guess what?! Most people don’t take the time to READ!

Some things you should be sure to mention either in the caption of your post or in a separate comment on the post:

  • What is the prize?

  • How should people enter?

  • How / When will the winner be chosen?

  • How will the winner be contacted?

  • The disclaimer, “Facebook does not participate in or endorse this giveaway”

4. Beware of Impersonators

I’m upset that I even have to write this, but unfortunately, there are evil people out there who take advantage of small businesses that offer giveaways. They may create a “fake” page and try to scam your followers. They may also message and/or reply to your followers falsely claiming that they’ve won a prize.

This may not happen to you, but it’s a good idea to be prepared in case it does. You’ll want to ban any impersonators from your page and prepare a response to those who have been victims of the schemes.

5. Monitor Closely (don’t just set it and forget it)

After hitting “publish” on your timeline contest post, you may be tempted to log off for a while and just let the giveaway run. Please don’t do this! You’ll want to make sure to monitor it closely (look out for those impersonators!) and be available to answer any questions or concerns that may arise.

I hope the things I’ve learned from running Facebook timeline contests will help you as you plan your next social media giveaway. 

If you’d like social media help for your business or non-profit, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Barnyard Marketing!