Anonymous PR: How to avoid Facebook competition hell

An anonymous PR’s field guide to Facebook competitions which, if not navigated correctly, are a nightmare and a monumental waste of time.

Having seen @Charloot’s call out on Twitter for contributor articles for this blog, I immediately signed up in earnest.

I have a lot to say on the subject of Facebook competitions. The hell I am referencing in the title is a real place – I have been there. Facebook competitions should be a low-cost, low effort method of building a relevant fan base that is then ripe for social engagement. Follow the steps and you may just get those 250 entries and 5000 likes you’re after, which will make you feel like this.

This post is particularly relevant to marketing and PR pros who are delivering to clients, and it is you who I sincerely warn: wing it at your peril; this, this and this await those who do not follow my mostly jaded but somewhat sage advice.

Here’s how the ideal Facebook competition should work.

Know what you are talking about

If you are new to Facebook competitions, educate yourself immediately.

If you can answer these questions, you are ready:

-       What is a Like Gate? Why do I need one?

-       Do we want a pre-fab app or should we make one?

-       Do we need web app functionality?

-       Do we need a designer and developer?

-       What is an iFrame?

-       What are Facebook’s rules about promotion?

-       Should we host the competition on an internal server or should we host externally?

Whatever you decide, make sure that you (and more importantly your client) understand the limits of your budget, the skill limits of your designer/developer and that you agree a price and deadline in your initial negotiations.

PRs, please believe me when I tell you that communicating the above with your client is paramount to your sanity.

Decide if a competition is right for the brand.

Do you have a target audience that: a) exists b) uses Facebook and c) can benefit from engagement?

If the answer is yes to all three of those, then yes. A Facebook competition is probably right for you.

Decide on some objectives: number of likes, number of entrants, number of tweets/wall posts. You will need objectives later on when you are measuring the success of your campaign.

If you are a PRO, ask your client these questions too. Give all the information, your research and recommendations with plenty of context, and form the questions so that they require yes or no answers.

Choose a format that suits your client or brand

Will it be a photo competition?  An interactive game? Joke?  Or my personal favourite, create your own meme?

Whatever it is, consider your audience and whether entrants will be bothered to enter. A prize worth a few hundred pounds or dollars doesn’t always cut it. Make sure it’s easy enough for even an iPad-wielding small child to enter on Facebook – both mobile and desktop versions.


Choose a designer and developer that can meet your agreed requirements and deadline. Create a detailed brief with examples of what you are looking for, as well as supplying any relevant branding material and high res logos and images they will need when designing.

Ensure the quote includes at least two sets of revisions and reiterate this to the client, asking for all feedback, in the first round of revisions. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I have had to endure eight rounds of client revisions in the past.

Once your competition is built, tested and approved, you are ready to launch.


Soft launch your competition first. That is, have some audience members lined up who will feedback about the entry process and alert you to any problems early on. That way, your official launch will go off with fewer hitches.


Smatter the competition everywhere. Plaster it all over Twitter and on Facebook (following the rules, of course), Instagram, Pinterest, competition forums and blogs.

If nothing is working, find room in the budget to hire a communications/media student or graduate for a few hours to do the work for you. Pay them a base hourly rate and then offer commission for every 20 entries they generate.

Close and evaluate

Close the competition on the deadline, announce the winner, and send off the prize. Try to make sure you have a photo of the prize handover to put on Facebook and Twitter, too.

In evaluating the competition, measure the results against the objectives. If you exceeded them, well done! If you didn’t, can you explain why?

If you achieved lots of likes, but not entries, then fear not! Likes are the most important part. They give your brand the capacity to engage with the target audience in future.

Lots of entrants but no likes? You didn’t have a Like Gate, pal.

No entrants and no likes? It happens. See steps two, three, five and six.

With these steps and some meticulous client communication, you should have a successful competition and a happy client.

Finally, if it all goes down the porcelain throne anyway and you find yourself in Facebook hell, commiserate and amuse yourself by checking out this website – it’ll make you feel better, promise.

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