Contests Can Create Real Engagement – A Personal Story


Are you looking to get more people engaged and excited about your brand? Aren’t we all… Over the past 6 months I’ve been running an online contest for one of my clients. My client’s goal was to generate more activity from their Facebook community. They know that if they can get their Facebook community more engaged in their brand they can generate more sales for their products and services.

Over the past 6 months we have blown away all expectations for the amount of Facebook activity the client was hoping for. Knowing that many of our readers have the same goal as my client, I wanted to share this personal story with you. In this article we will review our marketing strategy, discuss the day-to-day tasks required, and finally share the results. By the end of this case study you should have everything you need to do this too!

Marketing Strategy for Generating Online Engagement

With a goal of generating more online activity from my client’s Facebook community I went to work developing a sound marketing strategy that could work to achieve their goal. Here are the steps I followed:

  • Channel Analysis – What are the best marketing channels to leverage for this program?
  • Engagement – What type of activity do I want to see from the audience?
  • Offer – Will an offer be needed to encourage the sort of activity that I’m looking to achieve?

After running through all of the steps above, my strategy was beginning to form. I would use Facebook, blogging, and Twitter to reach my audience, communicate my message, and encourage engagement in my client’s brand. An online contest with a monthly prize drawing would serve as the strategy that I’d use to achieve my client’s goals.

Contest Planning

Any time you decide to implement a new marketing strategy you should take some time to plan how you will execute your new program. Here are a few questions I asked myself before implementing this new contest strategy:

  • How will I explain the contest to my audience?
  • How often will I promote the contest?
  • What will my call-to-action be?
  • What will I offer the winner? Will the winner change monthly?
  • How will I select/notify the winner?
  • How will I fulfill the offer?

By asking yourself these questions prior to launching your contest you’re more likely to have success. Nobody wants to participate in a poorly thought out contest.

Running an Online Contest

facebook promotion

Once you’ve taken time to plan out how to execute your contest, it’s time to implement it. Here’s what we did:

  • We used our client’s blog to explain the rules for the overall contest and each new monthly contest. We published a new article at the beginning of each month explaining the rules for the monthly contest and the prize to be awarded.
  • We decided to run the contest through Facebook since our goal was to generate more activity from my client’s Facebook community. We had our Facebook fans participate by leaving comments on our Wall Posts.
  • We used other tools like Twitter, e-Newsletters, and in-store promotional materials to drive traffic to the contest.
  • We came up with new contest activities each week (falling within the theme of the overall monthly contest) in order to keep engagement up throughout the month. We didn’t want someone to participate at the beginning of the month but then have no reason to keep participating throughout the month. We put it in our rules that you had to participate in one activity each week to be entered into the drawing for the prize.

It took some time to get our process fully worked out, but after the first two month’s of running the contest everything was running like a well-oiled machine. Marketing a monthly contest definitely takes some time, but positive results make it worth it. Be sure to keep your contest ideas fun, and your weekly tasks simple. You don’t want to scare people off with tasks that are too difficult. Once the month is over its time to select a winner.

Contest Winner Selection, Notification, and Fulfillment

At the end of each monthly contest we entered everyone who participated in each of the weekly tasks into a drawing. We then selected 1 grand prize winner and 2 consolation prize winners. If you have a lot of people participating in your contest it’s important to have consolation prizes so that more than 1 person can win something.

Here’s how we go about notifying the winners and fulfilling their prizes:

  • Since the contest runs through Facebook, we use Facebook to notify winners. We leave a Wall Post on our client’s Facebook page announcing the winner and we send each winner a Facebook message.
  • We include a little blurb about the winner in the next contests’ blog article
  • Depending on the prize and location of the winner, we usually collect their mailing address via a Google Form that we send to all winners and then mail them their prize.
  • We also ask our winners for a picture of them holding up the prize so that we can use it in promoting future contests. If the person lives locally we may actually ask them to meet up for a picture and to give them their prize on the spot.

Contest Results

how to online contest

So far the contest that we set up for our client has been an overwhelming success. The level of engagement by my client’s Facebook community has far exceeded our expectations. Here are some of the data points that we are tracking:

  • Average Participation Rate: 10% of fans participate in weekly contests
  • Facebook Business Page Growth Rate: Growing page ‘LIKES’ by 5-7% per month
  • Facebook Page Impressions: Up 35% since starting the contest

Overall the number of “LIKES” are growing steadily each month, which means we are attracting new contest participants/Facebook community members on behalf of my client. Contest participation is very high compared with an industry average of a few percent. The amount of people seeing our message has skyrocketed since starting these contests. Our labor is starting to pay off as our contest is seeing increasing traffic from Facebook to their website and online sales are increasing.

Should I Run an Online Contest?

Depending on your goals I would recommend that the majority of website owners at least consider running an online contest. Contests can be a great way to engage your online community, as well as, get them to spread your message to their friends. Follow the steps that we laid out in this article and you’re sure to have success.

Watch out! 1stwebdesigner will be launching contests for designers this February!



  1. Sarah Bauer

    Encouraging case study, Ryan! I think much of your success is owed to your commitment to a strategy and participant goals that were realistic and manageable via Facebook. This provides an excellent example for clients looking to increase their Facebook presence and encourage clients to interact with the brand online.

  2. Gosh

    Hi, Facebook do not allow contest manager to notify winners and leave a Wall Post on your client’s Facebook page announcing the winner or send each winner a Facebook message. Have you Read the Facebook Contest and promotion Policy?

  3. Ralf

    Great results, thanks for sharing the strategy.
    You wrote: •We came up with new contest activities each week.
    It would be helpful to get some actual examples for contest activities.

  4. Alex

    I also wanna point out that raffles via facebook-activities (liking/sharing/commenting) are not compliant to the guidelines. Wanted to start spreading pictures through that technique too, but the guidelines kept me from it. I really wanna know the consequences for breaking those policies. I guess they’re only in place to keep fb out of legal issues in case smth weird happens. Does someone have any experience with it?