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[Update: Since this post was first published, Facebook's guidelines have changed. This post reflects current guidelines as of 9/2013]
All good things must come to an end. However, when a Facebook contest is over, there’s still some work to be done. Job #1: Picking a winner! There are some important steps to take to ensure that your selection process meets Facebook guidelines and doesn’t have any of your entrants crying “foul!”
Here are 4 best practices to keep in mind when choosing a Facebook contest winner.
#1: Keep it fair
Before you announce your contest, write some rules and regulations for the promotion. Facebook has a plethora of guidelines you must follow but there is one unwritten rule that we always include in our contest regulations — we tell our users how we will select a winner.
There are a few things that we’ve learned work well:
The more transparent and specific you are with your fans the better. Whether you plan on having a panel of judges, one judge, or a tool that randomly selects a winner, explain in full detail how a winner will be selected.
Here is an example of the Winner Selection portion of the rules for a recent contest we ran:
*This is just a sample of our rules and regulations. Please check with local and state laws and a legal counsel before creating your own rules and regulations for Facebook contests.
All eligible entries received during the Submission Period will be gathered into a database at the end of the Contest Period. A winner will be selected by a panel of judges and will be based on creativity. Sponsors reserve the right to change the winner selection method at its sole discretion.
Announcement that an entrant was selected will be sent to the email address supplied on the contest entry form. Each entrant is responsible for monitoring his or her email account for notification and receipt or other communications related to this contest. The winners will be announced by October 5, 2012 on or about noon PST.
One ShortStack t-shirt
One ShortStack mug
Variety of ShortStack stickers
Winner will receive the allotted prize within 30 days of notification. An announcement that an entrant will be receiving a prize will be sent to the email address supplied on the potential prize winner’s entry form. Each entrant is responsible for monitoring his or her email account for notification and receipt or other communications related to this contest. If a potential prize winner cannot be reached by Administrator (or Sponsor) within fifteen (15) days using the contact information provided at the time of entry, that potential prize winner shall forfeit the prize. Upon the request of the Sponsor, the potential winner may be required to return an Affidavit of Eligibility, Release and Prize Acceptance Form and IRS W-9 form. If a potential winner fails to comply with these official rules, that potential winner will be disqualified.
Terms and conditions may apply. Incidental expenses and all other costs and expenses which are not specifically listed as part of a prize in these Official Rules and which may be associated with the award, acceptance, receipt and use of all or any portion of the awarded prize are solely the responsibility of the respective prize winner. ALL FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL TAXES ASSOCIATED WITH THE RECEIPT OR USE OF ANY PRIZE IS SOLELY THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE WINNER.
#2: Decide how you will select a winner
When it comes to selecting a winner, you have a few options depending on the type of promotion you’re running. If you’re running a voting contest where the person with the most votes wins, there’s not much you need to do. However, you should be aware that even if the prize isn’t especially valuable, people will try to game the system. To prevent voting fraud, we recommend setting up the contest so that you pull the top five or 10 entries with the most votes and then randomly choose the winner from that smaller pool using a “random winner picker” tool (details below).
Non-vote contests will require you to select a winner yourself and there are a few ways to go about it.
If you’re running a contest that has a long list of judging criteria you will have to sit down with your team and separate the ones that meet the criteria from those that don’t. From there your team can choose a winner, or you can use a random entry picker tool — we have such a tool in our database system to make it easy to select a winner. You can choose between one and 25 winners, filter entries, allow the same entry to be chosen more than once, and give an extra chance to win to those who have shared the contest with their friends. To learn more about ShortStack’s random entry picker tool visit here.
If you’re interested in being transparent about picking a winner, try videotaping your winner selection process. You can see an example here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoLlMTcSvEM.
We thought this was pretty cool, it gives fans a firsthand look at how you select your winner so they know they didn’t get cheated in any way.
#3: Follow Facebook guidelines about informing the winner
You are able to notify the winners directly on Facebook or outside of the network. It can be difficult to notify winners on Facebook because Facebook does not allow a business Page to tag a personal profile unless that person has commented on a Page post. We have always found it easier to collect an email address and notify winners that way. We also recommend notifying all of the entrants who didn’t win. A short email to all entrants thanking them for their entries and letting them know someone else has won shows that you’re actually looking at entries and you appreciate your fans engagement with your Facebook Page.
#4: Update your app
Just because a contest is over, doesn’t mean your app should be forgotten. It’s important to remember that a link to that contest is still out and about in the public eye so we always recommend updating your app with a note that lets your fans know that the contest has ended. If appropriate, put in the name of the winner and the contest entry so your fans and other entrants can see who won. Here is an example of a contest we ran awhile back (it has since ended): http://guessjimsmood.pgtb.me/dl5czz.
If you do decide to delete an old contest app, we recommend updating it and keeping it published at least for a few weeks after the contest.
Following these best practices will ensure that you don’t have entrants complaining about you choosing a winner unfairly. We’d love to know what has worked — and what hasn’t — for your contests. Let us know @shortstacklab.