“Like this post if you want to win a new iPod Touch.” Really. Go ahead. You won’t win one, because I am not actually running a contest here, but you can still like the post.
I have wanted to write this post for a while and I just couldn’t wait any longer. I don’t like Facebook contests. There. I said it. I don’t think Facebook contests are the golden ticket so many think they are. Like many things, I think there is a time and a place for a contest on Facebook (and I have certainly entered my share). For example, if a brand is launching a new product and trying to grow their mailing list or get new sign-ups, launching a Fan-gated/Like-gated contest (requires you to like the page to enter the contest) can make a lot of sense.
But for many brands and news organizations, which is what I have the most experience with, I think we need to take a step back and look at the long-held belief that getting more fans is the ultimate goal.
Early in the social media days, when everyone, and I mean everyone, was creating a Facebook fan page, we all tried a variety of things to get more fans. Contests were one tool in our toolbox. And contests do work. You generally will increase your page’s fans if you run a contest. And in the early days, all everyone wanted was more fans. And even as the social media ‘experts’ started to acknowledge that size isn’t everything, executives would still drop by the desk of their social media manager and say “get more fans.”
As this was going on, Facebook was also changing. If you are not familiar with its EdgeRank and the algorithm that determines what posts are visible to your fans, you should get acquainted with it. There is a good explainer here. Many blog posts and articles have recently circulated claiming that only approximately 10-12% of your fans even see your posts.
There is a lot of secrecy about what is actually in the EdgeRank secret sauce, but there’s one thing I know: the more engaging your content is, the higher the rank. The higher the rank, the more fans get to see it. So, you spent all this time and energy trying to get more fans. Congratulations, you now have 3000, but only 289 of them actually see your posts.
If you were less focused on getting more fans and more focused on creating engaging posts, you’d reap the rewards of higher numbers all around. That is why I believe a smaller number of very engaged fans are much more valuable than a large number of fans who are trying to win an iPad and have no interest in any kind of regular dialogue with you or your content.
So this brings me back to contests. I think running a contest or promotion with the sole intent of gaining new fans actually hurts you. What it does is give you a higher percentage of your fans that are not engaged with your content. Again, I must present the caveat that I don’t know exactly how the EdgeRank algorithm works (not many people do, even within Facebook).
After running a contest and gaining all of these new fans, I believe Facebook would determine that even a smaller percentage of your fans are engaging with the content and therefore classify your content as less interesting to your fans and so they lower your EdgeRank (this is all automated — no one at Facebook is looking at your posts to decide whether they are interesting). When your rank is dropped, even fewer of your overall fans will see your posts. In this case, the contest actually hurt your page.
Facebook is about a social conversation. Your goal in managing a page should be to make posts that will have the most discussion and dialogue. You want to have a conversation with your fans. That is why you are there. I don’t think you need to bribe people to be your ‘friend.’ If you provide an amazing experience, they will want to be your friend, will want to tell their friends about you and will want to share your posts (which, believe it or not, lead to more real fans in the long run).
So as I said at the start of this post, Like this post if you, well, if you Like this post. Thanks!
Like doormat cover image courtesy of perpetualkids.com