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Want to get more out of your Instagram bio link? Do you wish you could share multiple links via Instagram? In this article, you’ll discover three tools that let you serve links to people who click on your Instagram bio. #1: Promote 5 Links for a Single Instagram Account Linktree is an easy-to-implement solution to […]

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– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle


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Hosting a Twitter chat lets you better engage with your followers and customers on Twitter and build community among them by using some of Twitter’s conversation-friendly features.

Twitter chats are a great way to grow your social following, generate valuable discussions and feedback, and demonstrate thought leadership. Done right, they generate lively conversations and build deep connections between participants and brands.

Like any social media tactic, before diving in it’s worth taking some time to understand the ins and outs of Twitter chats. The last thing you want is to host a Twitter chat with no chat—#tumbleweed #awkwardsilence anyone?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to hosting a successful Twitter chat for business, including some best practices and examples of brand-led discussions to check out.

The key to success? Like any dinner party, seminar, or other event that brings people together, you need to be the host with the most.

Bonus: Download the free strategy guide that reveals how Hootsuite grew our Twitter following to over 7 million users and learn how you can put the tactics to work for your business.

What is a Twitter chat?

A Twitter chat is a public discussion on Twitter around a specific hashtag (see: topic). Twitter chats are led by a designated moderator—brand or individual—who ask questions and facilitate the discussion at a predetermined time.

On the web, Twitter chats are similar to forum Q&As (e.g. a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session), which involve people visiting a forum thread at a particular time to chat to the host. In offline terms, hosting a Twitter chat is like hosting an open house for neighbors to discuss a local issue or a Meetup group for people who share a common interest.

In both cases, you set a date and time, choose a topic or theme, promote it to your audience, and then host a live, public discussion anyone can contribute to.

On Twitter, hashtags rule supreme as the easiest way to find content. Twitter chats make good use of hashtags to drive people to them and build an audience. For example, search for #HootChat on Twitter to see how our regular Twitter chats work.

We’ve rounded up a few more social marketing ones you can check out: 7 Twitter Chats Social Media Marketers Need to Follow. There are Twitter chats for almost any industry and topic you can think of. Search for more chats on Twitter or browse the Twitter chat lists at Tweet Reports and Twubs.

When looking at Twitter chats, note that they include certain recurring elements (more on that later). First, what’s in it for you, and your participants?

Benefits of hosting (and joining) a Twitter chat

Before delving into the benefits of Twitter chats, it’s worth reminding yourself what makes Twitter such an important social network for businesses by reading some of our posts covering who uses Twitter and how businesses can succeed with it:

Why host a Twitter chat?

A Twitter chat is more than just a fun event for you and your followers. From a business perspective, a Twitter chat is a golden opportunity to connect with and engage your customers in a meaningful way.

Hosting a chat shows followers that your business is open, accessible, and willing to engage with them—rather than just broadcasting content to them.

By initiating and participating in open conversations with people interested in the topics you present for discussion, you create opportunities to connect with new people, including influencers, existing and potential customers, and others in your field.

A Twitter chat can help you:

  • Build authority and establish your brand’s leadership in your area
  • Enable members of your business to be identified as influencers
  • Make new connections with relevant Twitter users
  • Share valuable and informational content with your audience
  • Boost your brand awareness through increased mentions and discussions surrounding your brand

What’s in it for participants?

People often have questions they want to ask a brand or business, but they might feel frustrated by traditional methods, such as a contact form on your website. A Twitter chat has that element of immediacy and two-way discussion that is a draw for many people.

For others, it’s a chance to display some thought leadership of their own, raise their profile, and grow their audience by participating in a public debate. And other people might see Twitter chats as another source of interesting content they can add to their feed, as well as a way to find interesting people to follow and grow their network.

That’s how Twitter can benefit your business. How can you run your own successful Twitter chat? First, let’s break out the most important things you need to know about.

The 6 key elements of every Twitter chat

Each Twitter chat incorporates these key elements:

1. A hashtag: As mentioned, your Twitter chat hashtag gives your discussion an identity and helps people find and follow it on Twitter.

2. A host: That would be you. Every Twitter chat needs a host to start things off, encourage participation, and moderate the discussion and keep it on track.

3. A topic and content: Twitter chats can either be a general discussion or about something very specific. Either way, you need to have an idea in advance of what you want to talk about, and some prepared content and talking points.

4. Questions and answers: Twitter chats usually follow a Q&A format. The host asks questions or posts discussion topics (indicated by Q1, Q2, etc.) and participants post answers (A1, A2, etc.) to make it easy to follow along.

5. A set date and time: Instead of starting Twitter chats as and when you feel like it, successful Twitter chats happen at predetermined times—often on a weekly basis in the same time-slot. Think of it like that radio show or live podcast you tune into every week at the same time.

6. Participants: The last thing you want is to end up talking to yourself, so getting the above things right is crucial, as is promoting your Twitter chat effectively. You can also invite selected participants and special guests.

With these common elements in mind, here’s your step-by-step guide to hosting a Twitter chat for business.

How to host a Twitter chat in 7 easy steps

Resist the temptation to jump straight in. You’ll need to build a plan before starting your first Twitter chat. Follow these steps to give your chats the best chance of standing out and attracting engaged participants.

1. Define your purpose

Twitter chats take effort, so you need to make sure it’s the right tactic for you.

  • How does a Twitter chat support your larger social media goals?
  • Why choose the Twitter chat format over other publishing options?
  • Does a chat support your community building goals?

The Twitter chat format can be very powerful in creating a sense of “place” on an otherwise fragmented social media platform. On the flipside, it encourages opinion-based messaging, which can be a headache if topics turn controversial.

Hosting a chat also requires commitment, and a fair bit of advance planning and work on the day. That means you need a clear vision of what you want to accomplish to have any hope of success. Here are some possible aims:

  • Grow your following
  • Understand your audience better
  • Display thought leadership
  • Boost engagement
  • Solicit feedback

2. Do your research

Take some time to get a feel for how Twitter chats work and understand the experience from a participant’s perspective. Take some notes to inform your own chats, asking yourself:

  • How many people participated?
  • What time and day did the chat take place?
  • What response did questions generate?
  • How engaging was the host?
  • How relevant was the topic?
  • How well was the chat promoted?
  • What did you get out of the chat?

Find existing chats relevant to your industry. This will have the added benefit of introducing you to participants you may want to invite to your own event. And, if you participate in other chat communities, people will be more likely to take part in yours.

3. Choose the best time to hold a Twitter chat

From sending out an email to telling a good joke, the secret to getting the best response is often timing. Twitter chats are no different. Will you host weekly chats? Monthly? Or will they be more sporadic, aligned with your marketing programs?

Whatever you choose, be consistent. Your community will find value in knowing when to tune in, and will be able to integrate your chat into their own schedules. Also consider the timezone(s) of your community and when your followers are most active on Twitter.

Our post, The Best Times to Post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, provides a few pointers. While these times apply to regular Tweet publishing, they may be helpful as a jumping off point for scheduling your chat. You can also do your own research by following or participating in some popular chats on Twitter.

Testing different times is a good idea. Where did you see the most engagement? How long was the chat? Where were the participants of your most successful chat from? You can even canvas opinion on Twitter among participants or possible participants, by asking what time would suit them best.

4. Create your Twitter chat hashtag

A Twitter chat will almost always include a designated hashtag so participants can find the chat and follow along easily. Each time you tweet or respond to a tweet within the chat, you must ensure that you include that chat’s hashtag.

The hashtag you choose will define your community. It should be simple, concise, and mean something when spoken aloud. Your hashtag can be branded (for example, SAP chose #SAPsmbchat for their small business chat and we use #Hootchat). Or it can be unbranded, so that those who don’t identify closely with your brand may feel more comfortable participating (for example, #smallbizchat).

For a thorough guide on hashtags, read our how to use hashtags guide. Here are a couple of the most important things to bear in mind:

Keep your character count low. Every letter steals valuable space from your participants’ tweets.
Stay away from abbreviations and acronyms that won’t make sense to a broader audience.

5. Choose your topics and questions

Preparation is a crucial part of being a good Twitter chat host. It’s your job to not only start the conversation, but also keep it going and make it lively.

First, you need to choose topics or themes for your chats so you can build a schedule in advance, send out invites, and promote your chats to your followers (see below). Most Twitter chats follow a Q&A format so you should also come up with five to 10 questions in advance, and try to predict answers so you have some responses prepared.

There should be a fair amount of flexibility for Twitter chats to develop on their own, but it doesn’t hurt to be as prepared as possible.

You can also create graphics or GIFs in advance to include in your chat posts, or even turn your questions into graphics to make them stand out in your followers’ feeds.

6. Promote your Twitter chat

To avoid an empty “room” when your Twitter chat day rolls around, you need to spend some time promoting your chat.

Start by scheduling promotional tweets from relevant Twitter handles at different times of the day, as well as snippets of content from previous chats if it’s relevant.

If you have nurtured relationships with your brand advocates, including employees and ambassadors, invite them to participate and help spread the word. Getting them involved prior to launch will build a feeling of exclusivity and deepen your relationship with your advocates.

You should also use your other social media networks and email to promote your chat as appropriate. You can also set up a permanent Twitter chat landing page on your website with updated dates and topics before each Twitter chat, or a schedule if you have one worked out.

Promoting your chat with content can also be a smart strategy for building an audience. For example, tweet something like, “Want to learn more about how we make our widgets? Join us on [date] for our regular Twitter chat [hashtag].”

Participating in other chats can also help when it comes to promoting your own chat. Keep a note of people you come across in these chats who would enjoy participating in your’s.

Build a list of people to invite, and send each of them a tweet invitation prior to the chat starting (an hour or so beforehand seems to work well). Make your invitations unique and personalized. Craft them in a way that makes the recipient feel as though you’re exclusively inviting them.

7. Host your Twitter chat

When Twitter chat day comes around, your first step will be to kick things off with a welcome tweet that introduces the chat and sets the tone. You can schedule this tweet in advance to make sure the chat begins at exactly the time your participants expect.

You’ll also want to welcome participants to the chat, and to ask them to introduce themselves. This helps participants get more value from the chat by making connections with each other, as well as giving the experience a more personal feel and getting people involved early.

This also gives you a chance to chat to each person individually to start building the deeper relationships you need to foster an ongoing Twitter chat community. Pay special attention to new participants so they are always made to feel welcome and involved.

After the introductions comes the questions and answers—the reason you’ve brought your audience together to chat.

Here are a few best practices to follow:

  • Questions and answers should use the Q1/A1 structure to make it easy for people to follow along
  • Ask a question every five to 10 minutes
  • Try to ask at least six questions, up to around 10 or 12
  • Tailor the number nature, and tone of your questions to your audience

To keep things moving during the Twitter chat, retweet the best answers and responses and ask follow-up questions when possible. Try to put the spotlight on your participants as the subject matter experts to create a livelier conversation.

Close your chat by thanking your participants for joining, and by setting up your next chat. This also lets you promote next week’s (or next month’s) topic.

Bonus: Download the free strategy guide that reveals how Hootsuite grew our Twitter following to over 7 million users and learn how you can put the tactics to work for your business.

How to host a Twitter chat using Hootsuite

Do Twitter chats seem like a lot of work? The good news is there are tools to make life easier, even if you are a time-strapped social media team of one.

If you’re already using Hootsuite to manage and monitor your social network activity, you can save any chat as a stream in your Hootsuite dashboard. This will let you monitor the chat easily, as well as jump into it at any time without having to remember the right hashtag or conduct a manual search. You can also create a tab just for Twitter chats, and have multiple chat streams saved within this tab.

Don’t have a Hootsuite account? Sign up today and connect your Twitter handle.

Set up tabs

Once you’re logged into Hootsuite you need to add a new tab within your Hootsuite dash, as you’re going to create a few chat-specific streams.

You can use Hootsuite to search for the hashtag of a chat you want to join. You’ll see a number of Tweets show up in the results. At the bottom of the results, there’s a button to “Save as Stream.” This will allow you to save that search, and that chat hashtag, as a stream in your tab.

You can now view the chat as it occurs in a saved stream. You can use Hootsuite tools to favorite and reply to Tweets from other participants, and use the compose dialogue box to create Tweets of your own. Just be sure to always include the hashtag for the chat.

The Hootsuite stream will automatically check for and indicate that there are new Tweets available to view. Remember that each stream has its own refresh button so you don’t have to refresh your entire screen.

Learn how to get even more out of Hootsuite with free social media training from Hootsuite Academy.

Create search streams

Once you’ve got a new tab started, you’re going to want to populate it with information streams. The first stream inside your new “Chat” tab is going to be the main chat stream. This stream will aggregate the entire conversation in one place. You’ll want to keep this stream fairly open, but it’s useful to remove retweets from it to cut down on the conversation volume a little.

For this main stream, you’ll create a search stream for the chat hashtag (in this case #Hootchat) and the syntax “-RT” to remove both old-style and new-style retweets from the conversation.

Twitter chats

To make managing the Q&A conversation format smoother, you’ll want to filter for these questions and answers in the chat stream. Add separate search streams with the following syntaxes to your Chat tab.

This search stream filters for chat questions only, allowing you to keep a pulse on how the conversation is progressing and which question is current:

#Hootchat AND (Q1 OR Q2 OR Q3 OR Q4 OR Q5 OR Q6 OR Q7 OR Q8 OR Q9 OR Q10 OR Q11 OR Q12) -RT

This one is the reverse of the question stream—it filters for answers only, showing responses so that you can easily engage with others:

#Hootchat AND (A1 OR A2 OR A3 OR A4 OR A5 OR A6 OR A7 OR A8 OR A9 OR A10 OR A11 OR A12) -RT

Depending on the needs and structure of the Twitter chat, it’s often a good idea to create streams with custom syntaxes. For example, Hootsuite’s #HootJobs chat doesn’t follow the Q1/A1 format of most chats, choosing instead a Q&A free-for-all with questions and answers sourced from the community. During this chat we used a search stream with the syntax “#HootJobs AND ?” to filter the conversation for questions only.

Test new search streams to find what works best for you.

What to do after your Twitter chat is over

After the conversation has ended, it’s time to reflect, measure, and learn.

First, decide what you want to track. Metrics like hashtag mentions, hashtag impressions, and participants can inform how well your chat resonated with the audience.

Look for increased engagement or a spike in new followers—an indicator of community growth. Social measurement and analytics tools, such as Hootsuite Insights, can help dive into the chat results and quantify your efforts. Choose metrics that you can report on consistently over the long term to identify trends in community growth or to adjust your activities to better serve your audience.

The story of your Twitter chat doesn’t end with the numbers. You can curate the best responses and conversation for later by taking screenshots. Highlight prominent community members, influencers or customers, and mine the responses for “quotable” nuggets.

These insights will help you tweak the delivery of your next chat. If the conversation was particularly interesting or memorable, consider bringing some of the best content together into a blog post.

Hosting a Twitter chat requires constant tweaking, learning, and reformatting to suit the ever-changing needs of your audience. By following the steps and tips above, you’ll be on your way to creating a Twitter chat that’s sure to engage your online audience.

Whether you’re planning to run a Twitter chat or just participate in one, Hootsuite can help. Try it free today. 

Learn More

With files from Matt Diederichs.

The post A Step-by-Step Guide to Hosting a Successful Twitter Chat appeared first on Hootsuite Social Media Management.


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Is your content on YouTube? Have you considered taking your content global? In this article, you’ll discover how to expand your reach and influence on YouTube by optimizing your videos for viewers who speak different languages. Reveal Your Ideal International Audiences You may assume that all of your YouTube videos are being viewed in English-speaking […]

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– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle


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If you’re a social media marketer, you know how difficult it can be to find the perfect image to accompany a post. We all know that photos are one of the most important components for boosting engagement, but unless you’re willing to pay for it, finding a great one can be seriously time-consuming.

That’s why we put together this handy collection of free stock photo websites. Bookmark it for quick reference.

Bonus: Download a free cheat sheet to quickly find the best image sizes for every social network and learn how you can use Hootsuite to easily add them to any post.

20 of the best sites for free stock photos

Every image site in the list below falls under Creative Commons—so you don’t need to worry about getting sued. If you’d like to learn more about how image copyright works on social media, check out our post Can I Use This Photo on Social Media? Understanding Image Copyright.

1. Gratisography

Gratisography is one of the most interesting of the free stock photo sites due to the quirky style of photographer Ryan McGuire. All of the photos are high-resolution and royalty-free—ready for your use wherever you please. The photos are organized in a number of categories—animals, nature, objects, people, urban, and whimsical—and new ones are added every week, which McGuire shares Twitter and Facebook.

2. IM Free

IM Free is a “curated collection of free web design resources, all for commercial use.” The royalty-free stock photos are organized by themes such as technology, education, and nature. On the site you’ll also find free templates, icons, button makers, and more.

3. Pixabay

Pixabay offers over 490,000 free images and videos for both personal and commercial use. All images on the site are royalty-free and covered under Creative Commons CC0, which means they can be modified and used commercially online and in print.

4. Picjumbo

With over 5,427,891 downloads since it launched in 2013, Picjumbo is a popular free resource for social media images. Users can click through the different categories of over 600 free high resolution photos, or download a pack that includes all images as well as three Photoshop mockups (in exchange for a donation of $10 or more.)

5. Unsplash

Unsplash offers 10 new photos every 10 days via an email subscription and on their website. All photos are licensed under Creative Commons Zero, “which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.” You can navigate the site by viewing the photos in their larger versions, but when browsing I usually find it easier to switch to the grid format.

6. Morguefile

Morguefile was created in 1996 and offers photographs available free for the use in creative projects. The website does ask that photographers or artists are credited when using their free stock images as they aren’t in the public domain. This is a great resource for free social media images that can be used as backgrounds for text-based graphics.

7. Stockvault

Stockvault hosts over 35,000 royalty-free images, graphics, and designs from photographers, designers, and students around the world. As long as you stay on the “Free Stock Photos” rather than the “Premium Stock Photos” tab, you have access to a huge library of photos to use on social media.

8. Negative Space

This site adds new free CC0 stock photos every week. These images are searchable by category, position, and color. Follow Negative Space on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates on when new images are added.

9. Kaboompics

KaboomPics offers free, high-quality images that are available for personal and commercial use. The images you’ll find here are bright, modern, and aesthetically pleasing. And each comes with a helpful color palette so you can plan your visuals accordingly.

10. FancyCrave

Instead of tired old stock photos, FancyCrave aims to provide “emotionally driven images that tell a story.” The easy-to-navigate website releases two new images from professional photographers everyday. When looking for free social media images, the colorful and vibrant nature of FancyCrave’s photos are especially eye-catching, which might make your social posts more engaging and shareable.

11. RawPixel

RawPixel prides itself on having the most diverse collection of stock photos around. The online resource is trying to change the face of stock photography and has started the (one) world face project with the ultimate goal of photographing people from every nation in the world. In addition to this excellent initiative, RawPixel provides a dynamic collection of free stock imagery that’s sure to fit your next campaign.

12. StockSnap

When researching resources for free social media images, I was told by more than one socially-savvy person that StockSnap was their favorite site. The free images here can be filtered by date, what’s trending, number of views or downloads, as well as the amount of keyword searches.

13. Startup Stock Photos

Startup Stock Photos is all about free stock images for “startups, bloggers, publishers, websites, designers, developers, creators, and everyone else.” The photos are especially great when you are sharing links to content such as a professional blog post—where the most fitting visual is of someone on a computer or in a casual business setting.

14. Splitshire

Web designer Daniel Nanescu created Splitshire as a collection of stunning, easy-to-browse images and video. The photos are sorted into helpful categories such as “abstract,” “still life,” and “technology.” Nanescu’s photos which previously lived “on a hard drive gathering dust” are now—for good reason—used books, magazines, and websites like The Huffington Post and CNN.

15. Life of Pix

Life of Pix is a collection of free high resolution stock images donated to the public domain by the Leeroy Advertising Agency in Montreal. With no copyright restrictions, the beautiful photos are free for personal and commercial use. If you need social media images of the moving variety, their sister site Life of Vids offers royalty-free videos, clips, and loops for you to use to your heart’s content.

16. Pexels

The free stock images on Pexels are curated from sites such as Gratisography, Unsplash, and Little Visuals. All of the photos on the site are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero, so you can use any of the photos for personal or commercial purposes. The collection currently includes over 3,800 high resolution photos, with at least 70 new ones added every week.

17. Jay Mantri

Jay Mantri’s photographs are nothing short of breathtaking. While beautiful to scroll through in their large form, if you are needing to quickly find an image for your content or social media posting, I suggest changing to the archive view for an easier browsing experience.

18. ISO Republic

ISO Republic’s main mission is “to provide high-quality images to be used by designers, developers, bloggers, marketers and social media teams.” The categories these free social media images are sorted into, include architecture, nature, people, textures, urban, and everyone’s favorite, “various”.

19. New Old Stock

New Old Stock provide the ultimate “Throwback Thursday” content with hundreds of vintage photos from public archives. The photos are fascinating and would be a compelling addition to any social media campaign. Offering hundreds of royalty-free stock photos, New Old Stock’s collection showcases a wide variety of situations and subjects.

20. Free Refe

Free Refe has a collection of images known for their clarity, quality, and diverse subject matter. Although there is an emphasis on photos showing “real life,” the images are anything but mundane. As their website states, “using great imagery helps portray emotions, increase sales, and conversions,” the free photos here are a must-bookmark resource.

Bonus: Download a free cheat sheet to quickly find the best image sizes for every social network and learn how you can use Hootsuite to easily add them to any post.

Easily find and edit free stock photos with Hootsuite

Hootsuite makes sourcing, adding, and editing photos for social media even easier. Here’s how.

Hootsuite Enhance

A free mobile app for social media images that will help you:

  • Boost productivity. Instantly crop images based on recommended sizes for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks
  • Find more content. Source relevant photos directly in the app from a large database of stock images, or the users’ library
  • Maximize engagement. Make your photos stand out with special effects, stickers, borders, and filters
  • Build brand awareness. Easily add logos and text to photos. Choose from 30 different fonts to fit your brand’s unique style.
  • Be more responsive. Share edited images directly from the Hootsuite Enhance app for effortless posting

Download it for free.

Content Library

You can now add the content storage solutions you already use —including Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox—directly to your Hootsuite dashboard. And you can access these content sources directly from the ‘Compose’ box. This means you can attach photos to your posts and publish or schedule them in fewer clicks, and it will also gives you easier access to the central space your team uses to store the most recent versions of content for social.

Adobe integration

Our integration with Adobe helps marketers easily discover, create, and distribute visual content across your social media channels.

The integration allows Hootsuite users to edit and optimize their images for each social media platform using Adobe Creative SDK. The full Adobe Stock library containing over 90 million high-quality creative assets is also available to users.

Learn more about the Hootsuite and Adobe integration here.

The quest for perfect social media images can seem daunting at first, but with these resources hopefully the task has been made as painless as possible.

Hootsuite Enhance makes it easy to find stock images that are free for commercial use. You can also crop, edit, and share them to your social networks—all from one app!

Download For Free

The post 20 Awesome and Free Stock Photo Sites for Social Media Images appeared first on Hootsuite Social Media Management.


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It’s an understatement of epic proportions to say there’s a lot of activity on Facebook every day. This biggest of the social networks has climbed to more than two billion users and 70 million Business Pages.

So, how can your brand stand out from the crowd?

According to a poll conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and ion interactive, 81 percent of content marketers say interactive content (like polls, contests, quizzes, and so on) grabs readers’ attention more effectively than static content. It’s not surprising, then, that half of content marketers are using contests as a component of their marketing strategy.

Facebook contests

An engaging Facebook contest can be an effective way to capture attention and support your business goals. In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know to run a successful Facebook contest, and take a look at some Facebook contest examples that showcase what other brands are already doing right in the Facebook contest space.

Table of contents

Facebook contest rules

Facebook contest ideas and examples

How to run a Facebook contest: Tips and best practices

Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.

Facebook contest rules

Before you start planning the specifics of your Facebook contest, it’s important to understand the Facebook contest rules. Let’s looks at some key dos and don’ts.

Facebook contest rules: The dos

1. Do comply with all applicable laws and regulations

You’re probably not surprised to learn that your Facebook contest has to be legal. But if you’ve never run a contest before, you might be surprised how complicated the rules for running a contest can be. They vary significantly between countries, and even within countries. For example, Quebec’s unique contest rules mean the province is excluded from many contests that are open to other Canadians.

Do your research to ensure that your contest abides by all relevant legal rules and regulations, including age and residency restrictions.

2. Do make it clear that YOU are offering the contest, not Facebook

Your contest language must make it clear that the contest “is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.”

Your contest terms and conditions must also make it crystal clear that Facebook is not responsible for any issues related to the contest—accepting the terms must indicate “a complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.”

By running a contest on Facebook, you also assume all risk for the contest. Facebook says, “We will not assist you in the administration of your promotion, and you agree that if you use our service to administer your promotion, you do so at your own risk.”

Facebook contest rules: The don’ts

1. Don’t run a contest on your personal Timeline

Only Business Pages can be used to run a contest. If you only have a personal Facebook profile, you’ll need to create a Business Page before launching your first contest.

2. Don’t encourage sharing the contest to gain extra entries

Facebook prohibits using “friend connections” to administer contests. That means you can’t encourage users to share your contest with their friends in order to get more entries. Facebook provides two specific examples of language that breaks this rule: “share on your Timeline to enter” and “share on your friend’s Timeline to get additional entries.”

No matter how you phrase it, asking users to share your contest is not allowed. Stick to asking them to like or comment instead, and keep in mind that these actions will also bring extra exposure, since all those likes and comments will boost your post’s popularity and win points with the Facebook algorithm. You can also ask users to post on your Page or message your Page.

3. Don’t encourage tagging to enter

Facebook does not want people tagged in photos or posts in which they do not appear—it makes things confusing for everyone. Again, Facebook is quite clear about this in their contest rules: “Tag your friends in this post to enter” is specifically prohibited.

You’ve likely seen contests that break both of those last two Facebook contest rules—but don’t follow their lead. Facebook states very clearly that both sharing and tagging are not permissible entry requirements, and the rule-breakers will get caught sooner or later.

Since Facebook regularly updates its rules, you should always check for changes before you launch a new contest. Check out the Facebook Pages Terms and scroll down to Promotions to find the specific rules that apply to contests.

Facebook contest ideas and examples

Let’s look at some Facebook contest ideas to help you decide what form of contest is the best fit for your business goals.

Like or comment to win

“Like to Win,” “Comment to Win,” and “Like and Comment to Win,” are among the easiest contests to run, and since they’re so easy to enter, they can elicit a lot of fan participation. You can simply share a photo, video, link, or even a simple status update to get your contest started. Just state the rules in your post, let your audience know what the prize is, and include a clear call to action. That’s it­—your contest is up and running.

Pura Vida Bracelets recently ran a contest in which they asked people to use the comments on a post to say which bracelet they liked best. Each comment counted as an entry to win five bracelets. They got 1,500 comments within seven hours, and more than 2,200 by the time the contest wrapped up just a couple of days later.

This contest had an added bonus for Pura Vida Bracelets. In addition to drawing attention to its brand, the contest helped to gather customer intelligence. By tallying the votes for the specific bracelets in the photos, Pura Vida could tell which bracelet was more popular, giving the company some free research about what its customers prefer.

Photo caption contest

A caption contest is another simple and effective option. Choose a compelling photo or graphic that supports your Facebook goals (building brand awareness, for example), and encourage people to post a caption idea in the comments. You can pick the winner(s) yourself, or stipulate that whichever entry gets the most Likes wins.

The Chicago Bears run an ongoing caption contest series, where they ask fans to caption photos of players for a chance to win a $25 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.

The posts regularly get 400 to 1,000 comments, making them a great way to encourage fan engagement with the team.

Knowledge-testing question or trivia contest

Asking your audience to answer a relevant question can be a good way to gauge their level of knowledge or understanding about your industry or product. This can help you learn more about the kinds of background information you need to address when talking to potential customers about your product or service offers in the future.

This approach can also compel people to seek out information on your website. You can pose a question or series of questions, then point users to your website to find the information. It’s a good way to get people to your website who may never have visited before.

Finally, a trivia question can be used to highlight the features or benefits of your product, as in this contest from Jindal Stainless, a metal supplier in India, which spotlights the benefits of a stainless steel kitchen right in the trivia question.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that the Jindall Stainless contest actually breaks the Facebook contest rules—did you spot how? It asks entrants to share the post and tag their friends to increase the odds of winning, both of which are against Facebook’s terms. So, model this contest idea, but not the execution.

User-generated content contest

User-generated content (UGC) is exactly what it sounds like: content generated by users. Offering a prize to fans who post great photos or other content not only generates engagement on your Page, but also gives you a rich supply of material to repost yourself over time.

Rocky Mountaineer runs a monthly photo contest on its Facebook Page, bringing in lots of great UGC the company can share across its social channels.

Rocky Mountaineer also posts all of the photos in a gallery on its website, giving prospective customers a glimpse of the impressive landscapes and wildlife they could spot on a Rocky Mountaineer tour.

Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.

How to run a Facebook contest: 7 Tips and best practices

1. Set goals

As with all marketing strategies, you need clear goals to ensure you design your contest to produce the desired results.

What are you hoping to get out of the promotion? How will a contest help you drive business results? You need to answers these questions before you start building your contest, since your contest strategy will differ depending on whether you’re trying to, say, increase Page Likes or bring in qualified leads for your sales team.

You could also use a contest to build brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, or boost engagement.

2. Keep things simple and make it easy to participate

In the Facebook contest examples shared above, the entry process is a maximum of two steps: Like, comment, upload a photo, or some combination of these. But you will come across contests that have complicated entry processes, with multiple steps over multiple screens, asking for far more information that most people are willing to give to a company they may not have done business with before.

eMarketer estimates that more than 80 percent of social network users log on with a mobile device, so it’s a good idea to limit the entry process to a few clicks or taps, or a couple of fields of information that are easy to complete. Don’t ask for more information than you need, as too big an ask will cause people to drop off before they complete the entry process. Be sure to test your contest entry process across all mobile devices (iPhone, Android, Windows, tablets, and so on).

Keep your rules simple, too—and easy to find—so that people can understand exactly what they can win, and how you will use any personal information they provide. If you’re asking for user-generated content, make sure to be clear about exactly what rights contest entrants give you by submitting their work, and where the content might be used.

3. Offer a prize that resonates with your audience

The kind of prize you offer—and how much it’s worth—will vary depending on your Facebook contest goals. If you’re simply trying to increase engagement, you can offer a relatively low-value prize that’s appealing to a wide audience, like the Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards used in the Chicago Bears example above.

If you’re asking people to submit content—like photos—that you can use in your social network posts or marketing materials, you may need to offer a prize with a higher value.

You’ll want to put the most thought into your prize if you’re using your contest to generate qualified leads. You’ll want a prize that’s appealing to people who are likely customers, but not all that appealing to people who would not want to do business with you. It’s not the value of the prize that’s most important, but how well it connects with the most relevant prospects for your sales team.

Don’t offer a broadly appealing prize like an iPad in a contest designed to qualify leads, as you’ll attract plenty of entrants but they will be about as qualified as random numbers from the phone book. Stick to something specifically related to your product to qualify leads.

Some contests require no prize at all—other than recognition. Photo caption contests in particular can encourage loads of engagement without a prize giveaway.

The TV show Tosh.0 has an ongoing caption “challenge” (rather than a “contest”) in which Page fans compete to come up with the best caption for a photo by posting in the comments. Even though the only prize is being named as the person with the best caption (or, as the Page puts is, “we’ll share your glory on Facebook”), these posts regularly get upward of 700 comments. (Note that the comments/captions may be NSFW.)

This twist on a contest won’t support all types of business goals, but it can be an effective way to get Page followers involved and extend the reach of your brand as their comments will get your post to appear in their friends’ Timelines.

4. Use targeting to avoid annoying existing fans

I live in Canada. I follow a lot of American companies and brands on Facebook, since many don’t have separate Pages for my country. One of my absolute pet peeves is seeing a post for a contest with a great prize that I really want to win, only to click through to the rules and learn that the contest is open to U.S. residents only. Yes, I’ll comment on the relevant post, but only to share my frustration—and I’m usually not the only one.

With Facebook’s extensive targeting options, there’s no reason for this to happen: You can geotarget your contest posts so that only people in the relevant countries see it following these instructions for posting directly to Facebook or these ones for posting via Hootsuite.

Also make sure to appropriately target any Facebook ads you use to promote your contest.

5. Leverage all your social channels

Cross-channel promotion ensures your contest reaches the broadest possible audience. You could use Twitter to provide contest updates and drive participants to Facebook. If your contest has a photo-sharing element, it’s a natural fit to cross-promote on Instagram.

At the same time, you don’t want to annoy your social audience with excessive promotion. Scheduling contest posts across channels in advance can be a great way to ensure you don’t go overboard.

6. Use paid promotion to extend your audience

If you want to draw as many eyeballs as possible to your Facebook contest, you may want to invest in some Facebook advertising. Lead ads, like the one below from SkinCeuticals can be particularly effective way to promote a contest. The lead generation form can be pre-populated with the entrant’s information, like name and email address, making entry as easy as a couple of taps.

Facebook contest
Facebook contest

7. Measure your Facebook contest performance

When your Facebook contest has wrapped up and the prize has been sent to the lucky winner, you’ll want to reflect on how things went. As in all marketing efforts, tracking your results and learning from went right—and what didn’t—is an important part of developing your strategy for the future, and tracking ROI.

Remember those goals you set before your launched your contest (you did set goals, right)? Analyze how well your results match up to your expectations. Be sure to look for unexpected successes, too. Maybe you didn’t get the number of new followers you expected, but you did significantly increase engagement from existing fans. If that’s a worthwhile result for your company, you might want to design new contents with that specific goal in mind.

As you’ve seen from the Facebook contest examples in this post, Facebook contests can take many different forms, and can produce many different results. As you think about your contest performance, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Did I choose the right type of contest?
  • Did I give my contest enough time?
  • Did I target the right audience?
  • Did the giveaway provide enough incentive?
  • Did I define a clear set of rules? Were they easy to follow?
  • What was the biggest obstacle I faced in running the contest?

If your contest was a roaring success, you’ve got a clear model you can use to run another contest in the future. If your process needs some tweaking, think about whether you should set different goals or performance targets for your next contest. Through ongoing testing and refinement, you’ll discover what your audience responds to the most, and what works best for your brand.

Manage your Facebook presence by using Hootsuite to schedule posts, share videos, engage with followers, manage ads, and measure the impact of your efforts. Try it free today.

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