Running photo and video contests on Facebook remains a surefire way to increase fan engagement and expand a brand’s social footprint.  Managing a successful contest requires that an application work seamlessly with Facebook’s API, but building applications from scratch can be expensive and time-consuming. Fortunately, a number of companies offer “off-the-shelf” promotion solutions that cost under $10,000 and can be produced in less than a month.

My agency, Renegade, recently used one such application provider, Wildfire, to launch a photo contest for one client and a video contest for another.  Because these contests ran simultaneously, we became quick experts on Wildfire’s cost-effective Promotion Builder platform. The experience also put us in position to offer these six criteria for evaluating low-cost promotion apps for Facebook.

1. Can You Customize the Experience?

Because these apps use pre-existing templates, the degree of customization can be quite limited, especially from a visual standpoint.  Wildfire’s most basic solution allows you to upload your own jpeg files into the contest masthead and customize colors and fonts, ensuring that your promotion reflects your brand.  However, if you want the look and feel of your contests to vary from promotion to promotion, you will need to pay more, since the templates for the cheapest solutions tend to be quite rigid.

2. Can You Establish Eligibility in the Entry Form?

For legal reasons, very few contests can be open to anyone from any country.  As such, Facebook contest apps should offer you the ability to establish predetermined criteria in the entry fields.  In one of our contests, entrants needed to be over 18, while the other contest was limited to U.S. residents only.  In both cases, Wildfire made it relatively easy to keep unqualified submissions out of the contest.

3. Can You Moderate All Submissions Before They Are Posted?

Another challenge with photo and video contests is that a small number of people will try to sneak in content that is inappropriate or clearly against the rules.  Contest apps should provide some form of moderation to prevent this from happening.  Wildfire offers a clean moderation system that allows you to “disqualify” or “approve” each submission before it appears on the app. 

4. Does it Have Voting Controls?

One of the great things about running contests on Facebook is the opportunity to reach a broader audience through the voting process. The idea here is that the person entering the contest will campaign for his/her entry on Facebook and other social channels.  The Wildfire app makes voting easy: users can click thumbs up/down buttons for each entry, and the app can also prevent abuse by capping per-person voting at one vote per contest or one vote per day. 

5. Does the App Include Auto-Messaging?

Communicating with entrants during your photo/video contest is essential to drive continuous engagement, but it can also be time-consuming. To simplify the process, most contest apps include automated messaging at key junctures like entry submission and voting or commenting. While Wildfire auto-generates standardized email confirmations, you can customize the text that appears in the Facebook share window thus allowing your brand to maintain its unique voice. 

6. Can You Get the Analytics You Want?

Having the right analytics is essential, not just to determine the promotion’s success after the fact but also to make important adjustments along the way.  For example, through studying your submission data, you may find out that posting reminders to enter the contest on Facebook generates more entries than sending reminders via email, or vice versa.  In addition to submission and voting data, Wildfire’s fairly extensive analytics also include demographic data on contestants and the ability to track referrals—assuming you set this up in advance.

Final Note

There are a number of other important criteria that were not included in this review, in particular how the applications handle mobile deployment. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions for mobile entry into Facebook contests due to the fact that Facebook’s current mobile experience does not support tabs and all of these contests run on tabs!  Hopefully, Facebook will resolve this shortcoming some time soon.