Facebook: And the winner is…

September 1, 2013 -  By

Facebook contests are a popular way for businesses to ramp up promotions. Here’s some advice from three Green Industry companies that have tried them.

Savvy businesses understand they can use Facebook as a tool to increase their sales, showcase their products and services and build their audiences. One of the ways they do so is through contests. Here, we explore three firms that have used Facebook contests to their advantage.

(Editor’s note: Since the original article was published Facebook has updated its terms to allow businesses to run promotions without using third-party applications.)

Company: Weed Pro
Location: Sheffield Village, Ohio
Facebook contests: A coloring contest, a minor league baseball promotion and a Father’s Day contest

Weed Pro, based in Sheffield Village, Ohio, is no stranger to Facebook contests. It’s been hosting them for the past three years. Prizes have included a $75 gift card and the chance to throw the first pitch at the Lake Erie Crushers’ minor league baseball game.

In designing its promotions, Weed Pro monitors its Facebook Timeline to discover how its fans spend their time. “The key to gaining participation is to choose something people are passionate about,” says Weed Pro Director of Marketing Shaun Kanary. “We reach out to our fan base to see what kind of contest they want.”

The company’s Facebook contests also are built around promoting its new products. Take, for example, Weed Pro’s Father’s Day contest, where the contestant with the worst lawn was awarded a year-long fertilizing package.

“It’s always a goal of ours to expand our social reach with our customer base,” Kanary says. “We hope that customers will share their knowledge of our company with friends.”

Under Facebook’s guidelines, all contests must be run via a Facebook contest app, a third-party application that sits on a Facebook page and increases traffic to it. As director of marketing, Kanary manages all of Weed Pro’s contests and social media traffic. He uses the Tabsite and Shortstack apps. Tabsite includes drag-and-drop design, pre-made templates and “like gate” options. Its price is based on the scope of the competition, but there’s a $10-a-month option. The average cost to run contests using Shortstack, on the other hand, is $30 a month. The app includes drag-and-drop design, templates, widgets, share features, a mobile version, videos and a “like gate.”

According to Kanary, Weed Pro’s Facebook page gained 500 new fans after its first Facebook contest and an additional 300 after its second. Weed Pro currently has 1,067 Facebook followers.

In addition to one contest having a grand prize of throwing out the first pitch during a Lake Erie Crushers game as part of the “Summertime Fun at the Crushers” campaign, four people were chosen to compete in on-the-field contests during a game.

“The first contest was themed around our home perimeter pest spray that keeps bugs out of your home and featured a contest where the kids would throw plastic bugs into a box that had pictures of a house on it,” says Kanary. “The child that had the most bugs in the house won a $50 gift certificate to the Crushers store in the stadium.”

The second game, he said, centered on the company’s summer recovery fertilizing program. Children raced around the bases, picking up and putting on an article of the Weed Pro uniform. At the last stop, they picked up a fake bag of fertilizer and threw it into a spreader. The winner also received a gift card to the team shop.

The promotion led to 250 registrants that were both current customers and Crushers fans who were in the market for Weed Pro’s services. The contest, in combination with other marketing efforts, helped the campaign net nearly $6,000 in sales.

Company: Meyers Landscape & Nursery
Location: Columbus Pike, Ohio
Facebook contest: Ugliest lawn

Meyers Landscape & Nursery of Columbus Pike, Ohio, decided to award contestants for keeping their lawns ugly in its first Facebook contest, last May. Primarily a residential company, Meyers had 14 contestants upload and share photos of their ugly lawns to try to attract likes and comments.

The photo with the most unique interactions between users, along with the best story, was the winner of yard cleanup services valued at $2,000. This year’s winner got his ground leveled after having to dig up his land to install a gas line.

“We just came up with the idea in February because we wanted to increase our followers and stir up engagement and dialogue with customers and followers,” says Sara Lorz, Meyers marketing specialist. “The idea came from years of marketing experience.”

Lorz first qualified contestants by determining whether they were in the company’s defined geographic area. The rest of the decision power was placed on the Facebook voters.

“Our hope was that the people who entered their home would share the uploaded photo, thereby increasing our Facebook visibility,” she says.

The target audience for the contest was homeowners between the ages of 27 and 65 who lived within a 30-mile radius of Meyers headquarters. Facebook allows users to narrow their target advertising that way.

As marketing specialist, Lorz handles most of Meyers’ social media. The company conducted online research and attended webinars to get ideas for the contest and to put the concept together.

“All in all we were happy with the results, but moving forward we would more than likely tweak the way we ran Facebook contests,” she says. “For example, we would more than likely use the unique votes to narrow down the finalists to the top three-fourths and then decide on the winner internally, maybe have the personal stories weigh in a bit in the decision.”

She says Facebook rules and company goals guide her when designing the contest. As such, she uses an approved app.

“The app we used was called WooBox,” says Lorz. “I used this because it was mentioned as an app that was fairly easy to set up in one of the articles I read prior to starting the contest. I would use it again. I had no problems with it.”

Lorz says that fewer than $400 was spent on the contest, and the company has already seen a return on that investment through a few jobs that resulted from the Facebook contest.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in the engagement of our followers,” says Lorz. “We have also seen an increased number of followers. After we had this contest we went from 18 followers to 130. That’s a crazy good jump in followers.”

To promote the contest, Lorz says, the company did both “like our page” advertising, which shows up along the right hand-side of Facebook pages, and promoted posts with a contest graphic that linked to the company’s contest page on Facebook. The ads then show up on Facebook fans’ news feeds.

After the success of the ugly lawn contest, Meyers anticipates more Facebook contests to come.

“We are planning on doing more contests in the future,” says Lorz. This one stirred up a lot of talk and we saw a lot of the benefits of social media.”

Company: Dowco Enterprises
Location: Chesterfield, Mo.
Facebook contest: Pet pageant

Dowco Enterprises, which serves both residential and commercial clients, completed its second Facebook contest in June, when it crowned the winner of its pet pageant contest. Twenty-eight contestants sent in pictures of their pets in a landscape setting. Nearly all were dogs. The picture with the most likes was the winner of $200 in Dowco credit.

“It just came to me,” says Kelly Dowell, Dowco’s director of sales and marketing of how she devised the contest. “I go out and look at people’s property a lot. People always have their dogs and cats outside and they take good pictures.”

Dowco’s contest last July was a container and garden contest. Contestants submitted photos of container plantings and garden spaces. Thirteen photos of self-created containers were submitted with the same prize of $200 Dowco credit, which went to the photo with the most likes.

Dowell, who manages the company’s Facebook page herself, says she has not used an app for Dowco’s past contests. She’s organized and regulated them herself.

“I had clients submit photos to my email address,” says Dowell. “I saved them until the deadline and then posted them to the page. We want to get as many people, specifically clients, to look at our page as possible. We want to make things fun and engaging for clients.”

Dowco has seen visible gains in its Facebook following as a result of the two contests. Between June 1 and June 17, the when the pet pageant contest took place, Dowco’s Facebook page got 27 new likes. The pictures from the contests generated 208 likes and 46 comments. Dowco’s Facebook page currently has 667 likes.

“It heightens awareness and provides a warm, fuzzy feeling so when there is a need they think of us,” says Dowell. “Our main goal is to keep clients engaged with Dowco. We are also are able to use their photos for marketing purposes.”

Winners were issued the credit to their accounts through Dowco’s software program and sent a congratulatory note letting them know they had won. The increased following and fan base has inspired Dowco to plan more contests in the future, next of which will be a fall family photo contest coming later in the year.

“I think [contests are] an overall win for the company and the client, says Dowell. “We don’t normally do discounts or giveaways. Having contests gets people looking at our page and talking about our business and it gives them the opportunity to save money.”

About the Author:

Molly Bealin is a Cleveland-based contributor to Landscape Management magazine.

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