How to Evaluate Low-Cost Apps for Facebook Contests

Drew Neisser Founder & CEO, Renegade

Posted on September 26th 2012

How to Evaluate Low-Cost Apps for Facebook Contests

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. 


Drew Neisser

Founder & CEO, Renegade

Drew Neisser is CEO & Founder of Renegade the NYC-based social media and marketing agency that helps inspired clients cut through the nonsense to deliver genuine business growth. A frequent speaker at industry events, Drew’s been a featured expert on ABC’s Nightline and CNBC. In addition to blogging for SocialMediaToday, you can find Drew’s articles on, MediaPost and TheDrewBlog.

In the last few years, Drew and Renegade created PerkZone for Time Warner Cable Business Class, built the @TalkingBench for the NCAA, charged up the prepaid card market launching MAGIC by Magic Johnson via events & social, unleashed the AXA Gorilla on Twitter with audio tweets and a virtual retirement party, introduced young adults to Harlem Liqueur and made a splash for Davidoff Cool Water on Facebook.

Also at Renegade, Drew hatched numerous award-winning campaigns for a long-list of blue chip clients.  His ideas for HSBC, Panasonic and IBM were all recognized by BRANDWEEK as Guerrilla Marketers of the Year.   Among these is the legendary HSBC BankCab program, a restored Checker, that has been delighting HSBC customers since 2003 with free rides (and now informative tweets).  

Drew’s creative accomplishments include naming and launching the Toughbook for Panasonic and penning numerous taglines.  These include “Like money. Only Magic.” for MAGIC by Magic Johnson prepaid MasterCard, “Where Family Comes First.” for Family Circle Magazine, “Fire things up,” for Toasted Head wine and “Great tech support. Good karma.” for iYogi.

Diapered at Wells Rich Greene, trained at JWT and retrained at Chiat/Day, Drew founded Renegade in 1996 as a place where the best ideas can sprout from any corner and collaboration trumps ego.  Drew earned a BA in history from Duke University and lives in Manhattan with his wife and the agency’s mascot, a French bulldog named Pinky.  A native Californian, Drew dreams of becoming a surfer but is a long way from hanging ten.

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Posted on September 27th 2012 at 5:08AM

Interesting article. nice to know good information which is helpful.

Posted on September 27th 2012 at 2:11PM

Hi Drew,


This is great advice! Here at SnapApp, we think about these attributes everyday, we are provider of engagement applications. There are a few other factors I would add to this as well based on measurable and effective results we have helped client achieve.


1)    Is the solution provider multi-channel? Putting together an effective contest takes work. Why not leverage it in as many places as possible to maximize your return. What we have found with clients that engage on their website, Facebook, Twitter and mobile is a “viral network effect”that drives more users wherever they are choosing to interact with your brand.


2)    Do they have multiple ways to engage? Contests are a very effective way to engage users; the key is to keep users engaged and interested in different ways, whether it is a daily poll, engaging them with a personality test or daily sweepstakes perhaps? Contests tend to be a fixed time period, then what? Effective customers we have seen run engagements as a part of their marketing & promotions calendar with regular rotations of engagements.


3)    Is the provider Easy to Use? If your team is taking time learning a tool that can be leveraged as an effective marketing tool make sure that the provider is easy to use maximizing the effectiveness of your time. Can you easily make changes and update in real time is another important question to ask.


We serve brands such as Martha Stewart, The New York Times and Comcast and this is what we hear from them in terms of why they are successful with SnapApp, so I thought I would add these points! 

Thanks Ed

VP, Product Management


Posted on October 2nd 2012 at 12:01PM

Thanks for the detailed response Ed. Just out of curiosity, does SnapApp have a off-the-shelf photo contest solution that is under $10k?  If so, we'll include you in a comparison review we are working on...

Posted on October 3rd 2012 at 9:19AM
Scott Brand
Posted on September 27th 2012 at 5:39PM

What about using the photos in the form of user generated content to share with your clients?

Posted on October 2nd 2012 at 11:58AM

Yes, that is exactly why these kinds of contests can be so valuable in the long run.  One of our clients will be using many of the entries on various social channels for weeks to come.  

Posted on October 1st 2012 at 8:33PM


Can you collect the emails of voters with wildfire apps??

Posted on October 2nd 2012 at 9:26AM

This is a must have with all Contest Apps Wildfire and SnapApp both have this yes.

Scott Brand
Posted on October 2nd 2012 at 3:23PM

Do you need permission to use the photos or it is not an issue?

Posted on October 2nd 2012 at 3:29PM

Yes you do need permission but you can build that into the rules so that the minute the photo is submitted you have all usage rights.