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Stop Running Giveaways on Social Media! Run Them on Your Website

ImageSocial Illusion

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and every other social media website have cultivated a craze around inflating follower numbers in the social media marketing landscape. Companies have become focused on, even obsessed with, growing their social media footprint with giveaways.

Growing your social pages is about quality though, not quantity. I have come across so many companies that are obsessed with reaching X amount of ‘likes’ on Facebook as their goal, and they will seemingly stop at nothing to reach that goal.

Why, though?

What good is it to have 5,000 people that like your page if most of them don’t care at all about your business and don’t actively share or engage in your posts?

I recently encountered a company whose page had over 100,000 likes, but their posts were only getting 4-5 likes and 1-2 comments each. It was easy to tell that they had focused on quantity over quality – perhaps even buying likes to inflate their numbers. I scrolled as far back as a year and they still only had a few interactions on every post. 100,000 likes means absolutely nothing to their business when only a few people are interacting with their page.

So, why? Why invest time, money, and resources just to have an artificially inflated number that stands out on your page? The sad truth is that some businesses feel an inflated number makes them appear larger than they really are. It’s an illusion, and it’s bad business because chasing vanity metrics is a lower-leverage activity than pursuing qualified leads. More importantly, social media should be used as a tool to bring customers to your own website, where you have full control.

You don’t own social

Focusing on growing your business, website, traffic, customer base, and anything else that you can directly manage and control should be the number one goal for your company.

Remember, you own your website; you don’t own your social media pages.

Let me repeat that: you don’t own social. 

Let that sink in a bit.

Just because you have built an audience on Facebook or Twitter, and maybe your logo and business information are on the page, does not mean that you own it. Since Facebook is the biggest player when it comes to businesses, let's focus on them.

Tara Hunt (@missrogue) definitely gets it:

Here are some stories of businesses that have had their Facebook page removed:

And of course, here are the Facebook Pages Terms. If you look all the way at the bottom, the most important part is:

"We reserve the right to reject or remove Pages for any reason. These terms are subject to change at any time."

Now you may think that this could never happen to you, but it could. Every single day I see businesses running a giveaway on Facebook that either asks for users to enter by leaving a comment, sharing a post, or liking a post, which is in direct violation of Facebook's promotion guidelines.

By setting up a page on a social media website you are agreeing to their terms, and if they feel you have violated them in anyway, your page can be removed. All of that hard work, focus, and money spent to grow your social media pages and it can be taken away from you in an instant.

I’m not saying social is bad – just that it’s a tool. It should be used and treated as a tool to help grow your business, but it should not become the hub for all things related to your business.

Think about this right now: if your Facebook or Twitter page or any other social page you have was stripped from you, how badly would your business suffer?

Would you see a huge drop in leads or sales?

Or would your business remain unchanged, maybe just a small drop in traffic?

If you’ve used social as a tool, and you’ve used it correctly, losing your social media pages should not spell disaster for your business.

You own your website

Being in full control of your business's destiny will be a major factor between success and failure. You can still succeed if you build a business on top of another infrastructure which you do not own, but there is always the chance something could go wrong, outside of your control.

When it comes to running a sweepstakes or contest for your business, you should always have a set of predetermined goals that you are trying to achieve. Whether it’s to increase your website traffic, sales, email subscribers, or your even your social profiles, you need to have some type of manageable, measurable goals.

These goals are most easily measured from within your own website, where everything is under your control.

Bring the herd to you

Facebook contests and sweepstakes created on companies' pages have increased dramatically over the past few years and there are a handful of businesses that have created apps that let you run a promotion on Facebook.

While running a contest or sweepstakes for your audience on Facebook is a smart marketing move, it does not need to be hosted on Facebook.

You’re ultimately trying to grow your business in one way or another with giveaways, but you are only hurting your business by hosting them on Facebook.

Here's why:

    • You are hosting a giveaway on a website you don’t own, for a website you do own.
    • You must follow the strict promotion guidelines of Facebook. Remember, they reserve the right to remove your page at any time, for any reason, without warning.
    • You are collecting people’s information on Facebook, to grow your business. Three months from now when you send out a marketing email to those people directing them to your website, do you think they will remember your business if they never saw your website in the first place? You'll most likely have a HUGE unsubscribe rate and several spam complaints.
    • If you use ‘like-gating’ (forcing people to like your page before they can enter a promotion) you are just reinforcing the social illusion as discussed above. While you may still be able to convert a few of those likes into customers, you need to remember that it’s about quality, not quantity. Don’t force people to like something. If they like it, they will do it on their own.

 Here is a great example of a business that is doing it right. GoPro has a created a Facebook tab for their giveaway, however, the contents of that tab link you directly to their website where the giveaway is hosted. 

They are not collecting your information on Facebook. They direct you to their website so you can enter the giveaway and then browse their products and watch their videos. They don't use 'like-gating' to force you to like their page before you can view their giveaway. This is textbook utilization of social media to bring the herd to you. Well done, GoPro!  

Social is a tool, treat it like one

So why should you avoid hosting giveaways through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or any other social network?

It’s simple: you don’t own Facebook; you don’t own Twitter; nor do you own any other social media outlet. Odds are you don’t directly sell your products or services on these social media sites, and your customers aren’t buying from you directly on social media websites.

What you do own is your own website. You sell your products or services on your own website, and your customers buy from you on your own website.

Catching on here?

Your website should be the main focus when running a giveaway, and you should be utilizing social media to bring people to your website, NOT the other way around.

There is a huge difference between leveraging social in your marketing strategy versus social BEING your marketing strategy.

Whether you use one of the many platforms available to run a giveaway or you create your own custom solution, make sure that social is somehow baked into the product.

Remember, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and many other social media websites have their own social buttons that you can embed on your giveaway page. Embedding these buttons allows you to provide users with the functionality to tweet, like, share, and pin without ever having to the leave the page.

Let me repeat that: the user can perform all of the social actions that you desire, without ever having to leave your website.

Facebook Social Buttons

Twitter Social Buttons

Pinterest Social Buttons

Google+ Social Buttons

Utilize all of these social tools in your marketing strategy, and in your giveaways, in order to build your user base right on your website. It's so simple, yet most businesses don't do it. 

Don't let social become your business's new homepage.


    • Don't get sucked into the social illusion. Focus on building a quality customer base. More likes doesn't mean more business.
    • You don't own social. You own your business. Your social pages can be stripped from you at anytime, without warning.
    • Your website should be the main focus when running a giveaway, and you should be utilizing social media to bring people to your website, NOT the other way around.
    • Leverage social in your marketing strategy. Don't let social media be your marketing strategy.

Join The Conversation

  • Feb 22 Posted 4 years ago Sjh0811

    Although there are some good points in this article, the overall article is misleading given the reader would expect this is objective advice whereas it's actually self serving selling the authors business. 

    I am in this same position, and avoid putting across self serving advice, regardless as to how much I believe it without being clear to the readers that I run a company  that happens to provide the services and methods I am promoting.

    Disappointing Social Media Today

  • Feb 14 Posted 4 years ago BrennanValenzuela

    Probably the best article I've ever read on Social Media Today.

  • Brian Ostrovsky's picture
    Feb 9 Posted 4 years ago Brian Ostrovsky

    Hi Giancarlo, I enjoyed your post and agree with most of it. At Locable we operate a variety of contests and sweepstakes with our local publishing partners (we call them our Affiliates) for local businesses as a promotional tool to connect with local customers. In some cases we operate them on Facebook and in other cases we run them using our own publishing platform on our Local Affiliate's websites.

    We monetize these activities directly and the situation dictates where we run the campaign - sweepstakes generally on FB for ease of entry while contests generally on our sites to drive traffic and engagement on, as you say, our properties. As media properties we want quality but simply growing the reach has value as well.

    The one thing I don't particularly care for about GoPro's approach is that the current value of a tab on a page is quite low - something like 90+% of all engagement happens on the newsfeed and not the page so simply being on the page adds little in the way of value if they leave FB to participate. There may be some edgerank value in sharing a link to a page tab vs. an external site but it's likely minimal. Is there something I'm missing in this example?

  • Feb 1 Posted 4 years ago lakakosearch

    wow! this should be light bulb moment for businesses large and small

    Entice users on Facebook (like GoPro did) but truly engage them on your own website. Then all the data you collect will be your own. And shouldn't potential customers be more familiar with your website than your social media pages? 

  • Feb 1 Posted 4 years ago Ronald Repking

    Great write up.  This article is so right on.  The only thing I would change is the term 'your website' to 'your community'.  Website implies static, no interaction.  Bring them to your community where you can engage with them on your own turf and use social networks as channels to feed them there just as you say. 

  • massarogi's picture
    Feb 1 Posted 4 years ago massarogi

    Entirely agree Janet, that is why I included GoPro's giveaway as an example, they are utilizing Facebook correctly by driving people to their site, instead of forcing people to perform actions on Facebook.

  • jfouts's picture
    Feb 1 Posted 4 years ago jfouts

    Excellent post! We tell all our clients this, it just makes more sense. Besides, working within Facebook's restrictions, hiding things on a tab and hoping they'll be found is a real buzz kill. Thanks Giancarlo.

  • massarogi's picture
    Feb 1 Posted 4 years ago massarogi

    Hi Kent! I agree, and that is a great way to look at it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kent Ong's picture
    Feb 1 Posted 4 years ago Kent Ong

    Hi GIancaro, I agree with you. Our websites are your command centre, while FB, Twitter, Linkedin are your troops. No matter what, draw them back to our websites.

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