Good news if you have a Facebook Page for your vacation rental: Facebook has relaxed the rules around contests and promotions so they’re easier and cheaper to run.

Contests are a great way to drum up attention, and Facebook is no exception. However, until last week, there was a catch for promotions on the popular social network: to avoid running afoul of Facebook’s rules for Pages, running a contest meant paying for a third-party app.

Not anymore. “Now, promotions may be administered on Page Timelines and in apps on Facebook,” the company announced. This means you can

  • Get people to vote by Likes (a popular way to run a photo contest),
  • Encourage people to enter contests by posting on your Page’s wall or sending a message (via the Page), or
  • Ask people to enter by Liking or commenting on a post.

A lot of Pages were already running these types of contests, so chances are you’ve seen them around. The difference is that these contests are now within Facebook’s rules; in the past, these businesses risked having their Pages deleted.

"The Art of Facebook" by mkhmarketing on flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The lure of contests

If you want to try hosting a contest, have a purpose in mind. There are a few reasons why you would run a promotion:

  • To get people to Like your Page. The more people connected to your Page, the wider the reach of any information you share.

  • To encourage people to do something with your posts. The more people interact with your Page, the more likely they are to see what you post later. (As you may have noticed from your Facebook Insights, Liking your Page is no guarantee someone will see what you share.)

  • To get information you can use to promote your vacation rental. Photos, stories, reviews, feedback — there are a lot of different ways you can use information you collect via Facebook.

  • To get feedback about your vacation rental, whether you’re debating new amenities or trying to close the gap towards five-star reviews.

  • To build your mailing list (although you need an app for this — see below)*.

A few contest ideas to start with

With the barrier to entry so low, you can run almost any sort of contest you want (just make sure you’re clear on the rules, there are still some things that are not allowed. Here are a few ideas.

Vacation photo contest
For the travel industry, this one’s a perfect fit! And you don’t necessarily need to have a prize on hand and ready to drop in the mail. For example, Tourism New Zealand runs a monthly contest, using fan-submitted photos, to select the next month’s cover photo for their Page. Encourage people to submit their photos, then ask your fans to Like their favorites. The photo with the most Likes wins!

Best vacation memory contest
Referrals are great, but travel stories can be priceless. Encourage people to tell you their best memories by posting them to your Page or sending them to you as a private message. These stories aren’t just great content for your Page, they can also have an impact shared through your blog or website.

Want to know? Ask!
You don’t need to run a contest to get feedback from your guests, but if asking questions isn’t getting you the information you need you can create a promotion around a survey to give people a little more incentive.

Why contest apps aren’t likely going anywhere

If Facebook promotions are an important part of your marketing strategy, apps are still valuable and it’s unlikely that they will disappear — although some marketers think (or maybe hope) that the cost of using them will drop.

Apps are still the simplest way to

  • Manage “Like gating”, where someone has to Like your Page to access a coupon or download,
  • Collect email addresses via contest entries to grow your email marketing list,
  • Promote your contests online, with features like “share with your friends for five more entries”.

Chances are that running contests on your Facebook Page hasn’t been a top priority, so the newly relaxed rules are a good opportunity to experiment with new ways to connect with the people who’ve Liked your Page.

Have you run contests via your Facebook Page? What kind of results did you get? Tell us what happened in the comments below!