Case Study: Even the Experts Have Things to Learn When Building Custom Facebook Apps

Hundreds of companies are running contests on their Facebook Page every day. Some are successful and some not so much. Custom app builder, ShortStack, recently ran their most successful Facebook contest but there were still mistakes made and lessons learned along the way. This case study provides a transparent look of the things that were done right and not so right by the company so other Facebook Page owners can learn from their experience.

Convincing 50,000 people around the globe to Like your Facebook Page is no small feat. For the ShortStack crew, hitting this weighty milestone was worthy of some special attention. To spur the activity that would make their Likes shoot to 50,000 sooner rather than later, the ShortStack team decided a contest was in order.  Their Mistress of Propoganda Sara, and Lady of Aesthetics, Lea, teamed up to design the 50,000 Fans Countdown app that, much to their surprise, will go down in the history books as ShortStack’s most successful contest to date.

Before getting into the details about what made this contest so successful, here’s the gist of the contest and the nitty gritty of how it worked.

The Gist

Entrants had to guess what day ShortStack’s Facebook Page would hit 50,000 Likes. The person whose guess was closest would win what was described as, “sweet swag” (which could have meant just about anything!).

The Nitty Gritty

The first step in setting up this contest was trying to figure out a window of the dates the Facebook Page was most likely to hit 50,000 Likes. Sara looked at how many Likes the Page was averaging per day and from there projected the milestone day. She then carved out a 10 day window around that day for contest entrants to choose from.

The next step was to set up the app. Lea tried to keep it as simple as possible but used all the tricks there are to increase Likes. This included Fan-gating the app as well as promoting the Share feature by noting, “The more you share this contest, the quicker the count goes up.” Entry was as simple as could be: she only required the entrant enter minimal info and, of course, choose a date.

The Results

The 50,000 Fans Countdown collected 237 entries, many more than any other contest the company has done in the past (and especially significant considering that they only promoted the app via Facebook Posts, reaching about 5,100 fans). So why was this app so successful? It was simple! Unlike past contests, the audience that the app appealed to, and the criteria required to participate, opened up entry to the masses. Previously, ShortStack’s contests required that users submit some sort of crafty video or example of an app they had created.  They required more time and effort from the entrant, and also limited the appeal to more technically savvy users. By keeping the entry requirements to that of a name, email address and a guess, the barriers to entry were kept low, and the contest received more entries as a result.

ShortStack discovered that nothing draws a crowd like a crowd, both in real life and on Facebook. With the algorithm known as EdgeRank, Facebook can govern who sees what in the news feed. Bottom line: the more shares, entries, and activity surrounding your contest, the better the EdgeRank and the more exposure a contest will receive.

Challenges and Changes

Even Julia Child burned the boeuf bourguignon from time to time. Although ShortStack is pretty much the Facebook app-making equivalent to what Julia Child was to French cooking, there are things even they learned from making this app, and things they will do differently in the future.

“One of the biggest challenges in making this app was the moving target of hitting the 50,000 Likes and the unpredictability of when it would happen,” said Sara. Upon launching this contest, the Likes shot up by 900 right out of the gate. Sara was worried the Facebook Page would hit the 50,000 before the 10 day window. Then, without rhyme or reason, the Likes became stagnant followed by a slight decrease. It was a head-scratcher for sure, but more important, posed the question “What do we do if we don’t hit 50,000 within the 10 day window? Do we award the person with the closest guess, or nobody?”

The promotion for this contest was all done through Facebook. In hindsight, ShortStack should have included a blurb about it in an email sent out to their users. They also should have promoted the sweet swag more and specified what is actually was. They  didn’t say what the prize was going to be because they had no idea how many people would enter. What if they had 1000 entries and they all got it right? Believe it or not, people go nuts over small prizes like mugs and t-shirts; the shipping alone would have been very expensive!

If you’re interested in replicating this contest for your Facebook Fan milestones, here’s some advice learned from ShortStack:

1. Keep it simple. The simpler the contest, the more entries you’re likely to get.

2. Offer a prize and promote details about the prize.

3. Plan for obstacles in your contest results. For example, know what to do if your Likes come to a halt, or if you hit your goal earlier than anyone guessed you would.

All in all, the contest was a major success in that ShortStack was able to draw some attention around their huge 50,000 Fans milestone.

Want to see what the contest looked like? Here you go!

Non-Fan View

Case Study: Even the Experts Have Things to Learn When Building Custom Facebook Apps image 50kapp nonfan15Case Study: Even the Experts Have Things to Learn When Building Custom Facebook Apps

Fan View

Case Study: Even the Experts Have Things to Learn When Building Custom Facebook Apps image 50app fanview15Case Study: Even the Experts Have Things to Learn When Building Custom Facebook Apps

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