As many restaurant owners have found, investing in an active Facebook page takes consistency, creativity, and time.

Creating a Facebook page and leaving it to sit dormant is like having customers sitting in your booths and no servers to take their order or fill up their glasses.  Customers get annoyed and your restaurant look like they don't care.

Running a contest on your restaurant's Facebook fan page is a great way to grow your fans, empower your biggest advocates, and to  reach potential customers.  Contests can and should be fun for those participating -- but you are far too busy to simply do a contest for the fun of it.  Here are five reasons to run a Facebook contest:

  1. Our Menu Got a Facelift: It's exciting when a new menu item comes to a restuarant.  Time and money went into making these changes and upgrades, so be sure to let people know!  Run a campaign that centers around the new menu or item.  Have fans fill out a simple form to try the newest item or giveaway 5 gift certificates to try the new menu!  Another route is to actually reveal the new menu item on Facebook.
  2. The New Location That Just Opened: Opening a new location brings anxiety and excitement all at the same time.  This is a perfect opportunity to run a Facebook campaign to promote the opening.  Allow people to sign-up on a form to get "VIP Access" to the opening.  Open the list for a limited time and offer this VIP Access to the first 25, 50, or 100 people.
  3. We Want To Thank You: Often restaurants will find that their biggest fans engage and comment on the Facebook page.  Run a contest every now and then that rewards those fans with some type of reward.  A photo contest is a great way to do this.  Encourage fans to upload a photo of them and their family or a snapshot of their favorite dish.
  4. Increase Awareness About Your Restaurant: Facebook is the hub for people to share with their friends and family.  A contest is a fantastic way to spread the word about your restaurant and to get more fans engaged. The more people are engaging on your page, the more likely activity will show up in Facebook's Feed -- this means exposure!
  5. Keep Them Coming Back For More: An exciting contest reminds users that you are there and wanting to get to know them.  Make sure that you are posting photos, interacting, and asking questions between the contests you run.  Don't simply run a contest then disappear for weeks at a time.  Reel them in with a contest, then keep them engaged with daily posts.

A Facebook contest is a great way to build your Facebook fan base.  The frequency is entirely up to you and your staff.  It's much better to run a well-executed, memorable campaign once every three months than to run a sloppy campaign every month. Put some thought and planning into it, then give it a go!

HEADS UP: Be sure to host your Facebook contest on a customized tab instead of your wall. Check back Wednesday for a service that I LOVE to use for Facebook contests!!

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  • Great post!

  • Good Idea...

  • Mark - Thanks for the heads up on that. I hadn't heard that yet, so good to know!

    Dave - That is an awesome idea to incorporate the popularity of March Madness.  What app have you used in the past to host this contest?

    Courtney - I'd say Shortstack is my favorite right now. Offerpop would be a close second.  Feel free to shoot me a message on here and I can give you some more info!

  • Did you ever post which service you love to use for Facebook contests? I've been researching companies to use for a video submission contest and haven't seen anything reasonably priced besides Wildfire, but would love your insight on which service you use!

  • Thanks Josh for these great ideas.  Here is a program we have implemented with several of our restaurants clients:  Menu Madness (Like NCAAA March Madness) where each year we ask fans for menu revamp suggestions and begin a voting process that takes it from 24 to 16 to 8 final menu selections.    We do a contest offer where fans predict the final "8" winning menu recipes that will go on the menu.  Those fans who predict correctly receive "8" $20 gift certificates that are sent to 8 of their friends on Facebook.  While this takes some time to coordinate, it boosts not only the FB fan base but instant traffic to the restaurants when the new menu is launched.  We even put on the menu that these menu items were voted on by our loyal Facebook Fans. 

  • Facebook is reportedly working on a new button that will say "Love" and before you will see it you will have to "Like" the restaurant for an undetermined amount of time before the button will appear. If restaurants do the things that Josh has outlined if should be really easy for restaurant guests to hit the "Love" button.  Good stuff, Josh

    BTW: I made up the stuff about the "Love" button; however, if it actually becomes a reality tell them you heard it here first.

  • I'm glad you found it helpful, Jammie! Here are some ways to promote the contest:

    - In Store: Make sure you have some signs or small banners up promoting the contest. Clearly state where they can find it on Facebook. Also make sure your employees are equipped to talk about the contest.

    - E-Mail: Sending out an e-mai blast to your list is a great way to spread the word.

    - Twitter: Tweet about the contest and link it to where they can participate. You might also want to create a hashtag to promote it.

    - Blog: If you restaurant has a blog, be sure to write an entry to make people aware of it.

    Let me know if you have any other questions!

  • Thanks for the info!  Well timed, we were just talking about how we need to do a Facebook contest.  Any suggestions on how to market the Facebook contest (besides on Facebook obviously)?

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