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How to Make Contests Work for Facebook AND Google+

By , November 10, 2011

When Google+ Pages for brands and companies launched this week, the comparison to Facebook Pages instantly began. One of the differences that quickly bubbled to the top was Google’s prohibition on running contests, sweepstakes, and coupons on the site. Only linking to them from Google+ posts is allowed.

HuHot Mongolian Grill ran a Shoutlet-powered contest on its website. View it below.

For marketers on Facebook, such promotions have been a wildly popular tactic. Facebook does allow contests and giveaways to run on Facebook, as long as they are hosted by a third-party app. Running contests have allowed brands to grow their fan bases, engage existing fans, and attract new ones organically and through the use of ads and Sponsored Stories. The success of these campaigns on Facebook has left many wondering why Google+ shut these out. Maybe it’s a temporary rule it plans to reverse at a later date. No matter what its reasons are, there are ways to promote contests and promotions on Google+ – and your brand might be better off because of it.

The decision to launch a contest that runs solely on Facebook has been any easy one to make until this point. Why try to drive your fans and followers to your website when most of them are already on Facebook? Facebook has sharing and activity notifications, as well as advertising options that can spark participation with your contest.

Brands that have run contests on Facebook are now weaving Google+ into their daily social media outreach. It seems as though their future contests would still be run on Facebook, with traffic from any Google+ posts about the campaign bring driven to their Facebook Pages. But doing this could mean companies miss out on valuable benefits (and see unintended consequences).

Companies using Shoutlet can launch the exact same contest on a Facebook tab and on their websites simultaneously. For users, the experience is identical. For contests that include a voting component, all entries are displayed both on Facebook and your website, giving all an equal shot at gathering votes. For companies active on Facebook and Google+, this can serve as a way to expand your reach in social media without having to develop two versions of the same campaign or manage two sets of user entry data. (After creating the contest in Shoutlet, it can be published to a Facebook tab and embedded into any site via an iFrame.)

A few additional reasons to consider this approach:

  • Hosting a contest or giveaway on your website and Facebook (in the case of Facebook, one that’s been built with the right third-party platform) means you’re in compliance with both Facebook and Google+ guidelines.
  • Driving Google+ users to a Facebook tab instead of your website could mean an extra step for them if they aren’t logged in to Facebook. Plus, sending Google+ users to your website contest also prevents those who have transitioned away from Facebook from being turned off by landing on your Facebook Page.
  • Are you a retailer? Drive users engaged with your brand on Google+ (or any platform for that matter) to your website.
  • It’s been speculated that one of the reasons Google+ is prohibiting contests is to give company websites a boost in terms of search engine optimization.
  • Promoting contests on your website on Google+ connects you to customers you might not have been able to reach previously, which could mean increased chances for engagement and new email subscribers.

How companies use Google+ will unfold over the next several months. By borrowing a successful tactic from Facebook and easily adapting it to this emerging space, they can embrace the specifications of each platform without missing the opportunity for new interactions with customers in social media.


  • Geoff S.

    I think G+ not allowing ads might have something to do with keeping the platform as free from advertisements, promotional messages from the new business pages, at least initially. Also, probably learning from Facebook who is probably kicking itself in the foot for allowing marketers to do an end-around the platform like you mentioned by using 3rd parties to run million dollar contests/promotions without giving Facebook a dime.

  • Shoutlet

    Thanks for your comment, Geoff. It will be definitely interesting to see how Google+’s position on promotions and ads shifts in the future.

  • Nik Krohn

    This is a fantastic article. Thank you for the insights!

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