It sounds great in theory. You set up a Facebook Page, and wait for people to join. But in the end it’s not that easy. And you really can’t market to 25 friends – you’ll never grow your business that way.

So maybe its time to look for a new way to promote your Page – how about using sweepstakes and contests?

A sweepstakes is defined as the winners being chosen by random drawing. A contest is the winners are selected either by jury and/or audience voting and the entries are evaluated according to the skill of the submission. A photo contest is a great example of a contest. And while the two are distinctly different, they both have potential to help you grow your Facebook list, and increase the number of people interested in what you do.

Understand The Rules

Before you start planning your promotion, first spend the time reviewing Facebook’s promotions guidelines. They have changed significantly along the way, and its important to understand their rules before you begin.

For example, Facebook clearly states that your promotion

Must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.

They are very specific about what you can and cannot do. And if you don’t stick with their guidelines, you risk having your account deleted – so it’s important to stick with the rules.

Once you’ve read through the rules, the planning starts.

We ran several contests about a year ago, and ended up doubling our Likes month after month. It can be very effective; but it does take a little planning.

Who Is The Contest For?

As a photographer, consider what type of followers you would like. Are you looking for potential customers for portrait sessions? New brides to be? Or maybe you’re selling a camera bag you’ve created – you need photographers who would love what you have to offer.

Once you have your market defined, its time to think about what they would truly like.

I usually look for things that will get the greatest number of people participating. Giving away a free portrait session won’t attract a large number of people. Giving away a gift basket with fun photo related items will. Think outside the box. It doesn’t have to be worth a ton of money – just be something a ton of people will like.

Now its time to set up your sweepstakes or contest. While you can do much of the work yourself, I’ve also found a shortcut to the process by using a third party system.

Making It Easy

Wildfire is a promotional application that makes it easy to set up contests on your blog, Facebook account and your Twitter account. It isn’t free, but if you use their basic account, you can run a month long promotion for around $35. And if you gain even one new client through the process, you’ll more than make your money back. They have many different promotion types, including sweepstakes, contests, coupons and quizzes, and by walking through the system you’ll learn more about each and how to decide which is right for you. Start small and grow in sophistication as you learn more and become more successful with it.

While Wildfire is what we used for our promotions, there are other companies out there that offer similar services – Offerpop, North Social, Bulbstorm and Votigo are just a few.

Then start talking about your contest. Blog about it. Send a postcard out to your client list. And talk it up at your networking groups. The only way to grow it is to promote it. It doesn’t work on its own – you still have to do some promoting. But if the offer is right and they are having fun with it, you’ll quickly see your numbers grow.

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