If you're a newcomer to Facebook marketing, the good news is that you're in for a big surprise about how many different ways there are to attract fans to your brand. The not-so-good news is that it's not exactly easy: You need knowledge, time, money, and commitment if you truly want to see results.

A successful promotion can land you hundreds, if not thousands, of new fans—and plenty of leads. With the right approach on the backend, you will gain customers. So let's take a closer look at how to run an effective, popular promotion on Facebook.

1. Understand the Rules

Facebook has changed its rules regarding promotions, which is good news; instead of having to rely on a third-party source to create and operate a promotion, you can do it on-site, with Facebook. However, that doesn't mean you're off the hook completely. There are still rules that need to be followed.

Many of the rules revolve around how you can collect entries. For instance, you can collect entries by having users post on your Page or comment or Like a post. You can also have users message the Page, use Likes as votes, or use Shares for entry. Also, make sure that the promotion you're running falls in line with your local, state, county, or country regulations.

2. Pick a Promotional Theme

A Facebook "promotion" is a fairly loose term. It could extend to personality tests, quizzes, prize drawings, raffles and other contests, discounts, and a wide range of other offers. If you're requiring some action or sign-up and offering something in exchange, that's a promotion.

You can go with a Timeline promotion that uses a post to promote it rather than a fancy app that's more interactive. Though you still need to remember to ask for something of worth to you. Do you want someone to Like your page to become a fan? Do you want someone to share your material? Do you want someone to actually sign up for something, and so they have to give you their email address?

No matter which method you choose, you should be ready to select a solid theme. Pick something that's...

  • Appealing to your niche
  • As interactive as it can be (questions, puzzles, etc.)
  • Well thought-out and attractive
  • Original and not just a rip-off of someone else's promotion
  • Themed (e.g., seasonal)
  • Rewarding to users

3. Think of a Unique Angle

What's your angle for getting people interested in the promotion? With the ease of promotions on Facebook today, brands are constantly launching new promotions. What you need is an angle—a reason someone passing by would actually become a fan or opt in to your network. This is where being original is going to pay off.

A holiday is always around the corner, so think about something that's holiday-themed. Around Christmas, you could operate a hashtag contest, whereby the best name for Santa's new reindeer earns a prize, and peers get to vote on which tag is their favorite. Or you could hold some type of photo contest. The idea here is interactivity—getting users interested in participating with your Page in order to enter the contest.

4. Decide How to Market the Promotion

Even though you may be running this promotion on your Timeline as part of your Page and not with an app, you still need to promote it. Using Facebook ads and other marketing methods is going to help you spread the word. Leaving it on your Page with no additional marketing isn't going to have nearly as large an impact; you'll be relying on people who are already your fans—on their willingness to spread the word for you, assuming they ever see your promotion.

Instead of leaving things as they are, think about pushing a big campaign. You don't need a lot of experience to do so. You can try a wide assortment of tactics, such as these:

  • Provide incentive for people to share the promotion.
  • Use other social networks to tell people about your Facebook promotion.
  • Use hashtags for more reach and visibility.
  • Choose to promote your post and get the most out of it with a third-party ad-management app.
  • Send out email and mobile blasts to your existing base.
  • Sweeten the pot by adding big-time prizes (more on that later).
  • Stress the importance of time by making your promotion a limited-time engagement.

5. Add a Great Prize

When offering a prize, you don't have to be cheap. Now, if you're offering something like a BOGO offer or 50% off to customers who follow through and make a purchase on the backend, that's okay. But it should be in addition to a sweepstakes prize. In other words, you want to hold a contest wherein you name a winner and that winner receives a prize of significant value. It could be a free product from your store. It could even be a new iPad.

You're probably thinking, "But that's $500, plus the cost of advertising!" And you'd be right; all told, you're looking at around $700-$800 for this type of contest. But if you get 20 new customers spending $50 a piece with you, that's $1,250—not even counting the hordes of new fans and the potential customers to come. It's more than worth it.

A few things to remember about this type of sweepstakes:

  • Have rules clearly defined for entry: one entry per person, a clear way to vote, how you'll select a winner, etc.
  • Pick a prize that's going to entice a lot of people to join the sweepstakes.
  • Be transparent when running the contest so users can see what you're doing.
  • Attempt to target those within your niche so fans stay fans and leads go into the funnel.

6. Shore Up Your Network

For the last step here, let's have a brief look at what you need to do outside of Facebook to ensure your contest operates smoothly. All the Facebook marketing tools in the world won't help you if you have a faulty landing page or you send out the wrong email to new leads.

Make sure you...

  • Test the contest to ensure it runs smoothly.
  • Test your landing pages to ensure correct operation.
  • Set up your response with your mass mailer.
  • Have time set aside to accurately judge and select a winner.
  • Have the prize ready to go when someone wins.

Though you may be a newbie on Facebook, you can use this step-by-step guide to run a successful Timeline promotion. Pick a good theme, follow the rules, have an incentive in place, market the contest properly, and shore up the off-platform aspects. It's not a piece of cake, but it's definitely doable.

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Simon Campbell is a writer for facebook ad campaign tool Qwaya.

Twitter: @SimonXCampbell