How to Run a Facebook Contest with ShortStack

As we all know, the rules to run a Facebook contest or sweepstakes are confusing and often misunderstood. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the rules or avoid running contests.

One rule is as follows:

Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on, either on a Canvas Page or an app on a Page Tab.

One such third party app that provides the structure to run contests is one of my favorite tools: ShortStack. I’ve written a general review of ShortStack before, but this time I want to provide specific details on how you can use ShortStack to run a contest or sweepstakes.

Using ShortStack Templates

The nice thing about a tool like ShortStack is that you are provided templates as a starting point. From your home page, click on Create Tab From Template…

ShortStack Create Tab From Template

There are currently 63 templates to choose from. Of those, eight are templates for running contests:

  • Sweepstakes
  • Fan Reveal Promotion
  • Photo Promotion
  • Photo Vote Contest
  • Video Voting Contest
  • Share Your Story Promotion
  • Vote to Enter Sweepstakes
  • Essay Contest

All of these are rather similar in the way that they are run, but with minor variations. So if you understand one, you should understand them all. So I’ll focus this tutorial on the Photo Vote Contest template.

Photo Vote Contest ShortStack Template

When you find this template, click on it and then click Make Tab.

ShortStack Make Tab

You are now presented with three columns:

  • Add Widgets (available widgets that you can add to your tab)
  • Edit Widgets (edit the widgets that are currently used in your tab)
  • Live Preview (preview of your tab based on your edits)

I’ve covered the various widgets that are available in my review of ShortStack, so if you need a refresher you can read it here.

You can now edit each individual widget that was used in the template to customize the contest for your needs.

  • Arrow: This is just a graphic. If you want to add a different image, replace it by clicking the edit icon.
  • Like this Page: This is copy. Again, edit it to fit your needs by clicking the Edit icon.
  • Image: ShortStack uses a stock photo here for a header image. Replace it with your own (778 px width) or remove it completely by clicking the Delete icon
  • Promotion: This is where you can edit the form, rules and basic settings of the promotion. Make sure you look through these options.
  • Vote for your favorite photo below: Again, feel free to edit this copy to fit your needs.
  • Voting: Choose the layout of entries that have been submitted.

I encourage you to watch the video at the top for more information on each of these.

For additional styling, you can choose from 44 basic themes by clicking on the Theme Selector dropdown:

ShortStack Theme Selector

If you know your way around programming, you can also click on the CSS Editor button to further customize look and feel of your tab.

Install Your Tab

When you’re comfortable with your work, click the Install Tab button at the top. Depending on your ShortStack membership, you will either have just a Quick Publish option or both Quick Publish and Custom Publish. I recommend Custom Publish if you have a choice. The following instructions will assume you do.

Next click Open Graph Developer App and it will open up a new window for Facebook Developer. ShortStack then provides some screen grabs to explain what you need to do, but you click Create New App, provide an App Name and click Continue. You then copy and paste the App ID and App Secret from that app into the text fields on ShortStack.

You will then be given a list of Pages that you manage and you’ll select which one you want this tab to appear on. Your tab is now installed!

Facebook Customizations

There are a few customizations that you will now want to make. Go back into Facebook Developers, find your app on the left hand side and click it. Then click Edit App.

At the top, click Edit Icon and provide a square icon that can be used when your tabs are expanded on your Page (not the big 111×74 icon).

Scroll down and there is also an option for Page Tab Width. This may default to 520 pixels, the old width. Change this to 810 pixels. Click Save Changes.

Finally, go to your Page and expand your tabs. You can move your tab to a different location by swapping it if you choose. But you can also edit your large 111×74 icon by clicking the Edit icon and going through the steps provided there. If you aren’t able to create your own icon, I have 72 free icons available here.

Manage the Contest

At the top of ShortStack is a link for Forms & Promos. Click that.

ShortStack Forms and Promos

From here, you can easily view all of your promotions and entries for your promotions. You can also have ShortStack randomly select a winner for you.

Further Customizations

This tutorial is based on the templates ShortStack provides, but you can also start from scratch by creating your own form and your own promotion. But this tutorial should give you a starting point to create your first promotion and build from there.

Your Turn

Have you run a Facebook promotion with ShortStack? Let me know what you did in the comments below!

  • Handmade by Hilani

    This is a great piece!

    • Jon Loomer

      Thanks, Hilani! Glad you found it useful.

  • MrRess

    I want to run a video contest, but it looks like I’ll need to upgrade my account for the right app.

    • Jon Loomer

      You’re welcome! Right, I believe you’ll need an upgraded account for access to the database, which is important for keeping track of contest participants.

      Good luck!

  • Allenbrayan

    Heading off to start a contest right away. Thanks Jon.

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  • Vanessa

    Thanks Jon – I am currently working on running a photo contest for a client. And have made an app for my own site My question is what happens to that data that people submit. Name, email address etc?

    • Jon Loomer

      Hi, Vanessa! Within ShortStack, there will be a database that collects all of the information that you’ll have access to (I believe this is only in the pay versions).

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  • Robert

    can I run a bilingual contest ? Two interface, on single database ?

    • Jon Loomer

      Robert — You can restrict visibility of individual widgets by country (but not language). So, you could create two different versions of each widget within the app, and what you would see would depend on your country. Would that satisfy what you’re looking to do?

      • Robert

        Well, two interfaces, with links from one to the other (switch French to English) with a form on each version… and all the info goes in the same database for a draw. possible ?
        No need any restrictions.

        • Jon Loomer

          Could you send me an email (jon [at] jonloomer [dot] com or let me know your email address? I’ll see what we can find out.

        • Catherine

          Hi, did you find how to do this ? I managed to do it with sub form but I have 2 databases. I need a way to merge the databases. Thanks.

  • Toni

    Can I require a purchase to enter the contest?

  • Joe

    Great article! we have a spammer on our shortstack photo contest with an inappropriate photo and several votes… can we remove it?

    • Jon Loomer

      Joe — Do you have contest rules that apply to this? If so, feel free to delete. If not, it becomes a bit stickier. You may also want to ask ShortStack if they have any suggestions!

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  • Kim Tudor

    We have an anonymous donor to our charity who is willing to offer us $1 for every new ‘like’ on our page up to $10,000. Is this legal by facebook rules and how do you suggest we promote it to our fans? We have over 3,000 fans and want them to promote us to their own friends, etc. Appreciate your answers and suggestions!

  • Vickie Taton

    Thanks so much this – I’m new to ShortStack and found your instructions oh-so-helpful.

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  • Ocie Johnson

    It is too bad you cannot just pay for 1 Photo Contest vs. a monthly fee. And I don’t want to upgrade without knowing whether I will be able to work the tab or not :(

    • Jon Loomer

      Ocie — Have you used the free trial?

  • Ali Canestaro

    We are about to launch our Shortstack contest tomorrow. I have no idea what to expect but I am excited!

    • Jon Loomer

      Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

  • FairusD

    Hey Jon. One word. THANK YOU SO MUCH! (sorry i had to do it!) I love Shortstack ever since i got to know it from here. One question though.. whenever a participant took part in my contest, i get an email that shows the default template of the form. Any way to change this? Thanks a bunch!

    • Jon Loomer

      Glad to hear it! Are you asking if you can turn the alert off or if you can change the template of the alert?

      • Sherry

        Yes, I’ve been looking for an answer to this also. How do you turn that alert OFF. I get hundreds of emails every day because we run multiple contests… is there a daily digest version or some other alternative to getting one email for every single entry?

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  • Darya

    Hello Jon,

    i have the question about the type of your account while creating photo contest tutorial. Was it free (basic, non paid)?

  • Jenna T

    Hey Jon! Just wanted to say thank you for the helpful video! Our Shortstack contest goes live tomorrow and we are hoping everything goes smoothly!

    Do you know of any other sites we could promote our Facebook contest on in order to maximize exposure?

    Thanks again.

  • Ms.Fundraiser

    Is it possible to use a competition format like the one shown on the ShortStack website example “THE GREAT BIKE GIVEAWAY”, but have people “vote” by giving money in the name of their chosen participant? I would like to use this format as a fundraiser. Instead of a square that says “vote”, each participant’s box would have a “give” button where people could click and give right then. Instead of calculating votes for each person, could it calculate the amount of money they raise? Is it possible to use ShortStack as a fundraiser? If not, can you recommend a program that works like ShortStack but can also be a fundraiser?

  • kim

    How long should a good promotion run of?