You’ve heard it before, but let’s say it again: If you’re trying to build and convert an e-commerce audience—conversational marketing is a cost-effective approach you can’t ignore. There’s a chance you’ve even seen other brands in your category driving customers to chat bots and Facebook Messenger.

There are hundreds of different ways you can get started using messenger for your marketing. Bots can be used in areas like lead nurturing, retargeting, and order updates. But to test how your audience responds to the tactic, and get a good feel for how they work for customer acquisition efforts, try starting out with a social media contest.

From platform setup to specific copy and offer ideas to use, let’s walk through the process of setting up a contest that converts participants into customers (without a big budget). And convert they do. A recent e-commerce campaign of ours drove 350+ email sign-ups and $1,100+ in first-order revenue from new and existing customers—all on a $210 ad spend. That’s a 4x return on ad spend on their first purchase!

Let’s dig in.

Why Use Messenger Bots for Social Media Contests?

People follow brands on social media expecting promotions and contests.

As much as we hope consumers care about our brand, story, and products, research shows that 70% of social media users follow brands to participate in discounts, promotions, or sweepstakes. And when those brands promote a giveaway for something they actually want, they are more willing to interact.

More than 1.3 billion people are using FB messenger.

Due to its convenience and mobile-friendly nature, Facebook Messenger has become default consumer behavior for people all over the world. Naturally, in the next five years messenger marketing is predicted to become the largest marketing channel. Convincing enough? If not….

Marketers are seeing open rates of 80% or more with Facebook Messenger.

Compare that to email with open rates of 18 – 24%. Messages through chat interfaces feel more personal and give users that close relationship with a brand that they’re looking for.

Compelling, right?

Messaging Apps Chart


8 Steps for Creating a Chat-based Social Media Contest:

1) Pick a lucrative prize. Give away a product or service your audience desires and needs. Your giveaway should have real tangible value, like “X dollars in product”, or “Y products every week for a year.” An example of a simple comment-to-win contest intro post could be:

“We’re giving away X for a year! So tell us, do you prefer A or B? Like our page and comment your answer below to enter 👇!”

Don’t forget to include the official rules of entry in the post copy or in the comments, including how to enter.

2) Select a chat platform with the ability to capture subscribers seamlessly. For your Facebook contest to get traction, you will want a platform that can trigger 1-on-1 messages after a user comments on your contest post. ManyChat is one popular option with this feature. Using comments with specific words as an entry (note: not a tag)  is a great way to drive conversation with your community, while promoting the brand. It also allows you to filter automatic responses only to the people interested in the contest, and not people voicing questions or concerns.

When someone subscribes for messages, use your chat bot to collect emails. Program your follow-up message after they enter the contest to provide an incentive for those who do.

Here’s a script you can use:

“Thanks for entering! BONUS: Get 5 more entries by submitting your email address by clicking below.”

We were able to see a 70% conversion from contest submission to email capture with the “extra entries” incentive. As an added consideration, make sure your tool will integrate with your CRM to collect emails

3) Write out the campaign’s promotional content calendar with a clear end date. It helps to have one main, compelling, promotable, intro social media contest post. This is the post you’ll be using to boost to your target audience and generate more entrants and emails. Then, use follow-up organic posts to link people back to the original contest post. Be explicit in the post copy about when the contest ends.

It may feel like you are overdoing it with the promotion, but keep in mind that your customers don’t memorize your ads. It may take a few impressions to really make your contest seen and stick.

Search Engine Journal Infographic


4) Establish the follow-up funnel and special offer for non-winners. This is where the real magic happens. Not everyone is going to win your grand prize, but everyone should get something. And it should be something really valuable, exclusive (and time bound). The offer needs to be good enough to get people to take action – like $20 off a $40 purchase. In your chat bot message, try framing it up as a “runner-up prize.”

With this tactic, we saw an amazing 31% purchase conversion rate from the hundreds of people who entered the contest but did not win the grand prize.

5) Plan a test post on a private page to make sure the tech works. This quality assurance step is important because if you make a big announcement, like a contest, you only have one main chance to get this right. Test the comment trigger and CRM integration before launching the contest to your entire audience. You’ll thank us if you find a bug.

6) Launch and monitor the campaign. With the contest running, make sure to allocate proper time for community management. People are going to ask lots of questions in your chat messenger. Luckily, the Facebook messenger inbox makes it easy to filter by who has been responded and tag people in to triage.

Note: Keep your chat language personal as it can help the user feel understood. One way to do this is by simply signing off conversations as a real person.

7) Coordinate with other channels. To try and reach your entire audience and build relationships, coordinate your contest with other marketing channels. Some examples include:

  • Have a welcome email that appears after they subscribe.
  • Promote the campaign in visible places offline if you have a physical location.
  • Share across other social media channels.

8) Follow-up! Plan your next campaign. You should aim for a return on investment from this first social media campaign. Now, work towards even a bigger return by nurturing your new customers and subscribers with follow-up messages. Lifetime value and total ROI is dependent on people buying again, this time without the major discount. Once they’re subscribed, you can message them with new, exclusive offers – personalized to them.

It’s Time to Connect With Your Audience

There’s so much more you can do once your customers are in messenger. You now have a highly-engaged audience that you don’t need to pay to reach in news feeds. With chat bots, you are able to build a stronger relationship with your audience and keep them in the loop with new promotions, products, and engagement opportunities.

So give your first contest a try, and tell us how it worked for you.

Josh Headshot
Josh Krakauer
CEO at

Josh Krakauer can summarize his company's philosophy in two words: Hustle & Heart. In a world where consumer expectations shift as fast as Facebook’s algorithms, it takes a compelling brand story and an agile marketing strategy to keep pace. That's where Sculpt comes in.

Josh launched social media marketing agency Sculpt in 2012 with a mission to help brands connect with their human customers more humanly. Sculpt's designers, strategists, and writers work and play in downtown Iowa City, and were recently recognized for creating one of the "Coolest Places to Work" in the region. Josh was named one of the area's Forty under 40, and speaks all over the midwest about lessons he’s learned helping brands "win the internet."