has become a great source of social engagement for big companies and well-known brands with large advertising budgets, but what about the small guy? What about us small owners or sole traders with very tight budgets? Can we have just as much success on Facebook as the big boys?

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Rather than blowing your budget on Facebook ads, there are alternatives that can attract new followers and increase your social engagement, while at the same time injecting a bit of fun into the process.

1. Treasure Hunt. Depending on the season, you can choose to run a contest to create interest among your Facebook followers as well as attract more people to your website. For example, you can run a ‘Secret Santa’ hunt on your website where you hide a number of Santa’s on some of your pages each day, and put clues to their hiding places on your Facebook page throughout the day.

All correct entries can then go into a draw for either a prize from your inventory, or a gift card to spend on your site. This can create a sense of anticipation within your followers, and you can create some good conversations with your cryptic clues posted on Facebook.

2. Photo Competition. Run a photo contest where you ask your customers to pose with your product in a most unusual or outlandish place or situation, and submit their photo for a vote. The photo that attracts the most votes wins a prize that could either be from your catalogue, or something like a pamper weekend at a spa hotel if you want to splash out a little.

3. Guess the Number. Guessing games are very popular, especially when you can use your own product or stock as the main subject. For example, if you were a chocolatier you could fill a jar with chocolates and ask your followers to like and share the post, and then guess how many chocolates are in the jar – the closest guess wins the jar, or a gift voucher so they can choose from your range. These contests get shared around a lot.

Book stores could do a guessing game with a word jumble where followers have to rearrange the letters to make up a famous book title or author. The prize could be a book token.

Restaurants could post a close-up picture of one of their menu choices, and followers have to guess which dish it is to win a free dessert with their next meal.

4. Have a bad joke contest. Start the ball rolling by suggesting a new topic each month, such as ‘best bad dad jokes’, or ‘best why did the chicken cross the road jokes’. Try to make the topic as awful and groan-worthy as possible.

5. Favourite Quotes. For those who offer a service rather than products to sell, why not ask for your followers most favourite inspirational or motivational quotes. You could choose your favourite four or five submissions, and then run poll to see which ones your followers like the best. The winner could receive a free taster session for one of your services, or a gift basket or a high street gift card.

6. Personalised Prize. If you are a crafter or cake baker, then running a simple like and share contest can be a low-cost way to encourage engagement. You can offer up a prize of a personalised cake or craft item with the winners name on it for attracting the most likes and shares.

No matter what sort of contests you decide to run, you need to be persistent and consistent. It takes a while for ideas like this to cement in your followers minds, and success will not come overnight. Schedule regular contests and you will see your social engagement growing slowly over time until it starts to snowball into something you are well-known for. Test out different approaches until you find the one that suits your business and the attitudes of your Facebook followers.

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