Facebook contest to award ad credit to small businesses for bulking up fan bases

Facebook quietly launched a contest Tuesday called Small Business Boost that will award $10,000 to 10 small businesses that gain the most new Likes by April 1.

Small business owners in the U.S. that manage pages on the social network can enter the contest through an app on the Facebook Marketing Solutions page. Entrants with 50 Likes on their page when they sign up for the contest will receive a $50 ad credit for the site. Pages that gain 100 new Likes during the contest period will earn another $100 ad credit. The ten pages with the most new fans will win $10,000 in Facebook ads. In September, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg announced the company would give $50 advertising credits to up to 200,000 small businesses but did not explain how. This appears to be part of that program, but we have not gotten a response yet from Facebook.

Although the contest materials encourage page owners to increase their Likes, they do not offer practical tips about how to do so. This oversight could lead small business owners to try to grow their pages in ways that devalue the Like — for instance, getting distant friends to Like a business they do not frequent. Contest rules prohibit page owners from obtaining Likes by setting up fake accounts and incentivizing users to Like the page in ways that violate Facebook page terms. However, these guidelines are written as legal documents that might be confusing for many page owners.

The company is hosting events, also called Small Business Boost, around the country to provide tips about how to use the social network to increase business. These events are put on in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business.

The contest, oddly, has not been mentioned in a post on the Facebook Marketing Solutions page, though the app to enter is there. Some page owners, however, have received emails directing them to the site.