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TV station giving away a car in Facebook contest

We’ve written lots of stories on Lost Remote about TV stations throwing Facebook contests to drive new likes — giving away iPads and donations to charities — but WFSB-TV in Hartford, Conn. is holding a contest with the biggest prize we’ve seen to date: a brand new 2011 Nissan Maxima. The contest, timed with sweeps, has four days remaining, and the station has already shot up to 76K fans, up from 58K fans a month ago.

As we’ve written several times before, just having lots of fans doesn’t equal engagement, and Poynter has written a wrap-up story about local TV Facebook contests that serves as a good reminder. Facebook isn’t a broadcast channel, but a two-way conversation. And that has a direct impact on reach: Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm will stop showing posts to your fans when they’re not engaging (clicking, liking, commenting and sharing) with them relative to other content in their news feeds.

But that doesn’t mean TV stations shouldn’t be aggressive about growing reach. Contests (within reason), charity drives, like drives and “like gating” exclusive content are all effective ways to build Facebook reach quickly. There’s a danger in taking a slow-growth approach, like many newspapers. Outside of search, Facebook is the most important distribution vehicle on the web. And for TV stations with a strong Facebook presence, it gives the brand a boost just like billboards or radio ads — you just don’t know how much.

Now that stations have grown their “likes,” it’s time to convert that passive audience into an engaged one by dedicating resources to leading the conversation on Facebook. Any contest that doesn’t follow up with an engagement plan is a serious miss. As for newspapers without a respectable Facebook following, well, the longer they think Facebook contests are pointless, the further they’ll fall behind.

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