When done right, Facebook contests can be an extremely effective way to boost engagement and Facebook followers.

Chicago-based Dream Town Realty demonstrated this recently when it hosted a photo contest that helped it bag 4,000 fans in a month, tripling the following that it had collected over four years.

But these contests can cost a pretty penny.

Dream Town Realty doled out $7,000 in award money alone for the contest.

Now N-Play, a provider of Facebook marketing services to real estate agents, is providing a way for agents to leverage Facebook contests that dangle big awards without actually having to pay for the awards.

The company has launched a Facebook sweepstakes service that enables agents and brokers to host monthly contests on their Facebook pages that tempt netizens with prizes ranging from $500 to $1,000 each month — awarded by N-Play, not service users.

For those who pay “Dream Sweeps” ($29.95 for three months and $49.94 for six months), N-Play posts new contests with fresh themes every month that are personalized to Dream Sweeps users’ Facebook pages.

The math works out because N-Play does not hold a separate contest for each subscriber. Rather, all contestants across all subscribers’ Facebook pages are entered into the same contest. Therefore, for each contest, only one subscriber will be able to announce a winner from among their fans at the end of the month.

Dream Sweeps automatically posts several notices a month “auto-synced to the drawing deadline” on agents’ and brokers’ Facebook pages to encourage fans of those pages to register for the contest.

Every registrant for the contest automatically pushes the contest to his or her friends, expanding the contest’s reach. Further increasing the contest’s visibility, Dream Sweeps lets fans vote several times for each contest, milking them for repeated exposure to their friends.

“Our research shows that 85 percent of Facebook users have entered at least one sweepstakes over the past 12 months,” said Mark Bloomfield, CEO of N-Play, in a statement. “We know that page sweeps fan-gate service assists in building fan loyalty, improves page rank and creates buzz around an agent’s personal brand.”

Dream Sweeps users can further boost exposure of Dream Sweeps contests by using N-Play’s Facebook ad service. READ ADvantage, which launched in June, lets agents create listing and promotional ads on Facebook that lure local sellers and buyers to different Facebook pages.

READ ADvantage ads for Dream Sweeps are designed to attract potential contestants to a fan-gate page where they may register for the contest, furnishing agents with some of their information. Agents may message those contestants through Facebook individually, or export all of them into a .csv file.

Dream Sweeps and READ ADvantage are both part of the company’s larger suite of social media services. The company’s flagship app, the Real Estate Agent Directory, boasts more than 234,000 agents, according to N-Play.

As of June, more than 70 multiple listing services representing 600,000-plus Realtors have signed up to offer N-Play’s Internet Data Exchange (IDX) listings search application.

The National Association of Realtors’ social media policy allows individual MLSs to determine their own rules for listings display on social media sites.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that N-Play holds the same contest across all subscribers’ Facebook pages and does not hold separate contests for each subscriber.

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