We’ve all seen them pop up in our newsfeeds. You may have even participated in one or two. Social media contests seem to be the new “it” thing for influencers, big brands and small businesses alike. 

So, what is a social media contest? 

Basically, it’s an offer that allows your social media followers to enter to win a prize without having to compete directly with other people. They are also known as “giveaways.” And while a prize of a round-the-world trip is nice, you don’t need to have a limitless budget to run your own. Even an offer of a $20 gift card can be enough to get some genuine notice.

Contests can be super fun, but if you truly want your giveaway to grow your brand and gain you more followers, there are a few things you need to do, every time. Here are 10 key tips for an effective social media contest.

Tip 1: Know the Rules

Every social media network has its own rules and guidelines—and this includes specific rules about contests.

Twitter is one of the easiest networks to run contests on, since the format allows for a lot more flexibility in what you can do, and the rules are mainly around discouraging your followers to create fake accounts or post the same tweet multiple times. Here’s an example of a good Twitter contest:

Twitter Contest

Find and review the Twitter rules here.

Instagram is in the middle in terms of how much flexibility you have with running contests—you can find all the rules here.

Instagram is also a great place to run a contest because you can be very creative—the combination of visual and storytelling tools opens up so many possibilities for attention-getting content. Here’s an example of a great Instagram contest:

Instagram Contest Example

Facebook has extremely strict rules that you must follow if you don’t want your contest to be deleted (or worse, your page suspended or even shut down!).

For instance, you can’t run a contest on your personal profile—you have to run it on a business page. They are also strict on how you get people to participate in your contest, for example, you can’t ask for likes or shares as a means for entering, and you can’t require that people tag their friends (you can ask for these things off Facebook, however). 

Here’s a good contest from MEC that follows all the Facebook rules:

Facebook Contest Example

You can read the full list of contest rules for Facebook here.

Make sure to quickly review the rules for each platform every time you run a contest, because they change often. If you don’t set your contest up right and one of your followers flags your giveaway, you could risk all that brand awareness you’ve worked so hard to build in that space.

Tip 2: Have a Good Goal

Every contest should have a goal. 

If you’re running a contest just for the sake of running one, how do you know if it was worth the effort and resources? Setting goals is an extremely important step to shepherd you toward achieving something truly fantastic.

To get you started, here are a few examples of a good contest goal:

  • Collect excellent user-generated content like photos and videos for our business
  • Get 1,000 more followers on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram (or whatever platform you are using) 
  • Increase our email list by 500 new subscribers
  • Increase our website traffic by 10% this month

Take time to think about what you truly want to get out of running a social media contest. Then, at the end of your campaign, you’ll have benchmarks to measure how well your giveaway accomplished what it was meant to do.

Tip 3: Create Terms and Conditions

Always create terms and conditions for your contest. You need to let the public know who’s eligible to win, who isn’t eligible to win, what costs they are responsible for, who can redeem the prize and any other guidelines or restrictions related to entering or winning your giveaway.

It doesn’t have to be extremely daunting to create terms and conditions, but it’s imperative that you do so! Imagine the damage of having to tell someone after the fact that they actually aren’t eligible, or having to disappoint a winner who thought they won an all-inclusive vacation when they only won a free dinner and the rest is up to them. Not only do you now have to deal with hurt feelings and bad press—you could even open yourself up to a lawsuit.

You can upload the terms and conditions to your website and link to them right in the contest post. That keeps it simple and uncluttered while it protects you.

Here’s an example of what clear terms and conditions look like in a contest post on Instagram:

Clear terms and conditions in an Instagram Post

Tip 4: Have a Good Prize

Yes, you can run a contest even if you only have a small prize to offer: a free service, a gift card, a copy of your book. But ideally, your prize will embody the best you have to offer. And if you’re an up-and-coming brand that no one’s heard about yet, it’s even more important to promote a prize that wows.

If you don’t have the resources for a showstopping giveaway—or even if you just want to get creative with what you’re offering—consider partnering with another brand or organization. Not only can you can pool your resources to come up with something great, you’ll also get to leverage their brand to reach a new audience and get more exposure! 

Make sure the business you want to partner with is complementary to yours, and aligns well with your brand and your goals.

Tip 5: Use Eye-Catching Images and Videos

There is a lot of noise on social media. People like to sit and scroll. If it’s not eye-catching and professional looking, it’s not going to stop your target audience—especially if it blends into everything else.

Consider working with a professional photographer or videographer to create really great visuals that you can use to market your contest. And, ultimately, to market your company. 

At the minimum, work with a graphic designer to create appealing, compelling and effective marketing material for your contest—whether that’s social media advertising, images and graphics for your posts, or even traditional print flyers and posters if you’re marketing your contest in the real world. (Read the next tip for more on this!)

Want to learn how to create eye-catching content?

Elevate Marketing Summit is happening March 10 & 11 and it’s all about content marketing: how to create it, curate it, and collaborate on it for exponential results. We have over 15 speakers and topics lined up over these two days with a mix of pre-recorded and live sessions.

The best part is, it’s completely FREE to attend.

Sign up to our mailing list and we’ll let you know when registration is open.

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Tip 6: Promote Your Contest off Social Media, Too

If you want to get lots of exposure, make sure you also promote your social media contest off social media as well as online. Here are some great ways to do this:

  • Promote your contest in your brick & mortar store (if you have one!) with flyers, handouts and posters
  • Get out in the community and put your posters up in a few local businesses (this can be a great way to connect and build partnerships!) 
  • Look for local events you can attend or even speak at, and promote your contest there
  • Send a newsletter to your email list telling them to participate, and remind them to tell their friends
  • Take out an ad in your local newspaper (yes, this is still a thing!)

Of course, how much and in what ways you promote your contest off social media depends on the type of contest and, more importantly, on your goals. But at the end of the day, don’t forget about the real world! There are lots of opportunities for exposure and traction out there if you look for them.

Tip 7: Run Ads on Social Media

If you’re going to put on a social media contest these days, you’re going to have to run some social media ads. It’s an imperative.

The first step in social media advertising is to set a budget. It doesn’t have to be big—especially if this is a short-term contest. If you do the work it takes to target your audience, you could spend as little as $5 and still see a lot of reach, exposure and participation, especially if you have a great prize. 

(That said, a few more dollars could do even more!)

Each person who sees your ad and participates in your contest is a signal to the magical algorithms running behind the scenes at Twitter or Facebook (or whatever the social media platform) that your content is good. And that will trigger those lovely algorithms to show your ads and your contest to more people, getting you more eyeballs on your stuff. Win-win-win.

Also, if you are on multiple platforms, promote the contest on all of your networks!  It’s a great way to bring your Facebook people to your Instagram profile, for example, and gain cross exposure.

Tip 8: Make It Engaging

The one thing that will get you the most value is to make your contest fun! Strangely enough, the more engaging your contest is, the more people will want to engage with it. 

And they won’t just take part in your contest, they’ll also “like” it, share it, and comment on it. And all of that means their friends will see it too (hello, algorithms!). Suddenly, your contest starts reaching more people, and your return on your effort doubles, triples, quadruples, and so on. 

So don’t ever be scared of engagement! Yes, you want them to answer a question or fill in a blank, but have fun with it, too. Make it entertaining for your followers and they’ll feel like they’ve won just by taking part.

Here’s a great example of an engaging contest:

Valhalah Pure Online

Tip 9: Offer Incentives for Social Sharing

Let’s say a follower just has to answer a question to earn one entry to win your contest prize. What if they could earn a second entry by sharing the contest with a friend? And then a third if they posted the contest on Twitter? Wouldn’t that make them want to spread the word? How many more people would you reach?

Offering an incentive for social sharing is a great way to grow the amount of eyeballs that see your contest. It turns each of your followers into a willing brand promoter, happily promoting your giveaway on your behalf.

There’s a trick though: offering bonus entries can make it a bit more challenging to keep track of who has shared your post and how many entries they have earned. Luckily, there are apps for that: Heyo, Wishpond or Woobox are great options to help you track and manage your contest entries.

Here’s an example of how you might use social sharing when running a contest on Instagram:

And, of course, make sure that if and how you ask people to share your post, it follows all the rules of the platform you are running your contest on (see Tip 1!).

Tip 10: Appeal to Potential Customer

Just like with any marketing campaign, you always want to make sure that you have your specific customer in mind right from the start when you are designing your contest. Eyeballs are nice, but not every eyeball is going to turn into a customer for you.

Build a contest that appeals to the right kind of audience—from the images you pick to the contest question you design to the prize that you choose. Think: Is this something that my ideal customer would like to take part in? 

This local nail salon used their 1st birthday as a great incentive for a giveaway that aligns with their audience.

Focus on the type of person who is interested in what your business does, and would be likely to spend money with you.

Over to you

Running a social media contest is an easy way to grow your followers, gain exposure and ultimately gain lifelong clients and supporters of your brand. 

If done correctly, social media contests don’t  take a huge amount of work, because once they get going, a solid giveaway tends to snowball all on its own. People love a free prize! Before you know it, those wonderful social media algorithms are doing the work for you. 

Remember to create a clear goal and design a contest that appeals to your ideal customer. A contest built on a foundation of time, research and effort can work wonders and truly make your brand stand out from the crowd. 

Social media is full of noise. Break away from everything else and stand tall with a strong, well-thought out giveaway. You won’t regret it!

This post was created in a partnership between Marie Hunter of Hunter Digital and Blair Kaplan Venables, principal of Blair Kaplan Communications and director of business development and marketing for Alpine Riding.

Blair Kaplan Venables is one of the many experts who have appeared at Elevate Marketing Summit, a 2-day virtual digital marketing conference that helps small businesses build their brand and increase their revenue. The next summit takes place online in March 2020. Visit www.elevatemarketingsummit.com to find out more.

Blair Kaplan Venables
Blair Kaplan VenablesPresident of Blair Kaplan Communications
2020-01-06T10:29:52+00:00 January 7th, 2020|