Everything You Need to Run an Awesome Social Media Contest

Do social media contests still work? If executed correctly, then yes! In fact, brands have been successfully using contests for ages. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to launch them. Which side are you on?

If your business is struggling to attract new customers through more conventional methods–SEO, conversion-focused lead generation, content marketing, etc.,–a contest might just be the answer.

But why? Well, it’s simple. People like to win without really having to put in too much effort. Social media contests work perfectly in this regard and can help attract awareness for your brand in the process, while increasing engagement with your target audience and eventually boosting sales.

Still skeptical? Marketing experts at HubSpot have released interesting data in relation to running a social media contest:

  • Contents can increase an organization’s social media audience by up to 34%
  • 1/3 of those who sign up for the contest elect to receive future marketing literature
  • Contests run with a focus on mobile engagement see around 8x more entrants

Structuring a contest

How exactly does one setup a social media contest? While each and every social media contest is different, here are some basic principles you can use to get on the right track:

Choose your platform

There are a number of social media platforms where you can run your contest. The most popular, which have proven to be successful, are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. You will need to choose the platform–or platforms–that best suit your business objectives.

Decide how people enter the contest

Next, you will need to decide how users will enter the contest. The list here is endless, but there are a few entry mechanisms favored by most:

  • Sweepstakes – Common on Twitter
  • Connect – The audience needs to engage with the brand
  • Like – Facebook orientated, for instance, “like this post and win”
  • Share – Used on both Facebook and Twitter, for example “share this post to win”
  • Vote – Used on both Facebook and Twitter
  • Create – Ask users to create content, for example, upload a photo to Instagram

Name the contest

Now onto naming your contest. Is this a seasonal contest? Is the contest and a product or service of the organization linked?

In the end, you want a name that is short, relevant, and catchy.

Source: rafflecopter.com/tour

Don’t go for something that sounds gimmicky. Also, if you plan on relaunching this content again in the future or on a regular basis, opt for a name that can be repurposed.

Determine the duration

The duration is critical. Too short and you may not engage enough people, too long and your target market might become bored.

A good rule of thumb is to work backwards from the day that you would like to announce the winners. This could be linked to a special date in the organization, a change of season, or something similar.

Choose the reward

One of the most important aspects of your competition is the prize. Choose something different, not just a generic giveaway such as an iPad or gift card.

More importantly, tie it back to the organization itself for even more brand awareness. This also helps to attract people that will be interested in your organization and what you have to offer, not just those who want to win a prize.

It cannot be stressed enough, make sure the prize is relevant to your brand, your target audience, and what you plan on offering them in the future. Otherwise you’re going to attract people who just want to win something and won’t have interest in your future offerings.

Organize a content calendar

Planning content is another critical factor in running a social media contest. You cannot just make posts up, they have to be planned and used at the right time.

Using a social media editorial calendar can go a long way to help you plan your content properly. Try crafting content these five milestones when drawing out your schedule:

  • Prelaunch
  • Launch
  • Last chance
  • Completion
  • Winner announcement

Plan a media budget

Once your contest planning is in place, you’re probably going to want to use some paid media to help promote the contest itself. Here you can make use of cross platform marketing (using other social media platforms), Facebook Ads, promoted posts and Twitter advertising.

Source: earnw.co/21tFMx1

Facebook Ads in particular are one of the best ways to put advertising dollars behind a contest to help it build momentum. Because of the vast array of targeting options available on Facebook, you can get very specific with your target audience.

Set conest rules and conditions

Each contest needs a set of rules and conditions. It’s a good idea to get them reviewed by legal counsel if possible, especially if you’re launching an enterprise-level contest or you’re offering a big-ticket prize.

Remember to consider the rules of each social media platform you make use of. Here are some helpful links you might want to check out, direct from the source:

Prepare for support and moderation

Every contest needs proper support and moderation. Your target audience may have questions that need to be answered and you may need to moderate various social media platforms, especially Facebook.

Remember, this will require some monitoring during the night as well as on weekends. Plan for this in advance so that you don’t lose any momentum once the contest launches.

Helpful tools

What’s a blog post on Earnworthy without mention of helpful marketing tools? When running a social media contest, there are a number of useful tools available. A few of the popular tools include:

  • Gleam – Marketing apps designed to help you grow your business
  • Iconosquare – Perfect for running a contest on Instagram
  • Strutta – Create and run contests on multiple platforms including Facebook
  • Woobox – Create multiple competition types including sweepstakes, polls, or quizzes
  • Wishpond – Generate leads, run contests, and much more
  • Votigo – Launch contests across all major social platforms
  • Rafflecopter – Run social promotions and giveaways
  • ShortStack – Build engaging social media contests and campaigns

Successful contest examples

So, now you have some specific steps for setting up a contest, important links to review rules and regulations, and a handful of tools to explore.

But we still haven’t covered any specific examples of social media contests. Let’s take a look at two successful case studies below.

London Drugs

This Canadian retailer is focused on the sales of medicine, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, electronics, and housewares. A while back, London Drugs ran a very successful social media contest aimed at increasing their fans and engaging with customers after they had left the store.

Together with their marketing partner, they ran a massive holiday campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. The results were impressive:

  • Fans grew from around 5000 to 34,000
  • Engagements rose from under 100 to over 12,000
  • Twitter followers grew by over 1500
  • Facebook quickly became their #1 source of referral traffic


Qwertee makes one-of-a-kind, limited edition t-shirts. Their goal for launching a social media contest was to increase their audience size on Facebook, specifically aiming for 100,000 likes.

They achieved this by running a sweepstakes campaign, asking contestants to “like” their page and provide their email address as a way to enter. Those who entered stood a chance of winning one of 1000 t-shirts up for grabs every week.

Facebook Likes

Not only did they achieve their goal, their fan base continues to rise with over to 355,000 likes on Facebook at the time of this article.

Final takeaways

As our exploration of the world of social media contests comes to an end, remember to keep the following tips in mind when running a social media campaign:

  • Visual content helps to drive engagement. Boring text is not going to work.
  • Get your brand endorsed by your content partners. This opens up your brand to their followers.
  • Try to collect email addresses during your campaign.
  • Along with emails, the more information you can gain about your customers, the better.
  • Offer a decent prize as part of the contest, and tie it into your brand.
  • Ultimately, the number of entries you generate is not that important. Generating awareness of your brand is the real objective.

Social media contests are a great way to increase brand awareness while at the same time gaining insight into customer demographics.

Yes, setting up, launching, and monitoring social media promotion campaigns do take planning. However, when done properly they can be incredibly beneficial to your organization.

Have you run a social media contest? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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