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Who doesn’t love winning?
Running a social media contest is an amazing opportunity to amplify your brand, your products, and your services. With organic reach on the decline, social media contests are one of the few effective ways to boost your brand online with a minimal promotional budget.
Contests can consist of a simple giveaway from a small brand, or full-blown campaigns that create an avalanche of media buzz.
Consider Air Asia’s give away a plane campaign in Australia. The lucky winner received a free trip round trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for herself and an entire planeful of Facebook friends. The contest generated 12,500 entries, reached 2,291,483 people on Facebook and boosted Air Asia’s Facebook following by 30 percent.
Even if you can’t afford an entire plane’s worth of seats for a prize, running social media contests is an effective component of any social media strategy.
If you target prospective customers and actively engage with your entrants, the real winner of the contest will be your brand.
How to Launch Your Social Media Contest
1. Set your goals and budget
Before you get to adding your contest on your social media calendar, it’s important to ensure you establish SMART goals for the KPIs you want to hit. That is, goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. A social media contest can provide more value to your business by:
- Boosting brand or product engagement
- Increasing your social following
- Growing your email list
- Encouraging community engagement
- Generating user-generated content
- Understanding customers better through surveys
While one campaign could conceivably accomplish all these things, make sure you prioritize the goals that are most important to your business. If you make your contest too complex and hard to enter, you won’t receive the engagement you need.
When setting your budget, make sure you consider the prize, promotion cost, and any paid services you will use. It may seem daunting to spend more money on better prizes. You’ll have to determine if the ROI for expanding your awareness and customer base is worth the investment.
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2. Choose your prizes and an exciting hook
If you want to run a successful contest, both the premise and the prizes have to be exciting enough to get your ideal customers on board.
Remember, you don’t just want entrants. You want entrants who will convert to customers.
Here are some ideas for prize offers to get you started:
- Your own products or services
- Another product related to your brand
- A vacation or unique experience
- A gift card or money
After selecting your prize, you’ll need to determine the hook for your contest. Will the prize sell itself? If so, the prize can be the hook. However, not every brand can offer one-week all-expenses-paid trips or celebrity meet and greets, so use the resources available to you wisely, and choose an interesting spin.
New York City coffee brand Gillie’s Coffee ran a simple but enticing Christmas contest called the Stocking Stuffer Giveaway where two winners each received an Aeropress coffee maker and a bag of coffee. The prizes themselves may not have been worth much, but the contest was easy to enter via Facebook and received over 2,000 entries.
The Christmas hook and clever branding got people on board with the idea that they could give the prize away as a gift, or keep it for themselves and enjoy a nice cup of coffee during the cold winter season.
A contest like this would be great for increasing social media following and newsletter subscribers, but you can also encourage entrants to generate content for your brand as a way of increasing engagement and sponsoring community.
Social Media Holidays and Hashtag Holidays are an easy starting point for any contest.
Custom sticker company StickerYou in Toronto ran a contest to win a trip to Hawaii, but with a twist. In order to win, entrants had to take a picture of a sticker containing the StickerYou mascot in interesting or beautiful places and share their pictures with the hashtag #stickytravels. Current customers already got the contest stickers with their orders, but Sticky the sloth stickers were also given out with free sample orders, encouraging new business leads.
Because the contest required entrants to showcase the product to their social followers, the company hoped those followers would be prompted to enter the contest, as well. This type of contest also provides a wealth of content you can use down the road as part of your larger marketing strategy.
Once you have your prizes, your hook, and any applicable graphics or messaging in place, it’s time to get your format down and prepare to roll.
3. Choose social networks and contest entry structure
When running your contest, you need to determine which social networks you’ll use to accept contest entries. You don’t have to stick to one. Promote the contest heavily where your audience is most likely to engage, and give them additional entries for each of your social networks they visit.
With your social networks list in place, you can then determine the entry requirements. Entering a contest can be as simple as sharing or retweeting a post to encourage more entries and brand awareness, or following certain social accounts and using a hashtag to track entries. You may also want your entrants to fill out a form to learn more about them. The type of entry should be dictated by the goals you set for the contest.
Here are some contest types you might want to consider:
- Photo Contests
- Video Contests
- Caption Contests
- Like, Share and/or Reply
- Vote to Win
Each type of contest comes with its own considerations. For example, a contest that encourages artistic or photographic submissions would require specific submission guidelines and a basis for judging the winner. You’ll also need to consider age appropriateness in your messaging and rules when running submission-based contests. A simple sweepstake, on the other hand, is much simpler in that a winner is chosen at random.
There are plenty of companies that offer services to help make running social media sweepstakes a snap: Gleam, Rafflecopter and Strutta to name just a few. These tools offer you the ability to run contests with minimal effort. They facilitate the collection of entries through forms that can integrate with networks like Facebook, and allow you to create entry conditions such as visiting a brand on other social networks or sending out a tweet to gain multiple entries. These tools will also save you valuable time by automatically choosing winners at random.
Promotion can also be built into the mechanics of your competition. The team at classic gaming platform Solitaired ran a contest where you had a greater chance of winning the more you would share their solitaire game of the day with friends through email and Facebook. This became their primary promotion vehicle driving over 2,500 people to sign up to their contest.
4. Determine the length and frequency of your contest
The length of your contest should depend on the value of the prize. A large prize will sit in the back of people’s minds even after they’ve entered, and you can keep the excitement going by allowing more entries daily or weekly. Too long though, and you risk losing the urgency that will convince people to enter as soon as they see the contest. It’s a balance. Of course, if you’re doing an off-the-cuff Twitter contest with a small prize, the contest can be as short as a day or two.
Some companies may only run one or two social contests a year, whereas others choose to run short and regular contests with small but in-demand prizes to help keep brand engagement constant. Custom limited edition t-shirt company ShirtPunch runs regular weekly contests to win shirts or other prizes by asking customers to interact with a Facebook post. No wonder they have over 200,000 followers on Facebook!
5. Read up on contest rules
Before you get started, be sure you that you not only define the legal requirements required for any contest on your own end but understand the different social networks’ rules on how you’re allowed to run and promote your contest.
If you break these rules, you could get dinged by the social networks. For example, Facebook discourages any contest that asks users to share a post or tag friends to win. So make sure you read and fully understand the rules for each social network you plan to use!
Social media contest rules aren't just limited to the platforms you host them on. You'll want to make sure that your contest is compliant with local and government laws, as well.
6. Promote and engage
Time to get the word out.
Use your chosen networks to start your contest. Make it exciting! Keep the copy short and hype up the rarity or exclusivity of the prizes you’re offering. Make it easy for viewers to understand the full scope of your contest: the prizes, requirements for entry, and terms and conditions.
While you should be able to rely on entries to boost your campaign organically, you can also use paid promotion to ensure that your contest is seen by audiences most likely to convert. After all, when you engage one person with your promotion, you have the potential to engage all of their followers, as well. And every entrant is a potential customer.
Make sure you continually promote your social media contest!
Gleam has created a comprehensive guide on how to promote social contests. It covers the different tactics you can use on different social networks, but also how to integrate your website and use visitor retargeting to follow visitors across the web.
As people enter and share the contest with others, you’ll gain plenty of new followers and people interested in your brand. Remember, a contest not only has the potential to grow your lead list and follower count, but also to encourage users to engage with your brand. Make sure you talk to the people who are interacting with your contest or have submitted user-generated content and share it on your channels!
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7. Convert, analyze, reflect
When the contest ends, choose and announce the winners and thank everyone for entering. Although the contest is over, you still have some followup to do.
People who enter a contest have generally already bought into your brand, so you can work easily to convert them. One way to do this is to link your contest to an exclusive promotion that kicks off when the contest ends. With the contest fresh in their mind, they’re more likely to check out what you’re offering. Even if they don’t convert right then and there, you’re sowing the seeds for a purchase down the road. You can also entice them to continue following your brand closely by teasing the potential for more giveaways.
When the dust settles, be sure to run analytics on social engagement and reflect on your contest: Did your prizes and messaging generate buzz? Were you able to generate and communicate ROI? Did you hit or exceed your goals? What worked well? What didn’t? With this information, you’ll have a benchmark in place for your next contest.
Follow these tips to boost your brand’s presence and engagement online – and may the odds be ever in your favor.
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