Social Media Contests

Looking for a way to increase enthusiasm surrounding your business, gain new followers, and increase engagement? A social media contest may be right up your alley. Social media contests, when done correctly, have huge potential to go viral (just think of all of the ways people can like, comment on, and share your contests), drawing attention to your business, boosting organic promotion, and ultimately leads to new customers.

Social media contests are also a great way to reward your existing customer base, thus increasing customer retention rates and turning customers into raving fans. And what do raving fans do? Provide plenty of word of mouth promotion and recommendations to their friends and family, which can be huge for your business, considering 84% of people either somewhat or completely trust recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues. Here are some key tips to keep in mind for running successful social media contests:

Choose One Network & Stick With It

Ever heard of the KISS principle? Keep It Simple, Stupid? That thought process applies perfectly here. You want your social media contest to be clear cut, easy to enter, void of confusion, and you don't want to have to be answering the same questions over and over. How is that accomplished? By choosing a single network to hosting your social media contest on and sticking with that network. Facebook is always a great platform for contests (especially if you have the budget to run paid ads to help get the word out), as is Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Now, that doesn't mean you can't cross-promote your contest on your other social media profiles...that is actually highly recommended if you want to run a successful social media contest. You want to get your contest in front of as many eyes as possible to increase your chances of it going viral and to get as much engagement as possible, but in terms of entries, you want that taking place on a single network. You can even award additional entries into your contest for each time one of your followers shares it on an additional network (ie if the contest is on Facebook and they share the contest on Twitter and Instagram, they get an additional entry for each share).

Get A Solid Grasp On Your Target Audience


(Source -

Each category on the ladder in the above graphic represents a different type of target audience. For example, a joiner is a social media junkie, while a creator is more interested in blogs and videos. Take a look at each category and determine which best fits the mold of your target audience (multiple categories may apply to your target audience, which is perfectly fine). This is going to help you with crafting the overall strategy for your social media contest. It's critical the contest idea you select meshes well with the interests of your target audience, otherwise you will not get the engagement you are hoping to achieve, and the contest itself will not be a success.

Canva gives a few ideas of social media contests that mesh well with the categories on the ladder, such as a retweet contest for the joiners category, and a Heineken-style scavenger-hunt competition for the creators category. They also bring up the Airbnb Shorts Video Contest, as this appeals to all categories on the ladder, due to its multiple points of entry. For example, you could post a video to Instagram of your favorite local spot, or you could simply watch the videos, and if you chose to, like and comment on them. Having a solid grasp on your target audience and what type of activities interest them will help you greatly with crafting a contest idea with the best chances of generating great results.


Choose The Actual Type Of Contest That's Right For You

Now that you have a solid grasp on your target audience, it's time to choose the actual type of contest you want to run. The goal here is to make sure the contest itself, and the activities associated it, match up with the activities associated with your target audience as identified on the above ladder graphic. There are so many different contest ideas you can run with here, ranging from video contests to trivia contests to caption contests to fill-in-the-blank contests to recipe contests to hashtag photo contests to tag-a-friend contests to vote contests to sweepstakes and the list goes on and on. Get creative, your target audience will appreciate it, and it will increase the chances of your contest going viral. Kim Garst provides a couple of examples of contests that generate lots of creative engagement, including the:

"Caption This Facebook Contest"


And the "Fill In The Blank Facebook Contest"


While both of those ideas were used on Facebook, they can be used on many networks, but the idea behind them is to get your followers to engage with your page. Wishpond is another great source for contest ideas to fit all spectrums of the target audience ladder.

Make Your Contest Rules Clear

The more valuable your prize is, the more entries you will receive, which increases the chances of some people trying to cheat, as well as people complaining the contest itself was not fair, or that winners were not randomly chosen. So you need to make sure your contest rules are crystal clear from the get-go, not only to protect yourself, but to protect your fans and followers who are entering the contest. ShortStack provides some best practices on rules you should include in any social media contest you run, including, but not limited to:

  • No Purchase Necessary
  • Purchase does not enhance chance of winning
  • Void where prohibited
  • Dates winner(s) will be chosen and notified
  • An explanation of entry methods
  • Eligibility requirements
  • A clear description of the prize(s)
  • Odds of winning
  • Publicity rights (for example, if it is a photo contest, is the participant giving you the right to use their photo in your marketing should you choose to)
  • Method of selecting a winner


Pick A Prize Relevant To Your Target Audience

The prize is one of the most important aspects of your entire social media contest. If the prize you are offering is not appealing and relevant to your target audience, what motivation do they have to spend their time entering your contest? Wishpond gives some solid examples of social media contests done right, including:

Qwertee - they're a t-shirt company, so what they did focus their contest around? Giving away enough t-shirts so you don't have to do laundry for an entire month! While they had to give away 1,000 t-shirts every week, it helped them achieve their end goal, which was 100,000 Facebook likes, no small feat.


O-Cedar - they stuck true to their brand, and ran a high converting Facebook giving away their EasyWring Spin Mop & Bucket System. Even though the prize only had a value of about $30, the page itself was design well, and their followers responded perfectly, sharing the contest hundreds of times, with over 11,000 entrants!