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Everything You Need to Launch a Successful Social Media Contest Tomorrow

Everything You Need to Launch a Successful Social Media Contest Tomorrow Blog Feature

Ramona Sukhraj

Associate Director of Content, Strategized Initiatives That Increased IMPACT’s Website Traffic From ~45K to ~400K

April 1st, 2016 min read

social-media-contest.jpgAccording to Kontest, 70% of people have entered a contest or played a game online at some point in their lives. 

Social media contests are a fun, cost-effective way to increase your social following, build brand awareness, generate leads, and engage (and delight) your current customers -- yet many small business still haven't tried them. 

If the only thing stopping you from running a social media contest is inexperience or incomplete knowledge of how to get started, don't worry. We're going to change that right now. 

Before You Get Started...

Running a successful social media contest requires detailed planning and proper execution to get the most ROI. There are several factors to consider and maneuver before you can launch.

Below are six of the biggest things to consider before running a social media contest. 

1. Complying with the Rules of the Platform(s)

Where do you want your contest to take place? Each platform has its own set of guidelines regarding contests and promotions. Familiarize yourself with them before making any major plans. One contest isn't worth getting banned from the network altogether.

Facebook: Out of all of the social media platforms, Facebook has always been the most strict about with its contest/promotion guidelines. They are detailed and seem to change frequently as the platform does as well. You're best off checking Facebook's official guidelines before implementing any plans, but as of January 16, 2015, here's what they state:

E.    Promotions

1. If you use Facebook to communicate or administer a promotion (ex: a contest or sweepstakes), you are responsible for the lawful operation of that promotion, including:

a.   The official rules;

b.   Offer terms and eligibility requirements (ex: age and residency restrictions); and

c.   Compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered (ex: registration and obtaining necessary regulatory approvals)

2. Promotions on Facebook must include the following:

a.   A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.

b.   Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

3. Promotions may be administered on Pages or within apps on Facebook. Personal Timelines and friend connections must not be used to administer promotions (ex: “share on your Timeline to enter” or “share on your friend's Timeline to get additional entries”, and "tag your friends in this post to enter" are not permitted).

4. We will not assist you in the administration of your promotion, and you agree that if you use our service to administer your promotion, you do so at your own risk.

Twitter: Like its tweets, Twitter keeps its guidelines for contests short and simple:

  • Follow the normal Twitter rules
  • Discourage participants from creating multiple accounts to enter your contest (There are people who dedicate a lot of time to entering random contests)
  • Discourage your followers from sending the same tweet multiple times (and avoid sending the same message yourself)
  • Comply with all laws

You can see Twitter's full list of guidelines here.

Instagram: Instagram is another platform that keeps its rules for promotions and contests simple, but as a subsidiary of Facebook, it takes them very seriously. They include the following points: 

  • You must not inaccurately tag content or encourage users to inaccurately tag content.
  • You acknowledge that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Instagram. 
  • You accept full responsibility for the lawful operation of your promotion.

Pinterest: Last, but not least Pinterest appears to be the most laid back with their contest rules. The platform actually doesn't have specific rules for contests, so just make sure you follow its general rules.

2. Your Budget

How much money are you willing to spend on this contest? This budget has to cover:

  • the cost of the prize
  • any tools or services you use
  • postage/shipping if needed
  • promotion

3. Your Timeline

How long should this contest run?

The longer the contest lasts, the more difficult it can get to maintain engagement and create a sense of urgency, but on the other hand, if your contest is too short, you risk not getting many participants -- which means fewer followers and/or leads.

To choose the ideal time, take into account how long it will for the contest to gain traction, for people to complete their entries, and when you wanted to accomplish your goal by. 

4. Your Prize

The viral component of social media contests is what generates a lot of buzz around your brand and makes them so effective, but let's face it -- people won't enter, let alone talk about your contest if the prize sucks.

Pick a prize that is worth the effort that someone will take to enter the contest (including sharing their contact information with you). Pick a prize that is desirable but within your budget. 

5. The Type of Contest

What kind of contest are you hosting? What do people have to do? Depending on the platform you're using, this can vary greatly in terms of effort and creativity. Let's take a look at a few examples for each platform mentioned above. 


  • Sweepstakes/Giveaway - These are the most common and they typically generate the most participants. Fans fill out a form with their information to enter to win a prize. 
  • Photo and/or video contest - Posting photos/videos around a specified theme for likes and comments or for you to judge. This can also be done through an application or add-on, but it can be held without one as well. You can incorporate a hashtag or tagging your page and follow-up directly on the platform with your entrants. 
  • Polls and quizzes - Users answer questions or leave comments to be entered in the contest. 

Here are 10 examples of successful Facebook contests you can learn from.


  • Sweepstakes - People tweet/retweet something to enter themselves in the drawing or fill out a form. 
  • Hashtag Contest - Create a themed hashtag that asks people to respond with a clever or smart tweet that aligns with it. The person with the best (or most popular)  tweet wins. 

A great example of this is the weekly contest run by @schmovie. A few months ago, the account asked users to put a spice or condiment twist on movie titles using the hashtag #SpiceSchmovies and the best ones were rewarded with an at-home version of the Schmovie board game. The result were hilariously punny titles like: The Land Before Thyme, There's Something About Rosemary, and my very own Black Mass-ala. 

These seven creative contests for Twitter should help spark some ideas. 


  • Like/Repost to win - Another sweepstakes contest that's easy to enter. You can have people share a specific photo on their accounts and tag your brand. 
  • Caption this - You post a photo and people can enter by coming up with a creative and hilarious caption.

Check out these 10 small business Instagram contest examples with a critique for each one.


  • Pin it to win it -- People pin a photo or post one of yours to enter the contest.
  • Board contest -- Contestants create a board around a theme you choose and the board with the most likes and re-pins wins.

Here are some examples running on Pinterest right now.

6. Tools and Software

While most contests can run without any third-party applications or tools, there are plenty to choose from that can make the entire process much easier (and compliant). Some of the most popular contest tools and software include:

  • WooBox - Promotion applications for Facebook, Pinterest, and more. 
  • Gleam - Great for sweepstakes and lead generation.
  • Agorapulse - Social media management and contests.
  • OfferPop - Great for curating and sharing user-generate content.
  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud - A nice option for larger companies.
  • Iconosquare -Best for Instagram contests.
  • Piqora - Best for Pinterest contests.

Five Tips for Running a Successful Social Media Contest

Now that you've got an understanding of everything that goes into running a successful social media contest, it's time to actually plan and executing your contest. Doing this will depend on what platform and type of contest you choose, but regardless of these factors, there are a few tips you should keep in mind. 

1. Set a Clear Goal

Just like any other marketing initiative, you need to approach your social media contest with the big picture in mind. What would you like to accomplish by running this contest?

More social media followers? Email subscribers? Leads for your business? Your contest should cater to a specific business goal. 

2. Break Away from the Crowd

Social media contests are great -- that's why everyone is using them. To stand out from the crowd you need to do something unusual. Offer a unique prize or think about what makes the platform you're using unique; why people want to use it and incorporate that into your contest. These five creative social media contests offer some impressive inspiration. 

3. Set Clear Guidelines and Expectations

Regardless of the platform you choose, you'll have to be compliant with all codes and laws. Most of these include being forefront with your contest rules and how a winner will be chosen. Make sure that you have these terms clearly written up and available easily to entrants. 

4. Leverage All of Your Social Channels

To get the most out of your contest, you should be promoting it everywhere you can, not just on the platform that you're hosting the contest on.

New to Instagram, but already have a big following on Facebook? Perfect! Create a contest on Instagram and promote it to your Facebook audience. Then email your subscribers, tweet to your Twitter followers, etc. to quickly generate buzz and early engagement.

5. Listen, Engage, and Learn. 

Social media contests are a great way to connect with your buyer persona, nurture engagement, and learn

Use yours to start a conversation with your participants and pick their brains. Ask them what they would do if they won the prize, answer questions, and create opportunities for more entries. These interactions will provide invaluable feedback and insight into your persona's interests and behaviors. 

6. Measure Everything

The contest software linked above all have analytics built in to help you keep track of everything. This will help you figure out what works for your audience and what doesn't, that way you can make your next contest even more successful.

Examples of Successful Social Media Contests

1. Qwertee

With a goal of reaching 100,000 likes, Qwertee ran a sweepstakes giving away free t-shirts. The contest was a huge success and their Facebook page grew to almost 300,000 fans!


2. Sephora

To celebrate their 15th birthday (and increase their social media following tremendously) Sephora offered a sweepstakes giving away a free trip to Costa Rica and a year's supply of Surf product.


3. Eggo Waffles

Participants could enter this contest by submitting their best Eggo recipes and then the fans voted for their favorite. The winner got $5,000!


4. Dove

Here's an example of a fill-in-the-blank contest. Dove asked their followers to tell them why their friend “represents Real Beauty” by filling in their friend’s name and two things that make them beautiful. The winners got to be the next faces of Dove, which benefits the brand and their fans.


5. AMC Theaters

AMC has an entire Pinterest board dedicated to giveaways. All their fans have to do is follow the board and when a new contest is pinned they click the link which directs them to a landing page on AMC's website. From there they enter their contact information and they have a chance to win all kinds of prizes from movie posters to autographed director's chairs.


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