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Ingredients for an effective social media contest

Running a social media contest, if done properly, can be a great way to engage more with your customers and enhance your online profile.

Running a social media contest, if done properly, can be a great way to engage more with your customers and enhance your online profile.

Every brand wants to be seen. With the competition for attention in the social media sphere at an all-time high, the fight to keep “fans” and “followers” engaged with your brand’s social activities is real, and ongoing. In addition to a smart use of visuals, businesses often turn to social media contests and promotions to stir passion and activity within their online audience.

However, it’s more than just tweeting “Who wants to win an iPad!?” Excellent social media contests need substantial planning and nimble execution, and have many moving parts and potential points of failure.


Here’s what you’ll need before launching your social media contest:

  1. Platform

Where will your contest be hosted? Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? Or will it be present on multiple channels, such as a photo contest where participants can enter on Facebook and Instagram? Remember, that each time you add a platform for participation, your oversight responsibilities grow geometrically.

Social Media graphic

  1. Entry Mechanism

How do people qualify to enter your social media contest? There are hundreds of variations, such as Likes, Comments, Shares, Votes, and more. Remember, the more you ask your audience to do, the fewer will do it. Remember, too, that the younger your audience, the more comfortable they will be creating content for your contest.

  1. Objective

Are you running a contest because there’s a new product or service? Or for a particular festival? The creative should tie back to a theme, hence it’s vital to come up with something that resonates. Also, try to keep your contest name short, as long names eat up valuable characters in tweets and social media ads.

  1. Timeline

The best approach here is to work backward from the date that you want to announce the winners. From there, figure out when judging starts/ends (if applicable), when entries close, when entries open, when promotion starts, and other key milestones.

  1. Prizes

There should be more than just an iPad. The prizes should at least tie back to the objective of the contest. The aim is also to activate and attract the people who are genuinely interested in your business, not just “contest hunters” who enter everything they can find.

  1. Seeding Strategy

Will there be a soft launch? How do you make sure that the people who are already supporting you are fully aware of the contest? How do you make them ready to participate and spread the word the minute the promotion begins? Seeding your content applies to the pre-launch and launch phases of your social media contest. What you want is to give your promotion the best chance of lift-off in the critical early stages. This could mean sending special “coming soon” emails to key customers and social influencers, making sure all employees are aware of the event and other opportunities.

  1. Rules

Your legal department should weigh in on the entirety of the program up front to determine competition rules/terms and conditions. Make its job easier by giving your contestants the total picture before they proceed to the entry mechanism.

Lastly, it’s imperative to know that using social media today as a means of marketing your brand or engaging your supporters requires a shift in mindset – one that considers social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, as any other ad-supported media properties. Remember when social media used to be called unpaid media? Those days are over. If you’re willing to allocate a chunk of your media budget, there are targetable mass audiences that you can reach. Fact: You will need to spend more money in social media than you have in the past.

The social media sphere is still a goldmine of untapped opportunity and consumer insight. Running a social media contest, if done properly, can be a great way to engage more with your customers and enhance your online profile. Hence, there’s no reason why brands can’t use social media as a way to transform and grow their businesses.


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