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Pros and Cons of Different Types of Social Media Contests

ContestWinnerCurrently we're running a Mother's Day contest for a client of ours. In fact, this client loves contests and we totally get that. We know that contests are great for increasing engagement and also great for things like gathering emails. For this particular client, we've run a "Pin It To Win It" contest, a "Photo Upload" contest, and currently, we are running a sweepstakes. All of these varied types of contests serve a different purpose and have had different results.

In this article, I'd like to share the pros and cons of hosting each type of contest. Don't forget—the results of your contest will rely heavily on the amount of promotion you put into it.

Photo/Video/Essay Upload Contest

A photo or video upload contest is a user-generated type of contest in which the participant actually has to do some work in order to be accepted as a contest entrant. This can be a contest that asks your fans to upload a photo of them wearing your brand. It could be a mock commercial in which your fan is the director. Or it can be an essay contest about why this entrant deserves that fabulous trip around the world.

These Are The Most Engaging Types Of Contest Out There

In general, the contests that require some effort on the contestant's side is going to be more engaging because your fan is actively involved. Or, in other words, engaged. If you add a voting or sharing component, which is common in these types of contests, you are further increasing engagement by getting others involved.

They Have The Most Potential To Go Viral

If you have a very creative bunch of fans, it's possible to see a more viral effect around your brand. Due to the sharing nature of this type of contest, your contestants are likely to pass it around and share it on their own pages. If the content is good, it could see a lot of Shares, which means more exposure for your brand.

They're A Great Way To Gather User-Generated Content Around Your Brand

Since all the content here is original you're likely going to see a large variety of it. This will give you insight into your audience's persona, as well as an option to Share this content as your own. Of course, you'll have to make sure your rules state that very clearly.

It Requires Work From The Contestant, So The Entry Numbers Will Be Smaller

The lower your entry level is, the more entries you will see. It's that simple.

Judging Might Be Hard

Choosing a winner might be tough if you get a lot of great entries. Not a bad problem to have, actually.

Pin It To Win It Contest

The Pin It To Win It contest, like the Photo/Video contest, requires the user to do some work in order to be entered to win.  Like the Photo/Video contest, the engagement is high, as is the pass along value.

You're Tapping Into A Growing And Engaged Audience

By hosting a Pinterest contest, you're tapping into an audience who is already engaged and ready to buy.

Your Content Will Stay Pinned Forever

The value of having content Pinned on Pinterest is very high because it stays on there forever. We ran our contest for Valentine's Day and we are still seeing consistently high referral traffic from this one contest alone.

You Are, Essentially, Growing Your Pinterest Audience

As your other social channels might be well established because they have been around for a long time, Pinterest is brand new. Hosting a contest here gives you the option to grow your brand on this new network.


The same cons as the photo/video contest here.


A sweepstakes requires the least amount of work from your fans and new fans. Usually all it requires is a name and email and you are good to go.

You're Growing Your Email List Fast

Because the entry level is so low, you'll find that you receive the most amount of entrants with a sweepstakes. Now you have to convert those emails. But hey!—It's a good start.

A Sweepstakes Offers Tons Of Sharing Potential

With the right amount of promotion you could get your sweepstakes on a lot of other blogs. Think about your prize here as well. The better it is, the better chances you'll have at getting it featured on a blog.

There's Not A Lot Of Engagement

You sign up once, and then the contest is pretty much forgotten. One way around this is to make it multiple entries. Something like one per day or one per week will keep the contestant coming back to your site.

Sweepstakes Aren't As Targeted In Terms Of Sign-Ups

Because the barrier to entry is low here, again you're going to get a lot of entries, but they might be spammy or less targeted than if you hosted a contest that had a qualifying effect.

While there are definite pros and cons to all contests, they're all still great ways to showcase the fact that you're an active brand.

What types of social media contests have you hosted?

Join The Conversation

  • May 14 Posted 3 years ago Emily Schlotzer

    Great article! My company has come across many of these pros and cons and has allowed us to be able to explain to clients just what they should expect to get out of each type of contest or sweepstakes.  Depending on the campaign, it's more often that we suggest contests and photo sharing to increase engagement for the brand. However, we have worked with clients that simply want to host a sweepstakes in efforts to gain more emails. 

    Also, in response to Tabitha's comment, I always like to encourage board creation on Pinterest as a contest because it requires more engagement than a simple re-pin. Plus, it forces agencies to be more creative with their campaign pitches :)

  • May 11 Posted 3 years ago Andy Karuza

    Hi Stephanie,

    I would be interested in getting your feedback with what we're doing at It falls more in line with contests, content amplification, and brand advocacy over social media. 

  • TabithaPhilen's picture
    May 10 Posted 3 years ago TabithaPhilen

    Unfortunately, Pin to Win contests are no longer allowed under the guidelines. They encourage board creation as a contest but not pinning, liking, or commenting.

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