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21 Tips on Running a Great Social Media Contest

21 Tips on Running a Great Social Media Contest | Social Media TodayIf you’ve been thinking about giving something away in order to gain new followers and boost organic promotion, a social media contest may seem like the perfect solution, and it can be a great way to get noticed, when done properly. The real key to success, however, is in maintaining the new followers you generate during the contest. To do that you'll need engaging content that offers value to your readers on an ongoing basis.

Here are some key tips on how to make best use of a social media contest.

1. Review Terms of Service

Before you design a contest launch, be sure you understand the terms of service for the social media platform(s) you'll be using.

The ToS for Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter are all different, be clear on what they are to ensure your contest isn’t taken down before you're able to generate interest and choose a winner.

2. Define Your Goals

What do you want to gain from this contest?

It’s easy to determine what other people will want to win, but the real point of holding a contest is to gain something. Do you want more followers? To grow your email list? To gain more analytics resources to pitch to companies you want to partner with?

Pick one or two goals and then build the design of the contest around achieving them. If you fail to do this, it'll be impossible to determine the true value for your brand of holding a contest, which will reduce the potential benefit in the long run.

3. Type Time

Once you've clearly defined the objective of the contest, it's time to decide which type of contest will help you achieve that goal most effectively.

Some of the most popular contest types include sweepstakes, photo contests, questionnaires, pin to win, and instant win.

Do some in-depth research and find successful examples of the type you’re most interested in before finalizing your decision.

4. Timing Matters

Having a clearly defined date for winners to look forward to is beneficial for several reasons.

First, it makes the goal of winning the prize seem more attainable when the date isn’t too far into the future.

Second, it gives the contest a sense of immediacy and urges those who are interested to sign up right away in order to avoid missing out on the opportunity.

5. Clear Rules

Give the people who'll be participating in the contest clear rules, so that everyone's on the same page and no questions (particularly in a legal sense) are left unanswered.

The laws surrounding games of chance and contests can vary significantly depending on your location. Research applicable resources to make sure you're in compliance with all relevant laws.

6. Eligibility

As part of the process of defining your contest rules, you'll need to determine who's eligible to enter. Again, look at the laws governing the geographic area(s) that will be involved. Do you need to exclude some states or countries? Do minors need to be excluded? Do employees of the sponsoring company need to be excluded?

It may not be fun to tell some people they aren’t allowed to enter, but being compliant with applicable laws is essential.

7. Praise Worthy Prizes

Choose a prize that will excite your target demographic, as opposed to a prize that'll be generally appealing to an audience of people that are unlikely to become members of your community.

For example, if you have a blog or business that specializes in baking, you could offer a KitchenAid Mixer, which would be of interest to virtually anyone who enjoys baking. This could help you attract a larger audience of people interested in your specific niche who'll keep their email subscription or stay subscribed to your Facebook feed long after the contest ends.

Alternatively, you could offer a new iPad with a kitchen stand to make following video recipes easier while baking, however the problem with the iPad is this contest will appeal to a much larger audience that'll likely be uninterested in your niche.

8. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Entries

Find or take the best pictures possible to help promote your contest.

If you need to take the picture yourself, make sure you brush up on the basics first, then make sure you edit the images so that they're the appropriate size for the social media platforms they'll be posted on.

If the prize is for an experience that doesn’t have a clearly defined image associated with it, choose or create one based on the feeling the experience is expected to evoke. If you were giving away a home cleaning package, for example, you could use a picture of a spotless kitchen. If you were giving away a massage, you could use peaceful scenery.

For this type of picture it may be easier to use a stock image.

9. Benefits of Branding

While you're creating those stunning images to share across various social media channels, make sure you take the time to brand them with your company logo - make it perfectly clear who is sponsoring the contest before the viewer even clicks to enter.

This is especially beneficial if the item or service you're giving away is tied to the niche you represent. Going back to the baking example, if your logo is accompanied by a popular kitchen appliance it'll help build that association in the mind of the viewer.

Consider all aspects of your brand and what sets it apart from the competition. Incorporate colors, themes, and typography, if they're a strong part of the brand’s image.

10. Hashtag Helpers

If you'll be using Instagram or Twitter to promote your contest, it's essential to choose the right hashtags to maximize attention.

To generate a trending hashtag of your own, create an entry that requires the use of a hashtag created specifically for the contest. Making it short, memorable, and unique is a challenge, but can be worth the time and effort.

11. Make it Mobile

Mobile internet use is continuing to rise, and as such, the website contestants are directed to absolutely needs to be responsive.

If mobile users click to register for your contest and are faced with a website that's difficult to navigate due to antiquated design, they'll simply move on. This can reduce entries dramatically and lead to a much less effective contest experience from a marketing perspective.

12. User Friendly

Even if the website design is responsive, if you're asking guests to fill out too much information they're likely to decide it simply isn’t worth their time.

Limit the number of fields they have to enter to three. Where possible, make it as easy as clicking a button to enter with their social media tweet, post, like, pin, or login. The easier it is for someone to enter quickly, the more likely they are to do so.

13. Incentivize Sharing

First, make sure everything you do is easy for people to share on a variety of social media platforms. When deciding what software to use to manage the contest, make sure it has the option to earn extra entries simply by sharing information about the contest. This helps ensure people are sharing the contest within their social networks so you reach the maximum number of people (again, ensure you check the contest regulations on each platform on this element).

14. Consolation Prizes

If you really want to make your social media contest a success, you need to go above and beyond the expectations of the people who enter.

Of course, you won’t be able to offer every entrant the grand prize, but that doesn’t mean they have to walk away empty handed. Send them a little bonus just for entering the contest that's related to the niche that drew them to enter originally.

15. Platform Location

It can be tempting to allow people to enter from every social media platform on which you're active, however, doing so will require additional oversight on your part and will necessitate rules that are in compliance with each individual venue. You need to consider the additional workload this will add before taking this step.

16. Editorial Calendar

You need to take the time to create an editorial calendar through whatever medium is most comfortable for you and your team.

What you use really isn’t as important as the fact that you will use it. Outline the social media posts you'll use and when they'll be used based on platform. Create email messages, blogs, and any other marketing material as well as a time table for using it. Share this information with anyone on your team who will be impacted by the contest so they're aware of when to expect an influx of interest and traffic

17. Questions and Answers

Create a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page for people who may want to know more about the contest. Cover as many questions as you can think of and make sure the resource is easily available to interested contestants, as well as any team members who may be faced with questions regarding the contest. This helps to ensure everyone's on the same page and avoids potential issues due to miscommunication.

18. Customer Service

Yes, you do need to consider the quality of the customer service experience contestants will have.

Someone needs to be monitoring social media accounts, email, and any other form of communication through which contestants are likely to ask questions, praise the contest, or vent when they're frustrated.

The way in which these contestants engage with your brand can have a big influence on how likely they are to want to continue the relationship after the contest is finished. Taking a little time to respond to individuals can have a huge impact on their overall perception of the contest and the business hosting the event.

19. Metrics

It's easy to tell how many people have entered a contest, but beyond that you'll need a way to measure the success of the campaign.

You need to know how many people arrived at your site, where they came from, how long they stayed, and how they interacted once there. Measuring each of these data points will give you a better overall look at what your target audience is looking for and how you can improve in future.

20. Countdown

Creating a countdown for the end of the contest is a great way to increase excitement and motivate people to complete the tasks required to enter - it creates a sense of urgency that prompts people to take action.

The visual component of the time literally ticking away is especially helpful for contests that require the contestants to do something more than simply fill out their name and email. For example, if they have to take a photograph, film a video, or create a piece of artwork the timer gives them a finite period of time within which they must complete their task.

21. Plan Your Next Contest

Take all of the information you gather to determine what worked well and what didn't. Ask for feedback from the people who enter the contest and begin crafting the next experience from the lessons learned.

If your contest was especially successful, you may want to make it a semi-regular occurrence. Use the editorial calendar you created for this contest as a template for future contests and as a way to schedule the timetable from concept to implementation on your editorial calendar.

Organizing a successful social media contest involves far more planning than many people realize when they initially decide to undertake such a task. In order to create an event that adds value for your existing audience, brings new people in, and increases your reputation, you'll need to carefully consider each aspect of the process.  

Make it a fun, engaging, community building event, with an added bonus of possibly winning an awesome prize at the end, and everyone will walk away a winner.

Photo credits: Thumbnail image via iStock, main image via kaboompics/Pixabay

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