Social media contests are a tried-and-true way to build brand awareness, email lists, social followings, and engage with your audience. Which is why having a solid set of Contest Promotion Ideas is crucial in finding explosive results.

But you may think that even when they’re done right, participants are only interested in winning the prize and that there’s no long-term value beyond the buzz.

While the first part of this argument is true, well-thought-out contests can generate amazing long-run value in terms of qualified leads, sales, and an engaged brand community.

Brands as large as Uber, Shopify and Omaze make millions a year from giveaways. Let’s also not leave out the small guy, they need email lists and social followers as well.

So keep reading to learn twelve actionable tips to run a successful contest promotion on social media.

Contest Promotion Ideas

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#1. Fine-Tune Your Contest To Appeal to Potential Customers

The first and rather obvious tip for a successful social media contest is to create one that’s laser-focused on your potential customers. To do that, you can:

  • Craft crisp contest copy aimed at your target audience: Write a scroll-stopping heading to capture your audience’s attention. For example, if you’re a skincare brand, something like “Protect your skin from the summer sun! Enter to win a three-pack bundle of broad-spectrum SPF 55 sunscreen.”
  • Tie your contest to a well-known event relevant to your niche: For example, you can promote your contest in conjunction with Comic-Con, the Champion’s League Final, or a major movie’s release to better attract people eagerly looking forward to that event.
  • Have appealing and valuable prizes only your ideal customers would want: If you’re a SaaS or eCommerce brand, choose one of your most popular products as your contest prize. But when giving away physical products as a fashion retailer, make sure you don’t inadvertently exclude a particular audience segment. For instance, if you give away a handbag as a prize, you’ll leave out most men. In such cases, a high-value gift card giveaway is a better bet.

In the example below, the travel brand Collette offers a vacation worth $15,000 to the contest winner. The prize perfectly suits their target audience.

Collette Facebook Contest
Source: Facebook @GoCollette

Also, if you’re a B2B or SaaS business, you can join forces with a non-competing brand in your niche to cross-promote the contest and trade prospects.

#2. Offer Incentives for Social Sharing

A nifty way to boost your contest’s reach — and gain more followers in the process — is to incentivize people to share your social media contest.

It’s a win-win: provide participants more odds of winning in terms of additional entries for each social share of the contest, a retweet, or like/follow of your social media page.

Show such incentivized sharing options as a pop-up that appears as soon as people successfully sign up for the contest and/or in the entry-confirmation email.

For example, Dutch DJ and producer Armin van Buuren’s record label Armada Music hosted a giveaway on reaching the milestone of 1000 episodes of A State Of Trance (ASOT) radio show. Check out the email they share upon entering the contest.

ASOT Contest Thank You Page

This is an example of a referral program wherein the grand prize is awarded to a single lucky winner, but entrants can boost their odds of winning by sharing the contest with their social network via the unique share link provided.

You can further leverage your participants’ social networks by hosting a hashtag contest. In this tactic, participants upload a photo and use your branded contest hashtag. For instance, Instagram users could enter Nikon’s hashtag photo contest below by tagging their content with #nikon_photo_contest.

Nikon Photo Contest Instagram
Source: Instagram @NikonPhotoContest
Nikon Photo Contest Hashtag Instagram

You can then award the prize to the participant whose photo earns the highest engagement. In this way, people are encouraged to share their photos — and thus, your campaign — with their networks.

#3. Promote Contests via Paid Social Ads

Paid social advertising is an effective way to boost brand awareness and post reach, and it can work exceptionally well for contest promotions too.

A week before launching your contest, tease your audience with targeted social media ads, particularly on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram. Share info about your contest — start and end date, prizes, etc. — so they can enter it as soon as it goes live.

BHU Foods Contest Sponsored Post
Source: Instagram @BHUFoods

Place a call to action to redirect potential customers to your website landing page for more info (such as T&C, incentives, etc.) on the contest. Then, invite them to sign up for your email list (and thus, fuel lead generation via pop-ups), so they can stay in the know about contest updates and winner announcements.

Furthermore, once your contest is live, use social ads to remind your audience about the last date to enter it. Also, use a Facebook custom audience to target people who turned into leads during your contest period with relevant content. This way, you can achieve a lower CPC and greater brand awareness for less.

All in all, while paid social ads for contest promotion are optional, they don’t require a huge budget and can drive an impressive ROI in terms of more entrants and brand awareness.

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#4. Follow Up via an Email Campaign

Using email to market your campaign is one of our favorite contest promotion ideas!

Right after your contest ends is one of the best times to send a follow-up email campaign with all the participants to thank them for entering your contest and try and convert them into customers.

An easy way to do this is to send a simple automated follow-up email with an offer or coupon code, such as in the example from BHU Foods below.

BHU Foods Contest Email
Source: BHU Foods

The easy-to-use coupon code incentivizes participants to convert.

Contest creation, promotion, and following up is a lot of work. Consider using task management software to stay on top of the entire contest project execution from start to finish.

contest winner announcement templates

Emails sent once the contest is over are extremely crucial. You have to handle the winner announcement delicately.

Our guide, filled with winner announcement templates, will help you in running a smooth campaign.

#5. Use High-Quality Pictures

Attention spans are going down, from an average of 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015. And so, an attractive picture can be worth a thousand entries, no matter the contest format or prize.

If the prize is a product, make sure you (or your marketing team) take high-quality product photos. 

Below is an example from the surf shop Ann’s Cottage where they give away a limited edition skateboard deck.

Anns Cottage Surf Element Contest
Source: Instagram @AnnsCottageSurf

If the prize is an experience (such as a travel voucher), you can pick a high-quality stock image that evokes the feeling of that experience. For example, if you’re giving away a home cleaning package as the contest prize, you can use a picture of an immaculate bedroom.

Also, consider including the prize’s value in the contest image as a banner image on your brand’s Facebook and Twitter profiles, as Trex does below.

Trex Materials Contest
Source: Trex

And if possible, take it to the next level by creating attractive videos to capture your audience’s attention, inform them about the contest details, and encourage them to participate in the contest.

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#6. Showcase Your Brand

Running social media contests is one of the most effective ways to engage with your audience using your brand voice, build brand awareness, and create a community around your brand, all in one go.

While you’re preparing high-quality photos and/or videos to go along with your contest promotions on various social media channels, ensure to brand those visuals with your company logo. This helps make it crystal clear who is hosting the contest within the first few seconds of stumbling upon it.

Considering the home cleaning package example, if the immaculate bedroom image is paired with a prominent logo, it’ll help create an instant association in the mind of the prospect.

Below is another example of a giveaway contest from The Healthy Family and Home, where the creator, Karielyn, brands the contest image with her logo. Also, note how the terms of contest entry are specified in the caption — something we’ll describe more in an upcoming section.

The Healthy Family and Home Instagram Contest
Source: Instagram @TheHealthyFamilyAndHome

Think about your brand style guidelines and what sets it apart from the rest. Besides including your branded hashtag (if you have one), incorporate your brand’s color palette, fonts, and voice in your contest promotions to build a stronger brand association.

6 Contest Promotion Ideas not enough? Lets double that figure with 6 more!

#7. Create an Editorial Calendar in Advance

Contests are a part of your overall content marketing strategy. Whether or not you plan to leverage contests frequently, creating a simple editorial content calendar will go a long way in streamlining your marketing efforts and helping you stay consistent.

In essence, a calendar outlines your content creation and posting schedule. It can include:

  • Content format and category
  • Progress status
  • Team members involved
  • Call to action
  • Promotion channels (email, social media, ads, etc.)
  • Time of posting

There’s no shortage of tools and templates you can use to create an editorial calendar that encompasses your contest promotions as well. There’s also plenty of task management software that can help you assign and monitor responsibilities at each stage of your contest.

Pro Tip:

Running a social media contest from start to finish is a time-sensitive activity. To promote your contest on all your brand’s social accounts at just the right time without fail, consider using a social media calendar.
Social Media Calendar VYPER
VYPER Free Account Signup WW

#8. Be As Specific as Possible With the Terms

Familiarize yourself with the policies of the social platform you plan to promote your contest on.

Major platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have policies about running contests, and not abiding by those policies may lead to your contest or even the account being banned.

Once you’re familiar with the rules, it’s time to chalk out your contest’s terms and conditions.

Being super-specific is key. Ensure to describe the terms you’ve set for your contest as clearly as possible. Specify what you intend to do with any data collected. See BuzzFeed Tasty’s example below.

Bussfeed Tasty Contest
Source: Instagram @BuzzFeedTasty

Check out this “Tasty Triple Threat” contest’s official rules for inspiration. But it doesn’t have to be this elaborate. A contest too complex to enter will deter potential participants from entering it.

Interested people who have additional questions can always reach out for further questions by sending a DM, shooting an email, or using a help desk tool.

Moreover, keep the contest period and deadline short to spark a sense of urgency and nudge people to participate right away. You don’t want to bore your participants with constant updates and notifications.

Besides how to enter, here are a few more key details to include:

  • Start and end date
  • Prizes
  • Age and geographic limitation (if applicable)
  • How you will announce and reward the winners

Finally, mention that the social media platform (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) you are promoting your contest on isn’t associated with your brand in any way.

#9. Make Your Prizes Relevant to Your Product/Service

Ultimately, people are in it for the prizes. They may or may not be previously engaged with your brand, but the contest is your opportunity to get them interested in what you have to offer.

As with most things in life, you must prioritize quality over quantity of your entries. Focus your efforts on enticing your ideal customers, and for that, you need to have a prize relevant to your products or services.

It could either be one of your brand’s most popular or newly launched products/services or it could even be one from a complementary business that you can partner up with for greater reach (more on that in the next tip!).

Also, as mentioned in the first tip, when giving away branded products, be sure not to unwittingly exclude a specific audience segment. Consider giving away gift cards to avoid that (more on that later).

If you have a substantial following, you can even reward the winner by featuring their content on your feed. You can include a cash/gift card prize. This way, the winner gets exposure, and you get free user-generated content that endorses the power of your products.

GoPro is an expert at such UGC-driven Instagram contests, check out their GoPro Awards page and don’t hesitate to steal their challenges-based strategy.

GoPro Instagram Contest
Source: Instagram @GoPro

Long story short, don’t make the rookie mistake of being a hardware store and giving away an iPhone, as at the end of the contest, you’ll end up with a list of leads who want the latest iPhone, and that has nothing to do with your business.

#10. Partner With Similar Businesses in Your Network for Extra Reach

Partnering up with other brands is another one of our favorite contest promotion ideas!

As we mentioned at the end of the first tip, you can team up with a non-competing brand in your niche that offers complementary products/services. This way, you can cross-promote the contest to each other’s audiences and trade prospective customers.

One way is to add the brand you partner with as a contest sponsor in exchange for doing all the email, social, and paid promotions about the contest to your respective audiences.

You can even collaborate with an influencer to run a branded contest. In doing so, you put your brand in front of their already engaged audience that trusts what they have to say.

For example, food influencer Elsa’s Wholesome Life partnered with Vitamix on Instagram, leveraging the brand that resonates with her audience and complements her product.

Elsas Wholesome Life Instagram Contest
Source: Instagram @ElsasWholesomeLife

Such partnerships, big or small, can often be the difference between a successful contest and an ineffective one.

#11. Give Away Gift Cards

Again, as touched upon in the first tip, a high-value gift card that you can only use at your store is a surefire way to:

  • Avoid pigeonholing your prospects into a particular prize.
  • Generate a qualified list of leads who are interested in your brand’s offerings and more receptive to your follow-ups after the contest.

For instance, Sock Mafia gave away a year’s worth of socks supplies to a lucky winner in their contest:

Sock Mafia Giveaway
Source: Sock Mafia

#12. Send a post-contest follow-up email

We know we’re reiterating this tip, but make sure to set up a post-contest follow-up email campaign. After all, the purpose of your contest is to build brand awareness. Your contest can also create a tangible list of qualified leads that are ready to be sold to.

Lucille Roberts Contest Thank You Page
Source: Business2Community

So, right after the contest ends, shoot an automated follow-up email with an offer that serves as a neat nudge to convert. You can also include an invite to follow you on social media to stay in the know about future contests.

Contest Promotion Ideas: In It to Win It

And there you have it! Twelve power-packed contest promotion ideas for running an engaging contest on social media.

If your contest is successful, why not make it a regular thing? Use the editorial calendar you created to plan and schedule future contests from idea to implementation.

Use our contest promotion ideas to experiment with multiple campaigns over the course of the year.

So, tell us — have you run a social media contest before? How was your experience? Which one of our contest promotion ideas is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

Zoe Devitto

About the Author

Zoe is a content marketing strategist for SaaS brands like FollowUpBoss, and more. Bylines: Ecwid, ProProfs, Score, etc. On the personal front, Zoe is a pho enthusiast and loves traveling around the world as a digital nomad.

Jack Paxton
Jack Paxton

Jack Paxton is the co-founder of VYPER, a marketing tool that helps brands build email lists, social followings, and revenue using viral giveaways, referral, and reward programs. After millions of dollars spent testing different marketing strategies at his marketing agency. He then also co-founded Hyax a fast, conversion & design-focused course and funnel builder for creators.

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