How to run social media competitions

Social media competitions can encourage more visits to your website, more sign-ups, and more sales. Try your luck with these 7 top tips.

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I’m not one to shy away from entering social media competitions, and I’ve had more than my fair share of luck with winning them too (you really have got to be in it to win it, folks). And the more competitions I win, the more competitions I enter, and so on. It’s becoming something of a hobby to which I’m finding myself becoming quite addicted.

With competitions on the brain, and a marketer’s hat on my head, I thought I’d put together a little guide for those brands that are considering running their own social media competitions.

1. Know the rules

First things first, each social media platform has its own unique set of rules for hosting competitions. You’ll need to familiarise yourself with the rules for your chosen contest platform as these will ultimately define how the campaign pans out. Failure to comply with Ts&Cs leaves your competition vulnerable to being taken down by the social media police. So before you get going, check out the correct protocol for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest competitions.

Obviously, there are a lot of rules to get around for each of these platforms, and sharing them all as part of the competition might well put people off of entering. Instead, include a simple link to a blog post or dedicated landing page on your website that outlines the full dos and don’ts in detail.

2. Long term goals

A boost in likes, comments, shares, or mentions, can be extremely flattering, and it will certainly stand out in the end of campaign social media stats and performance reports. But, you need to think beyond that short term spike – what long-term benefits do you want to gain from running the competition? Is it more followers? More email subscribers? Content generation? More downloads? More leads?

The competition needs to run with a view to achieving these wider goals. Without this, it’s impossible to determine the true value of the campaign. Asking participants to submit a story, an answer to a question, a photo or video, a piece of their data, or consent to contact them in the future will pave the way for them to be involved in the next piece of content in your marketing collateral.

3. Platform positioning

It’s essential to consider the method of competition entry in accordance with the platform it’s being hosted on and the people it will reach. This mechanism needs to work in as few steps as possible, and be as simple as possible. As soon as you start adding barriers to entry, people will drop off. The following platforms and entry methods lend themselves well to one another:

Facebook: Like or share a post, or comment with an anecdote or photo
Twitter: Reply or retweet a post, ask people to jump on a given hashtag
Instagram: Share a photo or video, tagging your account and mentioning a hashtag
Pinterest: Pin an image or board of images, mentioning your brand

While the above suggestions ensure a super easy entry process to encourage as many people as possible to get involved with your competition, they contribute very little value beyond temporary social media engagements. Ideally, you’ll want part of the competition mechanism to drive participants towards your website or towards providing some kind of hook that will support your future marketing and customer relations goals.

4. Eyes on the prize

The prize is obviously the magnet that will attract entries, but you can’t just give-away a good prize and expect great results. Choose something that will specifically appeal to your target audience, and encourage them to take action beyond just entering the competition.

For example, if you are a sports brand you’d be missing a trick by offering the opportunity to win a generic prize such as a pair of headphones as this will appeal to a wide and varied audience, most of whom will probably not be all that interested in what your company actually offers. On the other hand, a prize suited to your specific niche – perhaps a gym membership, performance clothing and accessories, or supplements – will entice not just competition entrants, but also long-term customers.

Obviously, it’s not possible to reward every entrant with a top prize, but a little recognition or thanks for entering can go a long way.

5. Promoting the competition

Launching your competition is just the beginning of the ride. The real legwork comes in promoting it. Your concept may be all-singing-all-dancing, but if nobody knows about it, then nobody can enter it. Here are some ways to get more eyeballs on your campaign;

  • Create a blog post(s) or a dedicated landing page on your website revealing all the juicy details (and rules)
  • Share your competition with local directories, news pages, and magazines
  • Include a link in your e-newsletters
  • Post regular updates across all social media channels, reminding people to enter
  • Invest in some targeted advertising
  • Collab with like-minded brands on the prize, and ensure they also do all of the above for maximum exposure

6. Closing date

Establish a clearly defined closing date for the competition that’s not too far away as this gives a sense of urgency, and makes the prize feel more within reach. You could also share a couple of countdown updates as the date draws nearer.

7. Measuring all the data

There’s more to the success of a competition than just number crunching all the entries and calling it a day. You should dig a little deeper and see how many people used the competition as leverage to visit your website, read your content, sign up to your services, or buy your products.

Measuring these longer-term interactions will allow you to draw robust conclusions about your target demographic and their connection to your brand.

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