A Guide to Running a Successful Social Media Competition
Running a social media competition is a brilliant way to attract and engage audiences, grow awareness of a product and increase purchase intent from potential customers. They can also be used to build an email list, drive traffic to your website or simply to reward your customers.
So what do you need to do to plan, create and run a successful social media competition? Read on to explore our top tips.
Securing a prize is the first, and arguably the most important, thing you need to do. It needs to be appealing enough to catch your audience’s attention and make them want to enter. The prize should be one of your products, or rooted in your brand in some way – for example, a gym could give away workout clothes and a free session, or a train company might provide a weekend stay in one of its destinations.
You also need to decide whether you’ll be giving away one prize, or a few for runners-up too. Offering a range of prizes is a great way to involve other businesses, so will help to increase the reach of the competition. It’s also an effective way to engage new audiences, and also to align your brand with others – for example, partnering with an established local magazine could help a new restaurant gain exposure and kudos.
There’s generally one hard and fast rule here: keep things simple. In most instances, an overly complicated entry method will put people off; instead, you should aim to make things as easy as possible to maximise entries. Here are some of the most common mechanics:
- Ask users to engage with a Facebook, Instagram or YouTube post by liking or commenting. This can be particularly effective on Facebook, as it means your competition post is more likely to be favoured by the algorithm, which now looks for content that is generating discussion.
- When running an Instagram competition in partnership with another brand, consider asking entrants to follow both of your accounts. This is a great way to grow your audiences and is a simple step for your entrants to take.
- Asking users to tweet using a competition hashtag is a common mechanic on Twitter, and can be also used on Instagram
However, if you are offering a money-can’t-buy, once-in-a-lifetime-prize, you have scope to be much more inventive with your mechanic. For example, you could ask your users to film and submit a video as their entry or take part in a treasure hunt on your website.
We loved Royal Caribbean’s #AdventureSquad competition (pictured above), which gave groups of friends the chance to win a cruise. Five Instagram photo challenges were set, which asked Squads to show off their adventurous side. The winners of each competition were invited on a cruise, where they had to prove they were the most adventurous by taking part in challenges both onboard and on various excursions. The final prize was a cruise of choice for each of the winning Squad members.
Brands running larger social media competitions may also choose to develop a bespoke microsite to host their competition; this is a necessity if you want to collect email addresses and other data.
If you need to make sure only relevant people enter, you could also use a more complicated mechanic. Broadwick Live teamed up with Hoxton Hotel to give away a much-coveted mentorship with Alana Leggett, and they needed to be sure the winner would benefit from the prize. So, they asked users to submit which artist they would rebrand and how – a much larger ask, which would have both filtered out non-serious entrants, and also enabled them to choose someone who showed skill and potential.
There are some entries mechanics you must not use, as they will violate a platform’s terms and conditions. These include:
- Sharing a post or @tagging friends on Facebook
- Entrants tagging themselves in an Instagram photo in which they do not appear
- Retweeting content multiple times on Twitter e.g., “whoever Retweets this the most wins”
- Requiring people to save a specific image or allowing more than one entry per person on Pinterest
You can find links to each of the platform’s promotion guidelines at the end of this article.
When running international social media competitions, you should also be mindful of further requirements or restrictions imposed by a country. For example, giveaways operating in Canada must include an element of skill as part of the mechanic, while in Australia you may need to apply for a permit. Due to GDPR, you are also no longer able to make data submission a required field from an entrant, i.e. your competition entrants should have the choice to give you their email address or not when entering.
This one’s a little obvious, but you need to make sure you consider the ideal timeframe for your competition. The longer a promotion runs, the more opportunity people have to enter; however, you also risk losing momentum if you don’t have enough resource or budget to promote it over an extended amount of time. We would recommend running a simple, on-channel giveaway for a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of three days. Larger competitions can be run for a much longer period – up to a month – as long as you are able to continually drive people to it during this time in engaging ways.
It’s really important to use paid advertising to promote a giveaway as this will ensure as many people see it as possible. This is particularly crucial if you’re using your competition to reach a new audience and also required if you are using Facebook as organic reach is so low. Boosting the competition post or creating link adverts to drive to a microsite are the best methods of doing this. Paid promotion will allow you to reach far more people than you would organically, and also means you can be very specific with the type of audience you target to see the post. If you haven’t boosted a post or run adverts on social media before, be sure to check out our Introduction to Social Media Advertising.
You also need to carefully consider the image/video and copy you use for competition posts and promotion adverts. Simply adding ‘Win a…’ as text on a photo of the prize is a super easy way to grab people’s attention – just be mindful that the text doesn’t take up more than 20% of the image, or Facebook will limit its paid reach. Generally photographs or videos work better than illustrations or animations, as users need to be able to easily visualise what they will win.
When running adverts driving people towards a social media competition microsite, we’d encourage you to A/B test creative and copy to establish the most effective messaging. Depending on the size of your potential audience and the length of your competition, you may need to refresh your image and copy regularly to avoid the same advert being seen too frequently by users. You should also add Facebook and Twitter Pixels to the site to allow you to optimise your advertising towards people who are more likely to enter.
Terms and Conditions
Terms and Conditions are regularly overlooked or forgotten, but it’s very important to use them for all social media competitions. As soon as you ask people to ‘enter for a chance to win’ you will be running a ‘legally regulated competition’.
Your Terms must include things like who is eligible, what the prize consists of, the time frame for the contest, and how will winners be chosen. Not only will this cover your back, but whenever you have users asking you questions about the competition you can direct them straight to the T&Cs on your website.
You must communicate the Terms and Conditions of your competition at some point during the course of the promotion, and it’s recommended that you do this at the beginning. The best way is to display them is to add them to a page on your website, so that you can easily link back and refer to them.
You can find our Social Media Terms and Conditions Template here.
It’s possible that you’ll need to include GDPR-related information in your T&Cs. Check out our GDPR For Social Media Marketing guide to find out more.
And that’s it!
Following these five steps will enable you to run a successful and engaging social media competition. We can wait to see what you come up with! Feel free to share your live competitions in the Avocado Social Media Hub.
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