Running social media competitions is brilliant for attracting and engaging audiences, growing awareness, and increasing purchase intent from your audience. Competitions can also be used to build email lists, drive traffic to your website, and build brand loyalty through rewards. So what do you need to do to plan, create, and run successful social media competitions? Here are our top tips.

The Prize

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. Here’s an example from Serious Pig and Square Root who teamed up for this giveaway. You also need to decide whether you’ll be giving away one prize, or a few for runners-up too. Offering a selection of prizes , like with the above example, is a great way to involve other businesses. Involving other businesses is a great way to increase the reach of your competition. It’s also an effective way to engage new audiences, and also to align your brand with others.

The Mechanic

There’s one hard and fast rule here: keep things simple. Overly complicated competition mechanics will put people off. Keeping it simple will maximise the number of entries you will get for your competition. Here are some of the most common mechanics:
  • Ask users to engage with a post by liking or commenting. This can be particularly effective on Facebook and Instagram. It will mean your competition post is more likely to be favoured by the algorithm, which looks for content that is generating discussion.
  • When running an Instagram competition in partnership with another brand, ask entrants to follow both of your accounts. This is a great way to grow your audiences and is a simple step for entrants to take.
  • Ask entrants to use a competition hashtag. This is a common mechanic on Twitter and on Instagram.
However, if you are offering a once-in-a-lifetime-prize, you have scope to be more inventive and more demanding. For example, you could ask your users to submit user-generated content or take part in a treasure hunt on your website. We loved Royal Caribbean’s #AdventureSquad competition (pictured below). This gave groups of friends the chance to win a Caribbean cruise. Five Instagram photo challenges were set, asking 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. Royal Caribbean Adventure Squad Instagram Brands running larger social media competitions may also choose to develop a bespoke microsite to host their competition. This is necessary if you want to collect email addresses and other data. The Hoxton Hotel Instagram Competition

Limiting Entrants

If you need to make sure only relevant people enter then you could also use a more complicated mechanic. Broadwick Live teamed up with The Hoxton to give away a much-coveted mentorship with Alana Leggett. They needed to be sure the winner would benefit from the prize so asked users to submit which artist they would rebrand and how. This is a much larger task, deterring non-serious entrants, and enabling them to choose a winner which provided quality content.

What Not to Do…

There are some entries mechanics you must avoid. The following competition mechanics violate terms and conditions.
  • 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 be aware of specific rules and restrictions imposed by countries. For example, giveaways operating in Canada must include an element of skill as part of the mechanic. In Australia, you may need to apply for a permit. GDPR in the EU means that you are no longer able to make data submission a required field. This means that it cannot be mandatory to submit an email address when entering a social media competition.


This one may seem obvious but timeframes are often overlooked. You should always make sure you consider the ideal timeframe for your competition. The longer a promotion runs, the more opportunity people have to enter. However, you may lose momentum if you don’t have the budget or resources to continue the promotion. We recommend running a simple, on-channel giveaway for a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of one week. Grander competitions can be run for a much longer period – up to a month – as long as you are able to continually drive engagement over this time.


It’s really important to use paid advertising to promote a giveaway. This will ensure as many people see it as possible. It’s particularly crucial if you’re using your competition to reach a new audience. Boosting the competition post or creating link adverts to drive to a microsite are the best methods of doing this. Paid promotions will allow you to reach far more people than you would organically. It also means that you can be very specific with the type of audience you want 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.
Graphics for Pip And Nut (left) and Nutribrex Competitions

Pip And Nut (left) and Nutribrex competitions

You also need to carefully consider the content 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. If you do this you should be mindful that the text doesn’t take up more than 20% of the image, as this will limit the reach on Facebook. Generally, photographs or videos work better than illustrations or animations so entrants can visualise what they may win. When running adverts, we 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 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 most likely to enter.

Terms and Conditions

Terms and Conditions are regularly overlooked and they are essential 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 will 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. If you need any help, don’t hesitate to get in touch