• Rachel Mawhirter

Five Ways to Run a Contest on Social Media

Updated: Dec 3, 2020


On social media, getting the maximum engagement with your followers is critical. And running a contest or giveaway is a great way to spark new interest, and attract new followers as well. It can also be a great way to spread the word about something or collect leads for potential customers.


So, here are five different reasons you might be considering running a contest, and our corresponding ideas for pulling it off successfully:


  1. You’ve got extra promotional products to give away. We’re mostly kidding with this one. Very rarely will contests like this work. People don’t need another koozie or lunchbag. Giveaways need to be legit to get real engagement anyway. But, if you do have something nifty to give away, be sure to pair that with a Visa gift card, or vouchers for free pizza, or something to sweeten the deal, okay? Ask yourself, would I be willing to share this to win? If you hesitate at all, make it bigger and better.

  2. Growing your following. This is probably one of the most common reasons brands will facilitate a contest on social media. You can make one of the criteria for the drawing to like your page and share the post. And even though we’ve all seen a lot of them, these still work pretty well IF (IF being the critical word) the prize is “worth it.” Nobody wants to spam their friends, so most people have a threshold where they will decide if it’s worth the risk of being spammy to share and follow anyway. This can be a dollar amount threshold, or if they think their odds of winning are good. When your goal is to grow your following, we recommend the standard like, share, comment strategy. And another common addition to that is to ask them to tag a friend in the comments. But again, make it worth it for them to stick their neck out for you.

  3. Increase engagement. The more engagement your content gets, the more rewarded you will be in the social media algorithms. Especially on Facebook. Engagement is anything that creates activity on your posts – clicking on your post to expand the picture preview, reaction to the post (like, love, care, etc), sharing the post, or commenting on the post. And of those types of engagement, comments can be the most powerful for one key reason: when someone comments on your post, Facebook will let that person’s friends know that so-and-so commented on your post, letting new eyes see your content even without it being shared. So structuring your contest in a way that promotes comments and tagging will really help it take off.

  4. Get maximum number of eyes on a particular post. Let’s say you’re a new retail store opening up in a trendy neighborhood and you need to get the word out fast about your grand opening that weekend. Doing a giveaway for a $300 gift card will get lots of eyes on something quickly! And we recommend making sharing a criteria for entering the contest. Keep in mind, though, that people can only share a post if it’s on Facebook. And, you can’t actually pick the winner that way because of privacy setting restrictions. So you won’t actually know if everyone shared the post. You’ll be able to see how many people shared it, but not necessary whom. Also, if Instagram is where your core follower group is at, you’ll want to avoid running a contest that requires sharing. Instead, the contest might be to DM you with a secret word hidden in the image, or a trivia answer, etc.

  5. Collect leads or contact information. If you’re wanting to collect contact information or qualify potential leads for further targeting or follow-up, we’d recommend using a contest tool or subscription to funnel your contest entries through. Those apps can automatically collect contact and demographic information from the person’s Facebook profile without that person having to fill out a lengthy form. There are tons of options out there – Shortstack, Wishpond, Gleam, Woobox, and more!

  6. Collect testimonial comments. For brands that are wanting to improve their website traffic or increase search rankings, or for those that want to round up some positive testimonial comments to use in other forms of marketing, contests that are structured the right way can do a great job of this. For example, you can dangle an enticing carrot for a giveaway prize – think spa day, car detailing, overnight stays at a fancy hotel, etc – and make the criteria for entering to leave a review online. You can specify if you want Google reviews, Facebook recommendations, Yelp reviews, Trip Advisor reviews, etc. Or maybe you’re open to any of the above. Whatever your goals are, make it easy for people by leaving links in the comments. The downside of this strategy is that the content announcing the contest will not take off as quickly as something that requires the post to be shared, so we recommend requiring the person to also comment “DONE” so that you can leverage the engagement effect we talked about in the third bullet point. We also recommend structuring the competition to get 5-star reviews (not just any reviews). Keep in mind that the results will be very skewed since they’re trying to impress you to win something. So if your goal is getting actual comments from real customers, a contest may be the wrong strategy. But if you’re just trying to improve search rankings among your competitors, this will work great!


Hopefully these ideas got your wheels turning. The title says five ideas, and we actually listed six. But the first one is mostly there as a cautionary tale, so we didn't count it. Be sure to listen to the podcast about this topic, because we go into a few other ideas and tips as well. Listen to that episode here, or search for Brand Nation on all your favorite podcast listening apps.

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