Everything You Need To Know Before Running Your First Social Media Contest

Social media contests have been around for years, yet remain an effective and highly engaging way to grab audience attention, get them involved, and make sure they remember your brand. The main reason many growing companies are hesitant to run a social media contest is because, at first glance, it sounds like a lot of work. Where do you even begin? How much time is it going to take? The questions quickly pile up – but it doesn’t need to be difficult!

To help out, we’re offering an outline of what you need to do to start your social media contest and run it successfully without running into potholes. While every contest is different (and should be), these steps will help get you on the right track!

Pick Your Platform and Budget

Start with the basics. Every social media contest plan needs to begin with two important questions: What platform will it be on, and what will the budget be? (We might also add, “What are the goals for this contest,” but hopefully that part is already clear!) Because of the way social media tools, you can’t really run the same contest on multiple platforms, so you will need to pick out platforms where you want to engage the largest audience. Facebook and Twitter, for example, are both excellent platforms for running a contest.

The budget, meanwhile, is important not only for the marketing management side of things, but also because it will dictate what kind of prizes you can offer (more on this in a bit).

Pick Your Contest Content Type

Okay, what exactly will this contest be based on? You could something simple, such as, “Like this post to get entered into a draw for a prize.” That version doesn’t need much content and is very easy to enter, although engagement may be limited. For a more complex version, you could try a photo contest (either photos from your team or photos submitted by your audience), a video contest, a caption-the-photo contest, or something else that requires more involvement. The type of content will determine how the contest is run, how long it should be, and many other important factors. Set this parameter early on!

Decide Early On How the Contest Will Be Judged

This step may be trickier than you think. Let’s say your contest is a random drawing of everyone who liked a photo: How will you randomly choose the names? Are you going to print them out and put them in a big hat? Are you going to enter them into an online randomizer?

Or maybe you are picking winners based on the quality of content – in that case, you will need to pick out third-party judges, because judging the contest yourself could create legal issues. Those judges will need a set of guidelines and a rubric to score entries by, which you will also need to provide to your audience. These guidelines may also need age and location limitations…and so on. You can see why it’s important to think about this ASAP and develop any necessary materials!

Know All the Rules for Your Particular Contest

Social media platforms have a set of rules that govern how contests must work: If your contest breaks these rules, it runs the risk of being cancelled or – even worse – facing legal troubles. Hootsuite has a great piece on running a contest on Facebook and the rules you need to follow. For example, you can’t encourage tagging, or tell people to share the contest with others, even though that may be a natural inclination for a marketer. You also have to follow all the federal rules for running a contest, which include many important limits. It’s smart to do this research before you start to create your content.

Choose and Offer Attractive Prizes

Prizes play a huge role in determining how much engagement a contest receives. When Wishpond ran more than 30,000 social media contests, their first piece of advice was simply, “The prize really matters.” First, try to make the prize equal to what you are asking your audience to do (more work, better prize). Second, try to tie the prize into your business however you can – don’t just offer random things. Third, a bundle of prizes (like a gift box) is often seen as more attractive than a single prize. Finally, try to make the prize as nice as possible!

Set an End Date and Create Your Content!

Don’t forget: Your contest also needs a strict end date, both for ending contest submissions and for declaring a winner. Don’t run a contest for too long, because social media attention spans are quite short. With end dates picked out, you should now have everything you need to start creating contest content and scheduling it around a central contest page or post on your social media platform of choice. Good luck!

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