Many Will Enter, Few Will Win

Everyone loves contests. The chance to win something without having to shell out its monetary value is too tempting to pass up. Additionally, knowing that you’ve won something makes the object or event feel so much sweeter than purchasing it ever would. In this vein, contests have always been popular among consumers, and have long been an effective way for brands to excite and engage consumers across demographics. Since the advent of social media, contests have increased in frequency and, in many aspects, have become easier to implement.

But before brands can initiate contests on their social platforms, they must first ask themselves a few key questions:

What is the objective? Is the end goal of a contest to increase brand awareness? Grow followers? Promote a launch? Drive traffic? Pinpointing very specific goals at the outset is crucial to creating the most effective and engaging the campaign.

Who is the audience? Are you trying to connect with your brand’s current followers or customers? Or is the brand hoping to branch out of its primary demographic? Determining who you are speaking to with a social contest will help to inform some of the more granular aspects of the contest down the road.

Which platform is best?  It’s best to keep social contests as straight-forward as possible. With certain types of contests (more to follow) implementing a cross-platform campaign can result in more confusion than is necessary. For example, if the audience will be asked to create something or provide a comment, the asks will be slightly different platform to platform. If you understand your specific objective and audience, you should be ab

Types of Contests

Sweepstakes: Sweepstakes are, arguably, the most basic form of social media contests. All a brand has to do is create a social media post announcing a sweepstakes contest with a link to a contest landing page. On the landing page, fans enter their email and contact information for the chance to be chosen at random for one of the prizes. Sweepstakes are usually effective because they require little effort with the potential for great rewards. Simply out, sweepstakes are hard to resist. To maximize the reach of a Sweepstakes contest, brands should set aside budget to promote the social post so that the contest message can reach existing and potential customers, alike. As an extra bonus, sweepstakes contests give brands the opportunity to grow their email databases for future promotions and customer engagement campaigns. Optimal Platforms:   Facebook and Twitter

Vote:  A vote automatically grabs an audience’s attention.A voting contest is executed by a brand creating a social media post that asks a distinct question of its audience. Brands can choose to encourage their fans to respond on a platform directly by adding a comment to a Facebook post, Tweeting with a designated hashtag or simply selecting their vote within a Tweet Poll. Additionally, brands can also include a link to a specific landing page where fans can submit their votes along with their email address. This type of contest drives success on two distinct levels: 1.)  Voting naturally encourages engagement — people love having the opportunity to share their opinions and be heard. 2.) Brands can use votes or polls to collect beneficial audience insights. For example, if a brand is trying to decide whether or not to reproduce a seasonal, limited time offer product, a social poll will help the brand to better understand how the audience will respond to the product’s re-release.  Optimal Platforms: Facebook and Twitter

Photo Contest:  The vast majority of social media users walk around 24/7 with a camera in their hands. Smartphones have given us all the opportunity to channel our inner Annie Leibovitz’s on a daily basis. Running a photo contest, specifically for a visually-driven platform, the modern-day need to capture and share our unique moments and artistic visions. Additionally, photo contests also generate powerful UGC moments that can, and should, be re-purposed on brand’s owned channels. Starbucks is one brand that expertly delivers UGC photo contests. The strong reactions from their stark holiday red cups led the brand to initiating a contest where users could create their own artistic interpretations of the iconic red cups. Not only did the campaign guideline spark intense engagement, the campaign also gave Starbucks a plethora of UGC content to be repurposed on their site and social channels. Optimal Platform: Instagram



Caption This: Social media users love funny content, and they especially love it when they get to weigh in. Showcasing personal clever and witty ideas is one of social media’s biggest draws; coming up with the right caption or phrase has almost become a competitive sport across platforms. A caption this contest, in which the brand shares a funny or interesting photo, encourages active thought and participation on the part of the social media fan. More so than simply sharing and/or liking, creating a caption requires the participant to spend time actually thinking about the brand and considering its tone, values and products. This higher level of consideration can result in a social media fan, who upon submitting their caption, feels closer and more aligned with the brand. Optimal Platforms: Twitter and Instagram

Video:  Video contests are one of the most effective ways to drive participation.  While this highly creative contest is demanding of an audience, it also shows them that your brand really values their ideas and insights. When given the opportunity, social media users can be very motivated to showcase their ideas through video submissions. Social media has already given everyone the platforms to become creators, and many amateur social artists crave the opportunity to create social work that is shared to the masses.  To encourage strong submissions, the winning applicant should receive more than just a prize – the winning applicant’s submission should also be featured on your brand’s site and social channels.  Optimal Platforms: Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.


Social and digital advances have eased many of the headaches that used to accompany brand contests. Now, when customers are in need of help, they can communicate with brands through social media, help chats and contest portals. However, just because campaigns are now more successful, brands must still put considerable thought and energy into each of their efforts. For example, platforms have specific contest guidelines that they expect brands to adhere to for the promotion of all contests. Failing to comply with all guidelines may result in platform violations. You can review the specific guidelines for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram within their Help Centers.

Additionally, if your brand haphazardly creates contests that are static and poorly executed, your customers will quickly lose interests in the contests and, potentially, faith in the brand. Know your objective, know your audience and, also, know how the strengths of each platform can help your contest thrive.



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