Social Solution Saturday: Engagement 103

Engaging with your audience daily is important but if you’re looking for a boost, hosting a contest is a great way to spike your exposure and engagement, while simultaneously building your brand’s reputation.

How to create a successful contest:

Step 1: Pick your platform.

The beauty of hosting a contest online is that you can use nearly any platform; however, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter tend to be the best platforms to use. I recommend keeping it simple and only using one platform to host your contest. You can use multiple platforms to host your contest, but if you choose to do this, keep in mind that it will be more work and it will be more difficult to keep track of.

Step 2: Create the rules.

Once you’ve decided which platform you’d like to host your contest on, you will need to determine the rules. This is a critical second step because in order for you to effectively communicate the rules, you need to have a clear understanding and decision of them. Make sure you keep the rules simple. Very few people will want to read through several pages of rules, just to get a free t-shirt. Also note that you may need to look into certain legality measures; for example, if your audience is under the age of 18, you may need to specify that they have a parent or guardian present in order to enter.

How will they enter?

There are a few different ways an audience can enter a social media contest:

  • Sweepstakes:  Nothing is required
  • Connect: Like/follow your page
  • Like/share a piece of content: Either a specific post or anything
  • Vote: Also a great way for you to learn more about your market
  • Create: Have your followers upload their own content

Determine your timeline.

You will need to have a start and end date included in your contest rules, to alleviate any confusion there may be in that respect. If you’re having the contestants create something, you may also need to determine the date/time that you’re going to be judging the content. In your own records, you may also want to determine if you’d like to do the contest regularly (weekly/monthly) or seasonally.

Step 3: Decide on an incentive.

Let’s be honest: Humans are motivated by free. And if “free” is fun and easy to obtain, it’s even better. So what will your audience’s incentive be to participate in your contest? This may even help you to theme or name your contest, so putting just the right amount of thought into it is important. Here are a few tips:

  • Know what results you want: This will help you know how much you should spend on your incentive. If your goal is to go viral, you’ll need to offer more than a simple coupon.
  • Keep it targeted: If your market is high school athletes, they probably won’t be interested in a gift card to McDonald’s. Theoretically. Targeting your contest will also help to activate people who are interested in your company, not just “contest hunters.”
  • Tie it to the company: You want more than just page likes and clicks, right? You want followers who actually care about your brand, so make sure your company is on their radar.

Step 4: Name it.

For some people, this is the fun part. For me, it’s the most difficult – I can barely title a blog post, for Pete’s sake. But it’s a necessary evil: Having a catchy contest name will definitely help to increase submissions, so keep it short and relevant. You can also highlight your incentive or theme, if you’d like. After all, “Free iPad” definitely grabs peoples’ attention. If your contest name isn’t terribly long, you can also #hashtag it! Hashtags are a great tool, especially if you’re having participants submit their own content. You may also opt to have your followers hashtag your company name instead, to keep the conversation going once the contest is over.

Step 5: Plan your posts.

Since I’m all about using time wisely and efficiently, I’d recommend at least outlining your promotional posts along with when they should go live. If you dedicate an afternoon to planning out your contest, it will take you less time to write out all your posts while the idea is fresh in your head.

Pay close attention to how you word your list of contest rules – it may even help to have someone read over them before you post them – you want all participants to have a clear understanding. It would be a shame for someone to misunderstand, make an attempt at participating, and then have negative feelings about your brand, wouldn’t it?

You may also want to draft some ideas for graphics, especially if you choose to do an Instagram contest. Keep them simple: Adding your logo to an image that relates to your theme may not be the most creative graphic, but it’s definitely effective. Infographics depicting the rules are a great way to communicate them because they’re easy to read.

Finally, if you have an advertising budget, you should consider allocating some of that to promoting your contest. This will help to amplify your post reach, especially on Facebook. Then decide how you’d like to advertise and design it!

Theme ideas:

Your goals (or the season) may help you to decide on a theme for your contest. You can be as simple or as creative with your theme as you’d like.

  • Celebrate! If there’s a holiday or anniversary coming up, use that to your advantage.
  • Q & A: This is great on Twitter. Ask a question and offer your incentive to the person who answers correctly, quickest.
  • Caption It! Personally, I love these. Post a funny photo and have your followers comment with what they think the caption should say. You may want to decide how you’ll judge this before moving forward, as it is definitely more subjective.
  • Create something: Whether they post a photo of a design they drew on a cup (see Starbucks…) or they post a photo or video with their bestie, having your followers compete with their creativity is a great way to increase your brand’s exposure. Come up with a fun hashtag and have participants tag you in the photo to enter, so that you don’t miss a post! Just make sure you’re not asking for something super extensive. Keep it simple and you’ll get better responses!
  • Vote: Consumers love giving their opinion and offering an incentive for filling out a short survey is a win-win for you. You get to learn more about your market while also increasing your post reach and engagement. You can ask for input on your products, services, or even what they’d like to see offered in the future. Keep your survey simple: The less effort that needs to go into the survey, the more responses you’ll get, and offer coupons to participants as a thank you.

What am I missing?

Have you hosted a super awesome social media contest? I’d love to hear about it! And if you have contest tips that aren’t in this post, you should definitely let me know. Just shoot me an e-mail at and let’s chat!

Check out the links below for more tips to make your contest super successful. 


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