Running a Social Media Contest for Your Website

Running a social media contest for your website

You’ve no doubt seen them on your social media feeds before: contests, giveaways, sweepstakes and other such competitions. Though you are giving away the prizes, contests can indeed be very profitable for your company if done correctly. Contests like this can build up more loyalty amongst new as well as existing fans. Competitions can also help with brand awareness. Best of all, some of these contests can really get your audience engaged with your brand. So if, you’re considering running a contest, keep reading for some tips and things to keep in mind before starting.

What is the goal of the social media contest?

Before starting any contest, think about what you want to accomplish from this contest. Do you want to bring attention to a specific product? Perhaps you want to build up brand awareness. Maybe you just want to gain more followers. Determining what you want to achieve from this promotion and keeping this in mind can help guide you through the planning stages.

Generally speaking, contests can be really great for brand awareness and customer engagement. However, it would be naive to say that every person who participates could be a potential customer. Some people will naturally only be interested in winning free prizes. However, a highly targeted and relevant contest can also bring in some quality leads.

What are the specifics of the social media contest?

Now the real planning can begin. To begin, you’ll need to decide what kind of contest you’ll be running. There are a few options here.

Type of contest

You can have a simple sweepstakes or giveaway, where you gather e-mail addresses and simply choose a winner at random. These kinds of contests are great for gathering large amounts of participants.

However, as I warned earlier, with these kinds of contests, you might get a lot of players who are not really interested in your product, so there’s a good chance you’ll get some fake/junk e-mail accounts signing up.

This is the time to weigh quantity versus quality. A benefit with these contests is that you can allow an individual to increase their chances of winning if they share the contest details with their contacts, thus increasing the visibility of your contest (and your brand).

Another option would be to have an image/video contest. I would recommend these because there is a higher level of engagement with these kinds of competitions. Getting participants to create content carries a lot of advantages. Not only can you potentially receive some really high-quality content, but you also increase the likelihood of these images getting shared.

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By adding a “voting” element to the contest, you can also increase the visibility because participants will definitely share their images to get their friends and family to vote for them. The social aspect of image contests is its biggest advantage. The beauty of social media contests is that you can require people to like (comment, share and/or tag a friend) in order to participate.

The prize

Deciding what kind of gift you want to give away is extremely important. Many companies end up giving away generic prizes (e.g. iPad, iPhones, etc.). Though this might attract a lot of attention (and a lot of participants), it might be the wrong kind of attention.

As I warned earlier, people love free stuff. By giving away something desired by the masses, that’s exactly who you’re going to attract: the masses. And there's a good chance that “everyone” is not your target audience.

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If your company sells niche products, make sure you offer a premium product that speaks to your audience. If you’re selling coffee products, give away a fancy espresso machine. If you sell furniture, give away a couch. It’s simple: give away the product that you want to sell and you’ll be sure to attract the right audience.

Cup of Joe contest

An espresso machine offered from Home Outfitters makes sense.

Choose a platform

If you run a simple contest, you might not need a special platform, but using one can be very useful. They can allow you to gather information to see what works best. Which social media platform is working the best? Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram?

Other than that, these platforms can help you organise your campaign and help with some of the smaller details, (e.g. allowing one user to enter several times because they referred a friend). Some of these platforms can also help protect against spam voters and such things.

Some of platforms we recommend are Wyng, Rafflecopter, Votigo, and Offerpop.

Rules and Legalities

Before beginning your contest, it’s extremely important to set this all straight.

Make sure that you have the rules published for everyone to see. This protects you from many things. For starters, the sad reality is that there are cheaters out there and they like to take advantage of such contests.

For example, they might run a program to enter themselves into the contest hundreds or thousands of times (using different e-mail addresses from the same domain name for each entry). If you discover a cheater, you’ll want to make sure you have the right to deny them the prize.

Also, if you’re collecting images for this contest, you’ll want to make sure that you have the legal right to use these images for marketing or future promotions by stating this fact in the terms and conditions of the contest.

Another aspect to keep in mind is to double-check each social media platform’s rules about running contests. They are all a little different, so make sure you’re not violating any company’s policies.


There are a few things to think about when designing the visuals for your contest.

man winning a trophy


Make it fun. This sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes, we forget the obvious points. If it’s an image contest, provide an example image to inspire your contestants. Otherwise, just try to have fun some fun images and a great landing page to get people excited. No one is going to participate (or share) a boring contest.

Address your target audience directly. Phrases like “Are you a coffee lover?” or “Calling all software developers near and far! Come hither!” can really speak to your audience (if software-developing Renaissance Fair goers are your target audience, but you get the idea!). Not only is it attention-grabbing, but it’s a good filter for your target audience.

With social media contests, you really have an opportunity to help your branding. Create a unique hashtag for the contest that is easy to remember and not controversial. With a hashtag relatable to everyday life situations, it can really help make the contest viral.

NastyGal Contest

NastyGal used a memorable hashtag #NastyGalKissOff to promote their contest.

Consider adding a count-down timer to the landing page or ad, which will add a sense of urgency to the contest. Motivate them to act now!


Along with having a great design, you’ll want to promote your contest to make sure people know about it. Marketing 101, right? Well, here are some basic pointers to keep in mind when promoting your contest.

Remember how the design of the ad should speak directly to your customer? Well Facebook Ads’ core strength is how well they let advertisers target their audience. Advertising to a relevant audience helps you get the participants that you want to sign up.

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Tie the contest to an upcoming event or promotion. Connect these two things strongly. If only one winner gets to take home that fancy-schmancy espresso machine, make sure all the losers (sorry, I didn’t know what else to call them) know that they can buy the same product for a great price really soon. That’ll surely make them feel like winners!

Another good idea might be to add a pop-up to your homepage promoting the contest. This is probably the page on your website with the most visits, and you should use this to inspire visitors to engage with your brand even more than they already are.

Another option for promoting your contest is by going to contest blogs/websites. There are websites dedicated to letting customers know about new contests out there. I can’t stress this enough, but this will attract those freebie lovers, so don’t count on quality leads from this channel. However, if you are looking for followers and simple exposure, this might be a good strategy for you.

Finally, if you can get an industry influencer to share the contest on their social media feeds, you'll be sure to get some extra attention from a very relevant audience.

Final Tips

There are a few other final things to think about while the contest is underway.

For starters, try to moderate any entrees, especially when it comes to images. You don’t want to accidentally share an inappropriate image that someone hashtagged as a joke. That could be a PR disaster.

Additionally, after they’ve submitted their data to enter the contest, you should follow up with a thank you e-mail. What you put in there is up to you, but we recommend perhaps adding a coupon for a discount on the product they are trying to win.

Otherwise, you might want to “nurture” them with some content offerings from your website through emails. Inform them about your products (or send them informational content about your industry in general if you don’t want to hard-sell them).

Either way, you should work at building a relationship with these potential customers relatively quickly after getting their info.


Running a contest is a great way to build loyalty with your current customers, and also an effective way to engage with potential customers… if done correctly. Remember to keep your prizes (and the competition) relevant to your business, make the rules clear and visible, focus on the right market, and moderate your entrees. If you do all of those things, you can really build brand awareness and get the exposure your company needs.

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Alon Eisenberg

Alon Eisenberg

Alon Eisenberg has been the Content Manager UK at Trusted Shops since 2017. He graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor's degree in Communications in 2004.

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