How to run a successful social media competition

How to run a successful social media competition

So you have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a Pinterest page, you’re posting and you’re still waiting for the business, leads, bookings and sales to roll in, but you’re just not getting the results you want.

So, you create this amazing offer and… nothing.

You do some research with the help of google, change your tactic and you produce what you truly believe is killer content, wait to see the business roll in but again NOTHING…

No matter what you do, you just can’t seem to crack Social Media and engage your audience and reap the benefits social media offers up.

Sound familiar to you?

Every business has different reasons for jumping on social media and even if you’ve been at it for a while, chances are you’ve experienced the above before and we get it, its bloody frustrating. Especially when an egg goes viral.

There is no real secret to doing Social Media right, the most random things go viral. But there is one tactic that can lead to really big results for those struggling with their social media, IF you know what you’re doing!

That tactic is (as you probably guessed by the title of this post) COMPETITIONS!

It really is that *simple*, a competition works well if you want to;

  • Gain followers
  • Engage followers
  • Reward customers or clients
  • Launch a new product or service
  • Expand to a new audience
  • Gather feedback
  • Boost sales/leads
  • Validate a business idea
  • Generate user created content
  • Create brand awareness
  • Increase your subscriber lists

Running competitions through your social media channels is one of the best ways to help your brand and it’s products and services get out there in the world of social.

But you have to be careful, this is one area of social media where it’s so easy to get wrong and damage your social media following altogether.

Balls it up and you will end up with a tonne of the wrong people following you, adding no value to your business what-so-ever and are just there for the free prize. Or even worse, you could land in deep water with social media networks resulting in your page being deleted and even official bodies in the UK.

With so many easy mistakes to make, we thought we would write a short guide on how to run successful competitions on Social Media.

Step 1) Define your goal

Competitions can be used to achieve any marketing goal that you or your company have set. They are also a great way to engage with your existing audience and reach a brand new audience, thus increasing your customer base.

Need to increase your followers? Need to improve engagement rate? Want feedback on a new product? Want to launch a new product with a BANG? Want user-generated content? Need more subscribers? Need local brand awareness? – RUN A COMPETITION!

The possibilities are endless with competitions, and the more creative you get, the bigger the prize you offer, the better the response will be from people who are genuinely engaged with your brand.

So, take a moment to think – what do you want to achieve for your business. Once you know what you want to achieve, it makes the planning and delivery much easier.

Step 2) Deciding what’s best to do

Think about what you’re promoting and the best way to do this. What is your KPI? – Is it to increase likes/follows, increase website traffic, increase engagement rates, increase your subscribers, create brand awareness – whatever the KPI is, there’s a solution that works best to help you hit your KPI goal. Here are some examples of the types of competition you may run, based on your goal.

E1) I want to increase my social media following

This is without a doubt going to be a “Like/follow to win”. Keep it as simple as opening a door and encourage entrants to share the competition (being mindful of the social media platform rules here).

Don’t ask entrants to complete too many steps to enter and stick to your main goal of asking them to like or/and follow to enter rather than asking them to like the post, like/follow your page, comment, and tag. The fewer steps with this competition type the better.

E2) I need more brand awareness

There isn’t really any specific best competition type for this kind of goal. The key for this type of competition is to not focus on the products or services you offer but focus on the who, what and where that will get your brand and it’s message seen and heard by your ideal customer.

You can use any kind of method for the route to entry, we would recommend either submit your email address to enter or like/follow to enter.

A paid for campaign backed up by a competition works exceedingly well for brand awareness campaigns. For example, if your perfect customer is a female in her twenties who is crazy about beauty, tailor your content to her. Put yourself in her shoes. Try and see if you can post on a beauty blog, target any ads to the beauty industry and all the relevant keywords. Use any relevant hashtags such as #makeup #beauty on Instagram & Twitter because their algorithms will be far more likely to show your content in the discover sections.

So, now you’ve decided the best type of competition to run, you’ve made it go hand in hand with your goal, it’s time to move onto the fun step – Legal!

Step 3) Make it legal

So now you have a goal and a vague idea of what you want to promote and how, you need to make sure it’s legal, Get clued up on the terms & conditions set out by the platforms you’ll be posting the competition on and make sure you’re abiding by the rules set out by local governing bodies in your area. We won’t cover local governing bodies in this guide, but if you’re in the UK the Gambling Commission does not regulate prize competitions.

Here’s a quick overview of what the most popular networks say about running competitions on their platform;

Facebook: Don’t ask entrants to, share the competition to enter, write a status about the competition to enter or tag friends in the post to enter.

Twitter: Don’t tell users to create multiple accounts or share the same tweet over and over again to enter, don’t encourage the use of irrelevant hashtags and follow the general Twitter rules.

Instagram: You CAN request entrants tag friends in the comment, do NOT ask them to directly tag the photo.

You’ll also need to write some terms & conditions for your competition, without these you’ll find yourself in some serious trouble and you won’t be covered legally. After all, Terms & Conditions are there to protect your business and your customers. Make sure your terms & conditions include what the prize is, how they can win it, who the competition is open to, the competition start and end date, who’s running the competition, details on the winner selection process and liability release.

You can find out more detail on the rules & regulations around running competitions using Social Media in our reference guide here.

Step 4) Promote Promote Promote

It goes without saying, your competition will fail tremendously if you don’t promote it. But what are good ways to promote competitions you ask?

Promoting competitions is a combined effort, it’s 30% strategy and 70% promotion.

You have so many channels at your fingertips for you to promote your shiny new competition, you really have no excuse to not be plugging it at any chance you get. Channels are split into owned, earned and paid channels. Let's go into some detail.

Owned Channels

These are channels that you own, so your website, blog, stores and newsletter. It makes the most logical sense to begin promoting here.

You can do this by;

  • Adding a banner to your website on the homepage or sidebar
  • Creating a blog post telling your website visitors about the competition, what they can win, how they can enter etc.
  • Send a newsletter to your mailing list

Just make sure that on all channels you own, the competition is in front of your customers

Earned Channels

Earned channels are those channels provided by third parties, such as Social Media and any partnerships your brand may have in place.

Setup a schedule for organic posts to promote your competition, update your pinned tweet and pinned Facebook post, include the link to the competition in your Instagram bio, post in any groups you may be part of (if you’re allowed to)

If you’re using all social channels to promote, please make sure you’re tailoring the post to that network, make sure nobody Is using any hashtags you may be using on twitter for the competition.

It’s always best to include an image with posts on social media too, here’s an example of how you can use the image to promote the prize and keep the content simple, letting the landing page do all the work.

If your brand has any partnerships, or you have any friends that owe you favors time to call it in.

Promote your competition to your target audience anywhere you can!

Paid For Channels

Paid channels are a quick win if you have the budget. Now, we don’t recommend that you go out and find money to create a campaign using paid for channels, but if you have some cash lying around it’s a no brainer.

You could set up a Facebook ad campaign and copy this across to Instagram and create an ad campaign on Twitter too.

We recommend that you start a paid for campaign a few days to a week after the competition has been live, that way you have a benchmark for your analytics so you can gauge how well the competition did without paying.

As with all paid for campaign’s make sure you are A/B testing, have numerous eye-catching images, different copy versions and create numerous ads so you can optimise the campaign going forward to focus your budget on the ad that converts best.

TIP: Ensure you are using tracked links for each channel, so you know how many entries a Newsletter, Banner, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc generated. (Of course, this only implies if the Competition is hosted on your website, which we would always recommend as it allows you to collect email addresses for your mailing list.)

Step 6) Finishing the competition

Once that end date approaches, draw your winner and contact them to let them know they have won, you could do this by emailing them or sliding into their DM's or by totally publicly surprising them by announcing the winner in a post and tagging the user.

It won't also hurt to ask the winner to share a photo of them with their prize and include a short statement on why they entered and how they felt when they found out they won. This not only reassures entrants that someone won, but it also creates a story and some great content for your channels. 

But, the competition just doesn't end with the winner - make sure you engage with those who didn't win - perhaps you could send an email to all entrants with a discount code to buy the product that was on offer, or send them a message to say sorry they didn't win but stay tuned for more great competitions and direct them to your website (A discount code will help to improve intent to purchase and show customers that you're a brand they will learn to love) 

So, there we have it, do you feel confident enough to run your own competition?

Remember, every competition you run will be a learning curve, your first competition may not work but don’t let that break your spirits. Learn from the results and adapt to any future competitions.

Summary (TL:DR):

We know this has been a long post, so to summarise:

  • Start with your goal.

Know what you want to achieve once your competition has ended. When you know what you want to achieve, you can tailor everything around the competition towards smashing that goal!

  • Competitions are 70% promotion and 30% strategy.

For the love of all things social, don’t jump the gun and launch a competition without a plan. Also, don’t forget to promote the hell out of it once it’s live else it will die a cold and painful death. It’s also not a bad idea to pre-promote it either.

  • Simplicity is key

The more simple something is, the better it is for your customers. We live in the digital age, we are lazy people (heck, a machine even makes me a coffee every morning ready for when I wake up!) if entrants have to complete a multitude of steps to enter, chances are you’ll see a few entries. Keep the entry mechanic simple and never any more than 3 steps.

Example: Enter your email on the landing page then like this post and comment when done!


Probably the most important step. You may have seen some big box companies and various other brands running “like and share” competitions and think it’s OK for you to do this, but it’s not. It can land you in some serious trouble.

The big companies get away with it because they pour tens of thousands of pounds into advertising and keep the vending machines and bar fully stocked over at the social media’s head offices.

So who are the more likely to make an example of and enforce their rules? These giant companies that keep their lights on or the little guy? – Answers on a postcard, please. It would be crushing to receive that notification that says “Your page has been removed for violating our terms”

Check out our reference guide to rules & regulations on running competitions on social media.

  • Don’t let your hard work go to waste!

Make sure you’re promoting the competition until the cows come home and don’t just sit there and do nothing after, engage with those who didn’t win, send an email to all those addresses you collected – keep promoting your products.

Plus, don’t forget to learn from the results!

We love competitions, and we’ve ran some for some big brands and local businesses too. If you need any help and advice give us a call on 01752 651414 or email us at [email protected] and we’d be more than happy to offer a helping hand.

If you’d rather us manage this for you so you can focus on the day to day running of your business, you may be interested in our Social Media Management service.