Melanie Neal

13 Essential Elements of a Successful Social Media Contest

Social Media ContestSocial media makes it easy to host and run a contest. There are some key elements you must include in your social media contest to make it work.

Launching a promotion, if done right, is a great way to introduce consumers to your brand in a fun and engaging way. You don’t have to be a big brand nor have a big budget to make it successful. It can be a quick way to create brand awareness, get more followers and hopefully convert new fans to customers!

The following elements below are key steps to building a promotion that has a higher likelihood of success and going viral.

Social Media Campaign Objective

Determine your number one goal for the promotion, is it: To grow your email database? Brand awareness? Acquire new fans & followers? Make sure you have thought through your goals and objectives prior to launching.

Who is the Target Audience?

Who are you trying to reach? Who would your promotion appeal to? Defining this precisely will help you determine the theme and prizes tied to objectives. Amassing a ton of new fans is great but not very helpful if they are not your ideal target market.

Type of Social Media Contest

There are several types of contests that you can implement from low effort to high effort for users. If the contest is chance-based then it is referred to as a sweepstakes; if it is skill-based then it is called a contest. The higher the effort is usually associated with a higher prize value so make sure you match expected effort with prize worth. Don’t make users jump through hoops for a small prize. The most popular social media contests are photo and video, which leverage Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Sweepstakes usually don’t require anything more than providing a name and email address for a random chance at winning prizes.

Social Media Contest Theme

Develop a fun theme around the contest. Don’t use a generic name like “Holiday Contest.” Brainstorm on topical/current pop culture trends. Do your research on contests that big brands have executed and garner theme ideas from those. They can inspire you to create a fun theme relevant to your contest. A fun theme can tie your sweeps or contest directly to what is popular with your target audience thereby creating a favorable impression associated with your brand.

Contest Prizes

The prizes don’t have to be one of your products/services, but you can throw those in as part of the prize package. Seriously consider the audience you are trying to reach and what would get them really excited. Studies show the more prizes you offer the more people think they have a greater chance for winning. The more exciting the prize package the more likely they are to enter, share and try to win! Consider bringing on co-sponsors that are trying to reach your same target market. They are likely to provide prizes and cross-promote on their channels in return for the inclusion. Pro-tip: Keeping prize values lower often keeps you from having to register in certain states (for sweepstakes) and providing tax documents to winners. Consult with your attorney if giving away larger prizes for advice.

Contest Design Elements

Don’t skimp on the design elements for your contest. Users will form an opinion within seconds if your contest is something they want to learn more about and possibly enter. If the graphics look second rate they may assume your contest is too. Make sure and put your best foot forward when launching your promotion.

User Experience

Make it easy for fans to enter and share the contest on their profiles. Don’t make them go through 20 steps to do so. Think about how easy you would want for it to be if you were the one entering. Also, don’t require them to give you too much information. Lastly, determine how long the contest should run but beware not to make it too long. This will help to keep momentum and interest going.

Contest Hashtag

Come up with a short but relevant hashtag and use with every post, and encourage users to also use when sharing contest content or as a method of entry. This will also help you measure impressions and contest traction during and post event.

Technology Platform

There are some good and affordable platforms you can use that directly plug in to your Facebook page as well as provide great real-time analytics and sharing tools. Gone are the days of having to spend thousands to create a custom landing page. Now you can host one directly on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and more. If you are hosting the contest on your website make sure you include instructions and make it easy for people to share on social media. If running a user generated contest it is advised you implement a gating mechanism to approve the content vs. direct entry. You never know what you might get when you open to the masses and better to have control than discover an R-rated photo AFTER it is posted.

Writing Contest Rules

Make sure you have thought through what would be a fair way to conduct the contest and consult an attorney if you are giving away a large prize package. The last thing you want is for a consumer to cry foul on how you have laid out your contest. Bottom line, make it easy and make it fair to all who enter. Take the time to think about how people might try to game the system and cheat. Allow for the language in the rules that anyone can be disqualified for trying to outsmart the system. Pro tip: refer to the contest section of the platform you are running the contest on to make sure you are following their latest guidelines. EX: Facebook Contest Guidelines

Fun Factor

Develop a contest that has a high likelihood of going viral. Encourage the competitive spirit in consumers making it more likely they will get their friends and family on board to help them win. One option is tournament style with preliminaries or American Idol where the audience is brought in to help decide winners via voting/tweeting/sharing and more.

Advertising Your Contest

If you want to reach an audience beyond your current fans and followers you should take advantage of advertising on Facebook and Twitter. It is an easy way to reach new consumers without breaking the bank. Facebook advertising allows you to use highly targeted methods to reach people based on their demographics and existing “likes” of pages you can directly target based on their interests. Don’t forget to send an e-blast to your existing customers and call out the contest on your website as well. Lastly, reach out to any influencers you think might want to enter your contest. If they like the contest, theme and prizes, the more likely they are to share, enter and promote!

Contest Success

Don’t forget to track your efforts as you go and post campaign to make sure you did indeed reach your campaign goals. Even if you missed the mark you can use the lessons learned for the next campaign. Maybe it is as simple as refining your outreach and advertising, tweaking the rules or adjusting the call to action the next time around.

Don’t be afraid to launch. Just plan as best you can with the resources you have and go for it. You might be amazed and delighted at the results!

Have you had a social media contest before? What worked and what didn’t? Let’s discuss.

Melanie Neal

Melanie Neal is a Marketing Strategist and Founder of Zella Ruby Media. She develops engaging integrated marketing campaigns to help businesses reach their ideal audiences. She is also a speaker and founder of The Dallas Entrepreneurs Meetup group.

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