Social Media Contest and Promotions Best Practices

@Kevin | Social

On Wednesday we talked about the idea of an integrated campaign, today we want to look at some best practices. After running several dozen social media contests and promotions (on Facebook and Twitter) for clients, I have learned some best practices on what makes a contest work.

You need to view it as an integrated campaign – Just running a social media promotion for the sake of running a contest is going to fail miserably. Well, unless you have a massive fan base that is active and will share it all over the place. Considering most people use contests to build an audience, you need to wrap your head around creating an integrated campaign.

Remove choice and options for the prize – This isn’t so much around the execution of the contest in social media, but just dealing with the after effects of the contest. There were a couple of contests I have done that include travel, and every single one turned out to be a pain in the butt because we were flexible on travel. By removing choice from the final prize and saying up front what the winner can expect, it removes headaches from an administrative perspective later on.

Understand the terms of service of the platforms you are using – Many times I have had people suggest contest ideas that are against the terms of service of the platform we are using. Sometimes these ideas would be revealed after they have started internal creative. Understand the rules of the game before you start playing. Not being prepared can lead to headaches down the road and even the possibility of having it taken down from a platform.

The lower the bar of entry, the higher the result – No matter what prize you are giving away, no matter how cool of an idea you have, and no matter how engaged an audience you have, the higher the bar of entry into a contest (uploads, too much information being asked, etc.) leads to a lower entry amount. As soon as you make people think too much or put in too much effort, you are going to see a low turnout. Video uploads in particular have been really rough to do when compared to sweepstakes or other contests.

(Of course if you run a lot of contests the next lesson learned is important.)

Begin to evolve with the growth of your audience – This is somewhat of an addendum to the previous point. If you do a lot of basic contests, build an audience, and then engage the audience consistently, you will need to evolve with the growth of your audience. Running the same type of contests can turn off an audience and create complacency. Mixing up what you are doing, what you are giving away, and the types of contests you run will keep your base interested, entering, and most importantly, sharing.


TJ Leonard from Vlingo had a comment on our last blog post that I think fits perfectly in here as a lesson learned:

One idea I would toss out is to ask an important question as part of the promotion. We all know that people are willing to offer up their unsolicited opinions on just about anything these days, but we’ve found people respond enthusiastically if you ask them something legit. We’ve seen both participation and sharing increase when people feel like they’re contributing something of value. Plus you get bonus points down the line when you respond directly to some of the more thoughtful answers.


What are some of your tips and tricks around contests?