Social Media Competitions

A Blueprint To Running The Perfect Social Media Competition Every Time

Everybody loves a competition, even more so when it’s free to enter and they have the chance to win awesome prizes and freebies. This simple formula has lead to social media competitions becoming an effective tactic for brands who think outside the box.

Competitions on social media are a fun and exciting way for your business to interact with prospects, build stronger relationships with customers while simultaneously enhancing marketing efforts. However, executing such a contest is not so easy without help, but don’t worry, Hello Social has your back!

We have devised a simple 7-step plan to help you launch your very own successful social media competition with essential pro-tips along the way.

Why bother with social media contests?

Don’t be a Scrooge!

The best social media competitions are a win-win situation for everyone involved. Followers get something for nothing or at a discounted rate while your business increases engagement.

Successful competitions ensure your business remains fresh and relevant by mixing up their social media strategy. The typical business social media updates are something like this: information update, information update, sales pitch, information update, information updates, sales pitch… yawn.

When you feel your social media presence is in need of a reshuffle, you have a new product to launch or just want to give something back to your fans – what better way to shake things up than creating a contest that everyone can get behind?

Now that’s enough about why they are awesome, here’s our 7 must follow steps to creating the perfect social media contest.

Step 1 – Figure out your objective

The best social media competitions start with an objective. This can be something as simple as showcasing a new product, increasing engagement for said product, generating opt-ins or just giving something away to better serve your followers. Your objective will help you decide what type of competition format to run.

For example, if your goal is to increase opt-ins then allowing fans to enter only by submitting their email address into a sweepstakes contest is ideal:

If you want to find increase your following then a like to enter sweepstakes competition will make increase your following:


Without an objective it can be difficult to measure the results of your competition or decide a suitable format.

Some common social media objectives that can be achieved through competitions are:

  • •   Increase the size of your following
  • •   Increase engagement with the business/brand
  • •   Gather feedback on products and/or services
  • •   Encourage user generated content
  • •   Build a database

Step 2 – Give away the right prize (yes you can get this wrong!)

We constantly see businesses give away irrelevant prizes which actually do more harm than good for their brand and social media following.   

The prize on offer should always relate to your business or industry. This can be one of your products, discount coupons, free delivery or clothing relating to your industry. Offering relevant prizes serves one simple function: to receive targeted engagement and not random people who just want to win the prize.

For example, imagine you own a wellness centre and decide to run a social competition where you give away an iPad. This type of prize will not be targeting people who want massages or spa treatments but anybody who wants a new ipad (pretty much everyone).

Pro-tip: The more the audience needs to do to enter the competition, the more impressive the prize needs to be.

signature tumblers

Picture 1

Instead, offering a one-day pass, a free massage or treatment products would be better suited for this competition as it draws in people who would consider using my business in the future.

A competition is often held to increase followers and engagement. If you are increasing engagement and follower numbers with an audience that is not interested in your brand, the whole competition could have been a waste of time and resources.

Pro-tip: the only time you should consider giving away products that are irrelevant to your industry is in customer only promotions. They have already bought from you and this is your way of saying thanks. They don’t need to be convinced about your product or service as they have used it before.

Doing this with prospects will attract the wrong audience.

Step 3 – Create simple and clear rules

Some people on the Web have no shame in using every trick in the book to win a competition on social media, even opening multiple accounts to enter. The fundamental to a successful social media competition is to make the experience simple and fun for the user. Don’t complicate things by adding weird rules or steps.

The quicker a prospect can register and submit their entry the better.
Good: “Win a full spa package for two. To register simply enter your name and email address. The winner will be announced on Sunday at 3pm. Only one entry per person”.

Bad: “Win a spa package, to enter please send your name and email address. Good luck”.

This is simple, easy to understand and impossible for anyone to become confused. Rules need to be clear and direct the prospect in how to enter. I have seen many competitions on social media backfire with negative comments because rules weren’t clear enough or participants felt cheated.

Pro-tip: Spell out the rules if you have to as it directs people to take action now. Here’s Budweiser providing fans with a step-by-step instructions  of how to enter:


Picture 2

It couldn’t be easier! The result:

Step 4 – Create buzz or a sense of urgency

Competitions are fun and having a time-limit keeps things exciting as well as creating a sense of urgency that compels prospects to act now. The longer a competition runs on social media less appeal it has. As more fans enter, others sense their chances of winning are slim and don’t bother to engage.

Time-based contests have the ability to go viral because fans know if they don’t enter now it will be too late. It’s been proven that urgency increases conversions as consumers tend to act fast when time is of the essence.

Step 5 – Use compelling pictures and text

If you own a personal Facebook or Twitter account, you know that newsfeeds solely run on a diet of coffee and steroids. There is always a constant flow of never ending traffic, at best we interact with a fraction of what we see. To get the most out of your social media competition you need to make it big and bold.

Use sexy typography, the right colors, pictures and even monetary values if appropriate (whilst obviously adhering to brand style guidelines). For an example check out this successful Facebook competition by Macy’s.

The images are high quality, the CTA is obvious and the prize on offer is clearly mentioned:


When scrolling down your newsfeed, Macy’s advert is going to make you stop and take action.

Now compare that to this:


Picture 4

No image, no description of what the prize is or any sense of creativity getting prospects to click. No thanks I’ll keep on scrolling.

Step 6 – Contests should be fun and exciting

Social media is cool – and your competitions should be too. Make it easy and fun for people to enter, ask for a selfie with their pet, their favourite alcohol cocktail or running a caption contest are some great ways to make a competition fun as they all promote creativity.

Here’s The Master running a simple caption contest:

the master

Picture 5

Make the entry process simple. If your goal is to gain more opt-ins, just ask for their name and email address. People love to be lazy and the more details they need to handover the fewer participants your contest will have.

Studies have shown that 2-4 opt-ins generally convert the best, so don’t ask for too much information:


Source: HubSpot:

Step – 7 Promote it like hell

Now you have created a bulletproof social media competition all that’s left is to promote the living hell out of it. Unlike regular promotions you can be a little more aggressive when getting the word out.

As you’re giving away something for nothing, you can repeat it on social media a little bit more and email your list when it begins and again just before it ends.

Pro-tip: Create a relevant hashtag for your competition to make it even easier for people to share and engage, that’s what Budweiser did for their burger competition #BudandBurgers.


Should you use an app?

If you want to do it right – yes.

An app quite simply is a third-party tool that can be used on a number of social media networks to better format your competitions and make it easier for fans to enter.

You saw the difference in quality between Macy’s competition and Total Merchandise. Businesses who want to run awesome contests should use apps. To abide by Facebook’s competition rules it’s almost impossible to run one without using an app.

If you have done any of your own research, you will know there are many social media competition apps to pick from. To make things a little bit easier for you, I have listed three of the most popular apps on the market today:

WooBox – Works only for Facebook and offers several campaign types including photo contests, pin to win, sweepstakes and instant wins.


  • •   30 day free-trial
  • •   Detailed analytics on each promotion
  • •   Great customisation options
  • •   Works with other 3rd party apps
  • •   Tab functions for Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest


  • •   Contests can be a bit difficult to create
  • •   Every contest will contain the Woobox watermark
  • •   Pricing becomes expensive if you have a huge social media following

Glee Gum used WooBox to create a promotional contest on their Facebook Page offering a free packet of gum to anyone who opted-in to their sweepstakes. In the first hour of running the promotion they received over 6,800 sample requests and had to end the contest early. They originally planned to hand out only 2,000 samples.

A full case study of the contest can be found here.


SnapApp – Creates competitions on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. While SnapApp doesn’t offer as many competition types as WooBox it does have more platform choice for you to hold your contest.


  • •   Works on websites as well as social media
  • •   Ability to create your own themes for contests
  • •   Built-in analytic tools
  • •   14 day free-trial


  • •   Expensive pricing plans for smaller businesses
  • •   Limited contest options

Martha Stewart, an American TV personality used SnapApp to run a social media competition offering two tickets to see her show. Of the all participants, 77% said yes to opt-in offers sent by Martha as a result of her contest.

martha stewart

Wishpond – Provides social media competitions on Facebook and Twitter. They have several different competition types and offer businesses a 14-day free trial to get started.


  • •   Can create contests on Facebook and Twitter
  • •   Moderation of all entries
  • •   Mobile friendly
  • •   Real-time reporting
  • •   14 day free-trial


  • •   Price
  • •   Doesn’t offer the most engaging contest to create

Check out YYoga’s case study on how they made $25,000 in less than 48 hours using the Wishpond social media contest app.


Each app has its own pricing systems and features, take a look at them all to see which best suits your goals, or feel free to contact the gang at Hello Social for further advice.


Brush up on some T&C

I know I know, you would rather watch paint dry then read the T&C of any social media site, and I feel your pain.

However, the last thing anybody wants is for your business’s contest to get stopped or worse still, your social media account to be banned. Every social media platform has their own sets of rules you must adhere to, but from personal experience as long you don’t instigate spammy tactics or post inappropriate content you should be fine.

Nevertheless it’s always good to have all the facts before you start. Click on the following links to read the guidelines for Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter promotions.

Terms and conditions pages can be a little difficult to understand as some things are not so clear, so here’s Social Media Examiner’s breakdown on Facebook and Pinterest rules should you need further information, and some basic gotcha rules for the big four:

Facebook – You cannot get participants to share a post or photo to enter, require them to post on their own personal timeline or get someone to like your Facebook Page if the contest take places on your timeline.

Pinterest – Don’t host contests that require more than one Pin to enter or ask participants to vote with via their pins, likes or boards. Encouraging any type of spammy behaviour is not allowed or making participants pick from a selection of Pins to enter.

Instagram – Don’t tag content or users to encourage them or others to participant in your contest.

Twitter – Tweeting the same contest more than once or variations is against Twitter’s T&Cs. For example, a contest which states “Whoever retweets our updates the most wins” is going to land you in hot water.


Where should I hold my contest?

That’s a good question and only you will know the answer.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • •   Where does the majority of my social media engagement come from?
  • •   Which medium do my customers use the most?
  • •   Which of the platforms would I like to grow my presence on?
  • •   Which platform is most favourable to my industry?

For example, if your objective is to increase engagement then go with the platform that usually gets the highest amount of reach. However, if you want to grow your Twitter account, run it on Twitter. Alternatively, if your contest is for customers only then you should host it on the medium customers use most.

There are a number of variables to consider when deciding which platform to use, don’t necessarily go with the platform you have the biggest amount of followers on.

Oh and nothing is stopping you from running a competition on several mediums at once.



You know hold the information to run the most awesome-est social media contest ever, I am sure your fans will not be disappointed.

Keep in mind that constantly running competitions and promotions is not a viable long-term plan. They should be planned strategically and not be overused, if you run too many they will lose their ‘sex appeal’.

There are no downsides to running social media contests if you follow our template, they are a win-win for everyone and your followers will love you more than ever.

Final ‘duh’ pro-tip: Don’t forget to announce a winner for your social contests when they finish!