11 Steps to a Successful Social Media Contest
Running contests on social media offers one of the best strategies for getting audiences engaged, earning shares, and generating impressions. Following a careful procedure can increase your contest’s chances of success.
On the other hand, not having a plan and a strategy can mean that even the most popular contests accomplish little in the way of marketing goals, while taking resources from other campaigns. Or, worse, the contest can turn into a giant mess that leaves a sore spot on your brand image.
So, to make sure your contest has the best odds of helping boost your social media marketing performance, use the following 11 steps below. They’ll help you strategize for your contest, plan it out, create a schedule, and follow through on everything in a way that leaves both your participants and your fellow co-workers satisfied with the results.
1. Decide on a Social Media Marketing Goal
Many contests start by thinking of a great promotion, prize or theme. The goals get defined later.
While this approach feels natural because thinking about prizes or contest themes is exciting, there’s danger in not having a focus from the beginning. Your goals can easily get diluted or intermingled in a way that makes them ineffective.
For instance, let’s say you are a scuba diving certification company. You want people to enter into a contest to win some free gear. If your ultimate goal is to get people to sign up for lessons, then the format of your contest needs to be positioned toward people who have never scuba dived before.
The problem is that only people with scuba experience may share your contest since they are the only people who know how valuable the gear you’re offering is. To fix the problem, the contest needs to highlight from the beginning how winning your gear set makes it easier than ever to start scuba diving. Without this perspective, you may instead end up pitching the value of a feature-packed diving watch, which will read as “all Greek” to people who aren’t familiar.
So, start from a defined goal and let the structure of the contest expand organically from there.
Common goals include:
- Increasing overall purchases.
- Spread brand awareness.
- Adding conversion actions like demo signups/free lesson signups/webinar registrations/content downloads.
- Capturing emails.
- Increasing site traffic.
- Earning more page likes/followers.
Make sure that no matter what, your contest reinforces your goals. If, for example, you want to earn more traffic, make visiting a landing page on your site mandatory for entry. The landing page should also have a call to action suggesting people browse your content or your products. Similarly, if your aim is to increase purchases, you can make a purchase a necessary part of entry.
2. Decide on Your Hosting and Promotional Venues
The venue you host your contest on can have huge consequences for how your contest is structured and how it will play out over time. Some platforms – i.e., Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – have strict rules regarding how contests are held and how they are conducted.
Eventually, you will need a legal team to review your contest plan before you put it into action. The venues you use to host and/or promote the campaign will affect their recommendations for what you can and cannot do.
Note that “hosting” a contest refers to all of the contest activities taking place on that platform. For instance, if you are going to make the entry requirement sharing a post and the prize drawing comes from those shares, the contest is occurring on that platform.
On the other hand, if you are going just to be promoting the contest on social media and the actual entry and other activities takes place on your own site, that creates a different set of conditions.
Realize that the more channels you have your contest hosted on, the more complex your campaign will become. You can reduce complexity by directing everyone to one point of entry, such as prompting “Enter on Facebook” or “Visit Our Website to Enter!” This strategy makes promoting your contest across multiple channels easier without having to add data-gathering and community management headaches.
3. Decide How People Will Enter Your Social Media Contest
A few entry requirement options you can consider are to:
- Submit email and other contact information.
- Require a connecting action, such as “liking” or “following” your page.
- Require an engagement action, such as “liking,” commenting, or sharing a particular post.
- Ask people to cast their vote using polling tools on Facebook or Twitter or on your own website.
- Create and submit user generated content for judgement, meaning the selected best entry gets the prize.
Direct submissions of emails typically take the least amount of effort to track, especially if you use a custom form. Requiring people to comment, like or share a post can be similarly easy, although this engagement may not connect meaningfully with the desired goal or conversion action.
Voting can be another easy entry mechanism, but you may want to steer people to a custom form since many social platforms register votes anonymously.
Creating user-generated content is an awesome idea since it leads to the creation of marketing assets you can later use while bringing higher levels of engagement to your campaign. However, you will need to review the legal requirements of such a campaign and disclose details like ownership rights and liability to anyone who submits.
Software tools are available to help you track data such as new page “likes,” so you can differentiate new entrants from people who already like your page. These tools include Strutta, Shortstack, Wishpond, and Rafflecopter. Of these, Rafflecopter has the best pricing and is singularly dedicated to contests.
4. Create a Contest Theme and a Name
Your social media contest theme should have its own set of branding devices in play. The more vivid your branding, the more excited entrants will be. Well-branded and themed contests also have a way of attracting more attention.
Remember that the clarity of the theme and also the clarity of a contest title can make or break participation. Shorter names are usually better, especially since space is limited on social posts for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms.
5. Settle on a Contest Timeline
Decide on a date you will make the final prize announcement. Then, work backward from this date to plot out when drawing/judging will start and end. Going further, decide when entry is closed, when it is open, when promotion for the contest starts, and any other key dates involved.
Build in the needed time to handle everything, especially if snags or hurdles emerge. You need to give yourself time to plan and design creative elements, get approval from legal, and accomplish other milestones.
6. Decide on Prizes or Giveaways
You may have already had a prize or giveaway in mind, but you should wait to finalize this decision until you have all the other above elements in place. Holding off prevents you from getting locked into the prize aspect and losing focus on everything else. If you’ve seen the Office episode where Michael Scott auctions off non-existent Bruce Springsteen tickets, you know what we mean.
As we suggested above, ensure the prize directly ties into your goals, your desired customer path, and your business as a whole. Offering a generically appealing prize like a free iPhone can earn you thousands of entrants, but most of these entrants will not be viable customer leads.
Instead, think of prizes that connect to your business, your brand, and your most important values. Also, try to think of a storytelling angle so that your prize winner can become a testimonial of sorts, illustrating what makes your company great.
7. Draft an Editorial and Social Content Calendar
Using the timeline you created, plan out ahead of time exactly what types of social media posts and other promotional collateral will be needed and when it will be published. You can always use placeholder content or deviate from your calendar, but the last thing you want to do is promote your contest off-the-cuff with no real approval or planning.
To help you decide what kind of content will be needed when, think of your social media contest in six discrete phases:
- Last chance for entries.
- Closed for entries.
- Winner announcements.
- Post-contest promotion and related campaigns.
8. Develop Your Promotional Strategy
You want to amplify visibility for your contest as much as possible, especially during the first few days of launch. Having a “slow burn” strategy actually hurts your chances for entrants since posts with little engagement tend to get buried. However, posts that get tons of engagement the moment they are created tend to be discovered more readily by late-comers.
Include paid ads, organic promotions, website content, and social media content within your promotional strategy. You don’t have to have a huge budget for any one particular thing, but generally the more you can invest, the better your results will be.
9. Have a Community Management and Crisis Plan in Place
Since it will be hosted online, your contest will essentially run 24/7. You therefore need a plan for someone to monitor activities during off-business hours.
Remember that contests tend to overwhelm unprepared social media marketing teams since they create a flood of engagement compared to the normal day-to-day. Be prepared for this in advance.
Also, have a backup plan in case things go wrong. Hopefully, you will never have to implement your crisis management plan. But having it prepared ensures you have a set damage containment strategy rather than responding on-the-fly. Sometimes when we improvise while handling stressful situations, we can make things worse, so have your backup plan written down.
10. Finalize Your Rules, and Have Legal Review Everything
The last thing you want is for your contest to result in a lawsuit or bad PR. You should therefore have experienced legal counsel verify that all your rules, prizes, and general procedures are appropriate and legal.
Consider that if you run your contest nationally or internationally, different states may have different rules regarding contests and prizes. You want to be in compliance everywhere possible, which may even mean restricting entry within certain geographical areas.
11. Document Everything So You Can Learn in the Future
As an extra step, make sure you take notes on as much of what you learn as you can. Also, gather data throughout the contest, so you can trace ROI and whether you’ve met your goals. This documentation may be extra work, but it will pay off by helping you learn lessons and improve over time.