Why You Should Host Social Media Contests

Miranda   •   June 25, 2018

It takes a lot to stand out in the crowded online marketplace. Grabbing consumer attention is tough — and building brand loyalty is even tougher. But even with a consistent social media presence, there’s always room to grow your audience and reach more potential customers. One way to gain loyal followers, while simultaneously providing your fans with something special, is hosting a social media contest.

The Basics 

Before you start your contest, you’ll need to make a few basic — but important — decisions.

  1. Nail down your core demographic. Understanding your existing customer base can help you choose a prize that will appeal to them, which in turn will better incentivize their participation in your contest.
  2. Choose your social channels. This will depend on the platforms your customers tend to frequent. Although Facebook and Instagram are currently the most popular social media channels, if your brand gets a lot of engagement on Snapchat or Twitter, you may choose to advertise the contest there, as well.
  3. Identify the geographic scope. Do you want to include participants on the national level, or would you prefer to stay local? The answer can influence your choice of prize. For example, tickets to a music festival in California may limit the entrants to those who live close to the venue, since people who live further away would be less likely to attend. However, material prizes may encourage greater participation, since the prize can be shipped to the winner regardless of location (though it’s probably worth noting in your contest whether you’re willing to ship internationally).

The Prize

To determine the best incentive for your customers, consider the following factors:

  • The product or service your business provides
  • Other products your customers purchase
  • Your customers’ key interests

Let’s say your brand heavily appeals to millennials. On the whole, millenials are experience seekers who prefer to spend their disposable income on new experiences rather than on material objects. Offering up an experience-based prize may entice more people to enter your contest, so you may want to consider giving away tickets to an upcoming music festival, local event, or weekend getaway.

Another approach is to partner with a brand that appeals to a similar demographic. This partnership can build authority in your community while doubling your exposure, since your partner will also be posting about the contest on their site. You can either collaboratively promote a local event or pool your resources to give away items from each of your stores.

The Different Campaign Types

Once you establish the foundation for your social media contest, you can then decide what kind of campaign you’d like to run. You can choose from any of the following:

1. Content Creation Campaign

Content creation campaigns are exactly what they sound like: You provide your audience with a topic or theme and encourage them to create related content. This could be a photo, a video, a song, or something else you think would both appeal to your audience and represent your brand.

Case Study: Forever 21 recently partnered with Honda on an exclusive clothing line for Honda sports bikes. To advertise it, they created a social media contest asking customers to post a creative photo wearing something from the line within a specific timeframe. Participants were also required to use the hashtag #f21xhonda and to tag the two brands on the image. The contest was judged in three specific categories and the winner was awarded a new Honda sports bike.

If you decide to go with a content creation campaign, you can determine the winner of the contest in one of two ways:

You or your team can sort through the submissions and determine who you think captured your request the best
You can set up a voting system, and the submission with the most likes will win the prize

There are pros and cons to both approaches, so it really depends on what works best for your brand.

2. Philanthropic Campaign

One way to encourage participation is by partnering with, or including, a philanthropic cause in your contest. People love to support causes that they believe in and using a hashtag or posting a photo is a simple way to do it.

There are a lot of ways you can incorporate a cause. A few of them include:

Donating a specific amount for every photo posted using a predetermined hashtag that is tied to the campaign.
Including a specific donation amount to the charity of the winner’s choice at the end of the campaign.
Partnering with multiple causes and donating to each one based on their relative engagement.

Philanthropic campaigns are win-win: You’ll look good in the eyes of your consumers while also helping those in need.

3. Engagement Campaign

One of the simplest and most common types of social media contests is the engagement campaign. These typically see a large amount of participation due to the minimal effort required to enter.

One common example of an engagement campaign is simply asking users to do the following:
Follow (or like) your page
Follow (or like) the page of your partner (if applicable)
Tag 1-3 friends in the post (You can determine the number of tags you’d like)

At the end of the contest, you can randomly select your winner. If you want to make things a little more interesting, you can also ask users to comment a response to a question and pick the winner based on a voting system. This method still makes it easy for people to participate but allows your customers to get a little more creative.

Case Study: @overheardla partnered with @bumblebizz to give away a $500 gift card to @outdoorvoices. Their ground rules were simple: Comment on their latest post with a funny answer to the question: “What makes you sweat?” The comment with the most likes on the post was the winner of the gift card. Followers often see this strategy as the fairest way to determine the winner of a contest, since it’s a relatively democratic system, and the prize was “earned” rather than randomly selected.

Tips & Tricks for a Successful Campaign

1. Keep It Aesthetically Pleasing

At the end of the day, these are social media contests, and these platforms are largely driven by visual imagery. When creating the graphics to go along with your contest, make sure they’re aesthetically appealing to help grab your consumer’s attention.

2. Use Specific Hashtags

Using specific hashtags is the simplest way to keep track of the number of submissions you’re getting (as in the Forever 21 x Honda example mentioned above). It will keep all photos and content created for your contest in one easily accessible place.

3. Keep it Fresh

With so much content pouring into our social media feeds on a daily basis, it’s easy for consumers to forget about a contest, even if they intended to enter in the first place. After your initial post about the campaign, create reminders every few days on your Instagram story or in captions for your other social media posts.

4. Use Influencers

Over the past few years, companies have started to realize the vast potential of reaching out to influencers to help advertise their products or social media contests. Partnering with an influencer that appeals to your target demographic can help you reach a larger audience.

Why Contests Benefit You (And Your Company)

Although it takes some initial effort to get them started, social media contests are well worth the work for the following reasons:

  • They have a relatively low-cost barrier to entry. (Generally, you only have to pay for the prize, and possibly for promotion of your post.)
  • It evokes excitement in your consumers and keeps your brand on their mind.
  • It drastically increases your exposure to a wider audience that most likely would not have seen your page otherwise.
  • You can learn more about your consumers through the content they create for your contests.
  • Your social page grows exponentially!

At Reader Digital, we’re experts on all things social media, including the creation and implementation of social media contests. Give us a call today to find out more about how we can get your social media pages in front of a wider audience.