How to Run a Social Media Contest

Are you thinking about running a social media contest?

There are a few things you can do ahead of time to set yourself up for success. We’ve created a list of 10 questions that will help you create a social media contest campaign.

What’s your goal? 

If you’ve read any of our other blogs about social media strategy, you’ll notice the first thing we do is define the goal of everything we’re creating. We do this so that we can stay focused on the results that we want to achieve. 

Here are four examples of goals for a social media contest:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Boost engagements on your account
  • Gain new followers (that are real)
  • Collect email addresses

What’s your budget?

If you’re spending money on the prize, include this amount in your budget. It’s helpful to know what the prize value is, so if you’re using one of your products or services as the prize, note the retail cost. You’ll use this info in your post. 

We like to boost our contests with a bit of social media ad spend. However, this is not necessary if you’re new to social media management. We have an in-depth understanding of using the ads platform to get the best results for our spending. If you’re going to boost your content, plan the budget ahead of time.

Are you collaborating with anyone?

A great organic way to increase your brand awareness within your target demographics is to collaborate with other businesses. It’s important to choose collaborators that have audiences similar to yours. When you’re running the contest, make sure the content that all your collaborators post is the same, or very similar. At first glance, you want the social media user to recognize that this is the same contest that you’re running.

Example: If you’re a local coffee roaster, you may want to consider collaborating on a contest with a local bakeshop. 

What are you giving away?

This one seems obvious, but it’s essential to define precisely what the prize is. If you’re working with other collaborators, make sure you also ask them to include the prize’s retail cost that they’re providing. It’s impactful to tell your followers what the prize’s total value is that they’re entering to win. 

How long is your contest going to run?

The general rule for a contest’s length is, the more significant the prize, the longer you run it. However, it’s important not to drag it out too long. Otherwise, your followers will lose interest and forget about staying engaged to see who wins. We run our contests for a length of 1-2 weeks at a time. If we’re giving away a prize with a value over $1000, we’ll likely extend the contest’s duration.

What are the rules?

This is the area where we see so many contests go wrong. For the love of all things good, make the rules as simple as possible. Stick to the 1-2-3 rule. Here’s an example of simple contest rules:

Hey everyone, we’re giving away a free month of social media management! Here’s what you have to do to enter:

  1. Follow our account
  2. Like this post
  3. Tag a friend in the comments

Want a bonus entry?

Share this post on your Instagram story or Facebook page. 

When you make the rules more complicated than this, followers are less likely to enter because the instructions are confusing or too time consuming. 

How will you notify the winner?

Once your contest has run, and you’ve picked a winner, how will you let them know they’ve won? The best way to do this is in two steps:

  1. We will announce the winner on this date at this time on our social media feeds
  2. We’ll notify the winner via direct message

What are you posting for creatives?

Visuals are possibly the most important thing for a strong social media strategy. If you’re using photography for your contest, take these images ahead of time. You can choose to post one picture of the entire prize pack or create a gallery of images showing individual items. If you like to work with video, create a 60 second or less clip about the fabulous prize that your followers can win. If graphics are a part of your social media strategy, create one that’s simplified in the information you’re presenting.

What are you posting for the copy?

When we say copy, we mean words or the caption that’s posted with the visual. You’re going to use all of the info that you’ve collected previously to create the caption. Here’s a simple social media contest copy template to follow:

We’re giving away a [insert prize], valued at [insert value]! Here’s how you can enter:

  1. Follow our account/Like our page
  2. Like this post
  3. Tag a friend in the comments

For a bonus entry, share this post to your Facebook page or Instagram feed. 

This contest ends on [insert date] at [insert time]. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on our feed on [insert date]. We’ll also notify the winner via direct message with instructions on how they can claim their prize. Terms and conditions apply.

How will you pick a winner?

If you want a community that stays engaged with your brand after the contest ends, don’t do what we see so many brands do. Do not choose a winner that’s an influencer or has a higher follower count. It’s so apparent to followers that are your average social media users, and they won’t be likely to engage with you again if you hand pick your winner. Use a tool like to choose a winner at random. Better yet, screen record the app or tool running and selecting a winner so your followers can see that you’ve run this contest fairly and authentically. 

Answering these questions before you launch a social media contest can save you a lot of time and hassle. We love seeing what our readers create; if you’re running a social media contest using our strategy, please tag us in the comments. We’re @monarchsocialmedia on Instagram and Facebook.

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