How To Run A Social Media Contest or Sweepstakes To Grow Your Business

Social media contests and sweepstakes are a fun and compelling way to build excitement – a terrific opportunity to amplify a brand, product or service.

With organic online reach increasingly hard to achieve these days, digital promotions like social media contests and sweepstakes can be a powerful way to build brand awareness and buzz.

They are also one of the most exciting ways to not only stay connected with your existing community but to attract the attention of a whole new audience. And, when done right, they’re an incredibly easy, affordable, and robust tool to have in your business’ marketing toolbox.

For small businesses, digital promotions like contests and sweepstakes are a match made in heaven. Prizing is a no-brainer — offer a product, service, gift card, or digital download. Partner with a local business to award a combo-prize and multiply opportunities for cross-promotion. Go big and make your Grand Prize a whole brand experience!

Branding and creative are important in creating an engaging digital promotion, and small businesses enjoy the benefit of the most exciting imagery — eye-catching photos and videos of your resort, city or country are sure to grab attention. 

learn how to run an instagram contest

Want to gather great user-generated content (UGC) for future marketing activities? Make your promotion a photo, video or storytelling contest that asks entrants to share their experience with your brand or products.

Build It Well and They Will Come

Social media contests and sweepstakes can consist of a simple giveaway or a large-scale campaign designed to create a torrent of media buzz. Properly target your prospective audience, build an engaging, attractive, and easy-to-enter promotion, actively engage with participants, and it’s your brand that is certain to be the winner of any contest.

Social managers know that a well conceived and managed online contest or sweepstakes can provide powerful marketing opportunities and positive impact no matter the size of your business, effectively helping you:

Reach More Customers
Social media contests are an excellent way to build brand awareness, encouraging people to explore, interact and engage with your business.

Promote Your Products
Include your own products and/or services as prizes and every contest or sweepstakes mention is a great marketing opportunity! Use imagery or artwork of the prize in your contest promotions as advertising before participants even opt-in.

Grow Your Email List
Online contests and sweepstakes can be effective in helping to build your email list while providing you with a source of valuable data. If you’ve designed a strategic approach, you can use a contest or sweepstakes to learn more about your customers, potentially sourcing for future product or service ideas.

Drive Traffic to Your Website
Social contests provide an easy introduction of your brand to fresh eyes and new customers and can increase targeted traffic to your site. Host the contest on your own website, and once they’ve entered, participants can discover more about your business.

Set Your Goals and Your Budget

Establish SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound – goals for the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you want to reach through your contest or sweepstakes. For example, are you looking to boost brand engagement? Increase your following? Grow your email list? Understand your customers better? While one campaign might accomplish all of these, you should prioritize the goals that are of the utmost importance to your business right now.

When setting your budget, consider the prize, promotion cost, and any paid services you will need to include. Before you spend a lot of money on more extravagant prizes, determine if the ROI for expanding awareness and customer base is worth the investment.

Identify Your Prizes and Your Hook

Running a successful contest relies on both the premise and the prize being compelling enough for your audience to participate. It’s important to note; you don’t merely want entrants. You want entrants who will help to promote your campaign and who will become leads who ultimately convert to customers.

After selecting your prize (your products or services, another product related to your brand, a unique experience or vacation, etc.), you need to determine the hook. Perhaps that’s the prize itself. If you’re short on resources and your prize is more modest, choose another compelling appeal, or spin, that resonates.

Including a prize from another complementary (but non-competitive business) can have great rewards. The Grand Prize will be more exciting (helping to maximize interest) and the opportunities for cross-promotion are increased.

Decide on Structure and Platform

For those previously uninitiated, keep it simple. A social media sweepstakes that asks people to “like” a post to enter is easy and affordable. A slightly more robust promotion plan might make use of a third-party tool that adds an Entry Form to a custom Facebook Page Tab, your website or a microsite. A stand-alone contest or sweepstakes that’s promoted through a variety of traditional and online outlets and has multiple entry points and entry mechanisms can represent the biggest investment, but may mean the greatest rewards for your brand.

Some important definitions:

The structure will be determined by the goals you’ve set for the contest. When you begin considering your online promotion, there are typically three options:

  • A sweepstakes is essentially a game of luck. It is defined as ‘a promotional drawing in which prizes are given away at no charge to the participants.’ Winners are determined at random.
  • A contest, considered more a game of skill, is defined as ‘an event in which people try to win by doing something better than others.’ Winners are chosen or judged based on their submission or performance. Think: photo or video contests.
  • A lottery is defined as ‘a means of raising money by selling numbered tickets and giving prizes to the holders of numbers drawn at random’, including a fundraiser raffle and your provincial or state lottery. The winner is chosen at random, but you have to pay to play.

Each type of social media contest or sweepstakes has special considerations. For instance, a contest that encourages creative, artistic, or photographic submissions will require specific submission guidelines and a basis for judging the winner. You’ll have to consider the resources required of your team to monitor and judge entries. A simple sweepstakes, on the other hand, is much simpler with the winner merely chosen at random. (There are even tools online to help choose a winner fairly.)

Note: You don’t have to stick to only one channel to accept entries. However, it’s the social network where your audience is most likely to engage and participate where you ought to be promoting most aggressively.

Time is Money: Software and Apps to Help You Create a Great Contest or Sweepstakes

While you may not need special software if your promotion is simple and straightforward, for any contest or sweepstakes that requires data collection as part of the entry mechanism, you’ll need software to help build and manage it.

Here are some popular tools to help you conduct fun and compelling social media contests and sweepstakes quickly and easily, saving valuable time and money as you reach your marketing goals:

  • Rafflecopter is one of the best choices for bloggers and solopreneurs interested in conducting a simple giveaway with multiple entry points. It offers a simple and easy way to get your contest or sweepstakes up and running, regardless of the scope of your campaign, and can easily integrate into your website. Launch a giveaway in under three minutes – copy and paste the code and choose where you want to display the widget.
  • Wyng, formerly known as Offerpop, is a “scalable and agile” platform packed with tons of campaign and content templates and ideas. You can personalize contest design and options with drag-and-drop functionality, and publish to a landing page, website, or a Facebook tab.
  • Gleam is easy to use, yet robust, and assures that every contest or sweepstakes you run will help you reach the goals and growth you’re after. With a dedicated WordPress plugin it integrates easily into your WordPress website helping get your next site-based contest rolling in no time. The free trial offers several features including unlimited competitions, automatically verified entries, API integration, and Facebook tab installation.
  • Woobox is excellent for Facebook contests, but it’s also useful for other popular social platforms including Vine, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. With ready-made campaigns to help you get started, such as personality quizzes, poll posts, coupons, sweepstakes and more, you can embed as easily on your website as on social media.
  • Social Marketer is a social media curation tool that provides done-for-you social media posts, captions, photos, graphics and social contest promotion strategies to help you promote your business and social media contest or sweepstakes via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest and more.
  • Shortstack, with over 90 templates and 30 themes to help you create your giveaway campaign, can run your social contests or sweepstakes on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube. It provides easy drag and drop functionality that even the not so tech-savvy can use, as well as the ability to utilize custom URLs with your branding.
  • Strutta is a powerful tool that can help you run both contests and sweepstakes to stand alone or live on Facebook. You can also customize the CSS to conform to your brand as well as generate in-depth analytics.  
  • Agorapulse is a CRM with Facebook apps, an analytics suite and, uniquely, an in-depth reporting system. If you’re familiar with Facebook analytics and their management tools, Agorapulse is much more intuitive and geared to focus on your key metrics.

Know – And Follow! – the Rules

Each type of contest or sweepstakes comes with individual considerations and limitations.

When including online contests as part of your marketing strategy, be sure you that you define the legal requirements thoroughly and are in full understanding of the different provincial, state and social networks’ rules as to how to run and promote your contest or sweepstakes.

It’s important to know that overlooking any fundamental rules of the game could be potentially compromise not only your contest but your social media accounts as well — or, worse, get you into legal trouble. Every digital contest or sweepstakes should include detailed Rules — posted online, linked to from the promotion itself, and vetted by your legal team.

Working with a social media or digital marketing and advertising agency that specializes in social media contests and sweepstakes can help you to ensure that your promotion doesn’t break any rules. For quick reference, here are the Terms & Conditions for promotions on the top social networks:

As with any digital marketing endeavor, tracking and measuring the success of your contest or sweepstakes based on the goals you set during strategy and set-up will help you to know whether it was worth it.

And don’t just count “entries” as a key metric. You can not underestimate the brand awareness and buzz that happens as a result of the promotion. Even if someone didn’t enter, every instance of the promotion that they saw online acted like a digital ad, helping to keep your brand top of mind for them.

If results weren’t great, don’t give up on digital contests and sweepstakes. Consider reviewing and modifying the following next time:

  • Prizes
  • Location (social, website, microsite)
  • Theme/graphics
  • Partners
  • Season
  • Length of promotion
  • Network
  • Cross-promotion

Want to give it a try? Working with an experienced social media marketing agency will likely yield better results for your brand. Stir Marketing (the team behind Social Marketer) has helped many small and medium-sized businesses over the years to plan and execute exciting social media contests and sweepstakes.

From highly-engaged-with photo contests for to a year-long, 12-phase “tell us why you deserve to win” contest. From countless Facebook Timeline Sweepstakes for businesses of all shapes and sizes to custom-designed microsite sweepstakes, and many more — we’ve helped brands to build measurable buzz online. Get in touch with the Stir / Social Marketer team today!

Related Reading – Small Business Social Media  Hacks: