/ How to Run a Successful Social Media Contest

Fans, readers and followers love contests. They’re a way for a brand to create buzz while achieving a number of goals from fan engagement to increased sales.

Moreover, a Lab42 study of 1,000 social media users showed 55% of users that connect to brands on Facebook are swayed by promotions, discounts and giveaways. The same study showed the top way brands could get non-likers to like a Facebook Page is through more giveaways.

Now contemplating running one? Concentrate on goals, budget, platform, legality, promotion and measurement. Here are a few questions you may want to ask while planning:

1. What are my goals?

What do you want to accomplish with a contest, sweepstake or giveaway? Did you know about 46% of online consumers count on social media when making a purchase decision? If you don’t have a clear goal, measuring success for your efforts will prove difficult. Don’t run a contest just for the sake of running a contest. A few attainable goals to think about are:

  • Increasing website traffic (i.e., unique visitors, returning ones, more visitors from a specific location)
  • Fan/follower acquisition (on which platform?)
  • Fan/follower engagement (What type of content? Text, photos, videos?)
  • Newsletter subscriber acquisition
  • Increasing sales

Once you have your goals, brainstorm for a creative way to differentiate your contest, sweepstake or giveaway from your competitors. Your prize will be a part of this brainstorm, so be sure it’s something that is appropriate for your brand. For example, you don’t want to give away lipstick from a food blog. Jeff Bullas shares a list of 30 Facebook Timeline Contest Ideas.

2. Which social media contest platform fits my goals and budget?

Once you understand what your goals and budget are, finding the right platform will take some time and research.Of course all tools and platforms have their pros and cons. You want to make sure your chosen platform has accessible customer service and tech teams — should you run into any problems. We’ve run successful campaigns on Offerpop and Statigram in the past, and both are reliable in terms of customer service.List.ly has a comprehensive list of social media contest platforms and tools.

3. Is my contest, sweepstakes or giveaway legal?

“Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries” ranked number five on the FTC’s 2012 complaint list. To avoid getting your contest shut down or creating unhappy entrants, you have to come up with a clear set of rules with your legal guru.Things to consider: Eligibility (who and where), entry period (when), prizes (why), how to enter, and more. Socially Stacked has shared the best practices for writing Facebook contest rules. This applies to other contests, sweepstakes and giveaways as well.

4. How will I promote my contest?

This depends on your time and budget. You can start as simple as word of mouth or a Tweet with a promotional hashtag. You can also get as complex as a full Google Adwords campaign, involving text, image and video advertising. Adwords got us 41.7% of our contest traffic for Of Wit & Will’s Off the Runway Sweepstakes.Some ways we’ve promoted in the past: Millennial Media mobile ads, Google Adwords, Facebook Promoted Posts, Twitter Ads and more.Also consider taking the time to submit your contest to sweepstakes sites like Sweeties SweepsSweepstakes Advantage and others. One-third of our last sweepstakes’ traffic for Of Wit & Will came from these contest databases.


Running a contest doesn’t have to be difficult, but careful planning is a must. While your contest is running, be sure to look at the analytics that align with your goals. For example: how many entries, email subscribers captured, website traffic and sales conversions. From there, you can gauge the success of your brand’s contest, sweepstakes or giveaways effectively.

For Fashion Weeks all over the globe, STC organized the Of Wit & Will Off the Runway Daily Sweepstakes on Offerpop’s Quiz 2.0 platform to increase website traffic. The result? A 72.8% increase in unique visitors, a 60% increase in newsletter subscribers and a 9.8% increase in returning traffic.


About Christine Borkowski

Christine Borkowski is the Digital Marketing Lead at STC New York, specializing in digital media. She's seen award-winning projects through from brainstorm to execution working with clients like Accenture, Voss Foundation and Activision. She's a city-loving beach bum whose interests include tech, music and comedy. Marketing communications piqued Christine's endless curiosity at James Madison University (Go Dukes!). Twitter: @Chrissy_Cecilia
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