How to Create a Social Media Contest

Oct 29, 2020 | By WaterStreet Creative

Looking to spice up your social media channels? One effective tactic is with a simple social media contest. It’s a fun way to engage with your followers, grow your audience, and highlight unique aspects of your business.

Here at WaterStreet Creative, we’ve implemented many social media contests and received great results for our clients. We thought, why not share some insights about creating a social media contest so others can achieve success! Read about the steps below to kickstart your first contest.


1. Identify Goals

Before you start promoting anything you should figure out what your goal is with this social media campaign. What are you trying to attain? Goals could include growing your social media following, adding to your email list, generating user-generated content, or highlighting a product or service that you offer.

It is possible that you are trying to achieve more than one of those things, but it should be determined which is the most important to you. If your campaign has too many goals the posts can get too complicated and then the message is diluted.


2. Choose Your Platform

After your goals are set, the next step is to choose a platform that best serves those goals. If your contest revolves around user-generated content, Instagram might be the best option. If your target audience is on Facebook and you want to grow your following, Facebook might be the best option.

Once a platform has been chosen, make sure to read through the contest rules for that platform. If contest rules are violated, the platform can take down your posts or invalidate your contest. Each platform requires contests to abide by certain criteria so that contests are fair and legal. The contest rules will also determine the entry structure for your social media contest.

Facebook Contest Rules Twitter Contest Rule
Pinterest Contest Rules Copy of Facebook Contest Rules (4)


Your entry structure determines what you will be asking of your followers to do in order to hopefully win the contest. Here’s a few examples of how you can structure your social media contest entries

      • You can create a custom hashtag and everyone that uses it receives an entry into the contest.
      • You could ask followers to share a post to be entered.
      • Even simpler, every person who comments or likes your post could be entered (or a combination of the two).

Whatever entry you choose make sure it follows the promotion rules and that it is clear to followers how to enter.


3. Set Budget

You’ve determined your goal and what platform(s) you plan on launching your social media contest. The next step is setting your budget. When it comes to budgeting for a social media contest a few questions must be answered:

      1. Who will be producing and designing the social media posts? Can this be done in-house or do you need some outside assistance?
      2. Does your contest require specialized services to host the contest? (i.e. who will manage all the entries to select a winner?)
      3. What’s the prize? Can we afford it?
      4. Paid promotion; should it be used and when?

It’s good to paint a realistic picture about how much time and resources you will be dedicating to the contest. This ensures that your followers aren’t being led on and that you’re able to communicate consistently to your audience. You also don’t want to find yourself overpromising and under-delivering to your audience; that’s not a good look for your brand.


4. Choose Prizes and Hook

So, now that you know your goal, platform, and budget it’s time to choose your prize and hook. Both the prize and hook should be exciting and tailored to your ideal customers. You want people to enter the contest, but you also want to convert those entrants to customers.

It is best if prizes are related to your own products or services. That could mean a gift certificate, a product giveaway, or a discount on a service. Your prize should be something that is desirable for your audience.

After selecting your prize, you’ll need to determine the hook for your contest. Will the prize sell itself? If so, the prize can be the hook. However, not every brand can offer one-week all-expenses-paid trips or celebrity meet and greets, so use the resources available to you wisely, and choose an interesting spin.


5. Post and Promote

Here’s the exciting part – launching your social media contest! High-resolution, visually appealing photos or graphics enhance the overall posts and make them stand out to audiences. If you aren’t a graphic design wizard, there are many free services that are easy to use. In fact, here’s a list of easy-to-use graphic design tools available designed for all skill levels!

When writing copy for your post clearly outline your hook, how people can enter, and what they will win. Keep your copy concise and clear so that there is no confusion for your audience about the social media contest.

Once you have your post up on your chosen platform(s), one thing you can do to increase your contest reach is through paid promotion. If you find that you’re not receiving the entry traction like you expected, consider adding some paid promotion to your contest post to increase your reach. We recommend starting out with $100 if you have the budget capabilities.

There are some free tricks that you can do to keep the social media contest top of mind for your audience. On Twitter and Facebook, you can pin the post to the top of your business page so that it is the first thing that people see when they visit your page. Spread your message further and faster with Instagram Stories. Users love video content and designing a quick story about your contest is an easy way to continue promoting your message. There’s nothing wrong with re-sharing your original contest post after a few days has passed, too!

6. Reward and Reflect

Once your contest runs for the predetermined time, it’s time to pick a winner. There are a variety of ways to pick a winner and it all depends on what contest structure that you chose. Here's a list of tools that can help you select a winner of your social media contest. Once you choose a winner you should notify them and let your audience know who won.

Celebrate the winner of your contest online! Be sure to be gracious in your posts so that those who didn’t win the social media contest will still feel valued.

Finally, it is time to reflect on your campaign. Did you meet your goals? What went well and what didn’t? What did you learn from this contest? These are the type of questions you should be asking yourself to determine if this was a successful campaign and if you should think about doing another one in the future.


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