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Who doesn’t love free stuff, am I right? Sometimes it can feel like we never win anything, that it’s everyone else who has the luck of the Irish on their side. But then, out of nowhere, it happens! Sure, you’ve won a free dog grooming session at your local pet store and you don’t even own a pup, but man, did it feel good to win. Your excitement is so extreme that you tell all your friends and family. And your local pet store? Well, they can bet you’ll be frequenting their establishment when you eventually get your own version of Marley & me!

Okay, this example might be extreme but social media contests can generate some major excitement!  Not only that, but they can also help to boost your engagement on your social platforms and stand out among the crowd. 

Maybe you have never offered up a social media giveaway before, or have done a couple in the past but they didn’t receive the engagement you were hoping for. Don’t give up! Keep reading as this post will detail all the “must-knows” to develop and execute social media contests that are sure to convert even the non-believers. 


Before we dive into the specifics, it’s important to realize the benefits of social media contests. These types of contests can be an inexpensive way to get in front of your customers (and potential customers) so it’s imperative to not only do them right but also do them strategically.

  1. Boosts your online brand

Having people like, share, or comment on your contest will signal activity to the much-detested algorithm that users are liking this content. The algorithm will then in turn put your brand in front of more users., allowing them to learn more about your business and keep you top-of-mind. 

2. Helps to grow your following 

When people see your brand and learn more about your business, they  are more likely to follow your account. 

3. Can increase your email list 

Requiring people to give you their email list as a form of entry is a great tool in growing your contacts. If you don’t know, having an email list is an extremely valuable tool for any business. Your message is 5x more likely to be seen/read through email vs. your social media posts.  

4. Develop Community

Partnering with other local businesses to offer a social media contest will not only show that you care about community over competition, but it can also put you front and center with their audiences as well. For this to really be effective, be sure to partner with businesses that your ideal customer would be interested in or already engage with. 

Contests can seem like they are all about the customer, but if done correctly, the real winner, in the end, is you and your business. Giving away a reasonable prize may cost money up-front but gaining real customers for the long-term can continue to pay off for years to come. 

Social Squares


Time for the good stuff! This may seem like a lot of steps but once you get it down, you will be set up for success.. Let’s begin. 

  1. Set your goals

It’s essential to determine what you are trying to achieve with your contest. This will help greatly when you are wanting to reflect on and analyze its success. There are three main goals to choose from:

  • Increase brand awareness – If you are struggling to get your name out there, a brand awareness contest could help. Having the entry requirement be to “tag a friend” can put your business in front of eyes that have never seen or heard of you. 
  • Increase followers – If you are looking to grow your following, you will want to develop a contest where you are asking participants to “follow to enter”. 
  • Generate leads – If your main goal is to generate leads on potential customers, having the entry requirement be to “sign up for your email list” could be a great strategy. Make sure to detail what they are signing up for in the opt-in box and terms and conditions to legally add these entries to your email list after the contest is over. 

2. Budget & Prizes

Now it’s time to determine what you are willing to spend and what prize will be enough to entice your followers to enter. 

When it comes to a budget, determine what the prize will cost as well as what it will cost to deliver  to the winner (include shipping if you are opening your contest up to non-local residents). Prizes don’t have to be worth hundreds of dollars as long as they are enticing enough for people to want to enter. If you really consider what would interest or excite your followers, the prize could be as simple or elaborate as you want. 

Your prize should also reflect the actions you are requesting the participants to take. For example, if you are requiring them to send in a video or photo of themselves for entry, this would require a more substantial prize.  

Examples of Prizes:

  • Your own product or service
  • Another product related to your brand
  • A vacation or unique experience
  • A gift card or money 
  • A prize packages with multiple items 

Setting aside money to promote your contest is something to consider as well. Most contests should develop legs and get exposure by themselves but some contests could need a little ad money behind them to get them off the ground. Make sure to factor this into your budget if you think your contest will need this. 

Hosting regular contests on your platforms is a great way to keep engagement up and your followers excited. If this is the route you want to take, develop a budget for the year and schedule contests into your marketing calendar. This way you are prepared both on a marketing front as well as financially.

3. Choose your social networks and contest entry structure

Ask yourself this question: Who and where is your audience? Answering this will help you determine on which platform would be best to host your contest.  You don’t have to stick to just one platform but if it’s your first contest, keeping it simple  will be less overwhelming. You will also want to look at what actions you are going to require from your audience to enter. Remember, your type of entry should be dictated by the goals you set for the contest. 

If you are new to the whole contest game, testing different platforms will help you see which one yields the best results. You may find your audience is willing to engage more on a platform that you have fewer followers on, which is perfectly fine! Feel free to skip the testing phase if you already know where your customers engage most with you.  

4. Determine Length 

A good rule of thumb is the shorter the timeline the better. Now, don’t get us wrong, you need to allow the contest enough time to really get off the ground and have followers participate but the days of 2-3 week-long contesting are over. Not only will you lose steam, but your followers will forget you even had anything going on. Be purposeful in selecting the day you launch your contest (we don’t recommend launching on a Friday or the weekend) and keep your contest to 3-7 days in length. Not always the case, but the bigger the prize, the longer the contest.  

5. Read up on contest rules

Although people seem to do what they want with contests, we would be bad marketers if we didn’t mention that there are rules around contesting. It’s recommended to read up on them ahead of time as each platform reserves the right to shut your page down if the rules are not followed. This can be a very challenging repercussion that will be difficult to fix and bounce back from . Choose to proceed how you wish. 

Here are some of the most important rules to know about:


  • You need to clearly state what the contest or promotion is. Be sure to let your audience know that Facebook is in no way affiliated with or a sponsor of your contest.
  • You cannot use friend connections to increase the reach of your contest, like having people share the post for more entries or even tagging friends in a post as a form of entry.

Read the full list of rules here: 


  • You must let your audience know that Instagram is not in any way sponsoring, administering or endorsing your contest.
  • You cannot inaccurately tag content or encourage your audience to do so, i.e., do not tag users in a photo if they are not in that photo.

Read the full list of rules here: 

6. Promote and engage 

When drafting the copy for your contest post, keeping it short and simple is the way to go. Make it as easy as possible for viewers to understand the prizes, requirements, and terms and conditions. Don’t just think about the text here, also think about spacing, white space, and emojis to help with understanding. 

At this stage, consider running ads to increase your reach and cross-promote on your other platforms for maximum visibility. Do you have a newsletter, blog, or website you can mention the contest on?  

7. Convert, analyze, reflect

The time has come to select your winner! Make sure to announce this on your page so people aren’t left wondering. Another tip is to thank everyone for entering. If you were giving away a membership as a prize, consider going back to the entrants with a free 7-day trial or something along those lines. This is a captive audience who have expressed interest in your business, why not continue the engagement? 

Lastly, you want to reflect on the contest – did your prize and messaging generate buzz? Were you able to generate ROI? Did you hit or exceed your goals? What worked well and what didn’t? Make notes for next time! 


(Disclaimer: we have not used these ourselves but they were recommended to us to help save valuable time and choose winners at random)

  • Gleam
  • Rafflecopter
  • Struta

And there you have it, all the information you need to rock your next social media contest! Be advised….giving away things can be really fun. Enjoy your mini Oprah moment (you get a car, and you get a car!). 🙂

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How To Use Social Media Contests for Your Business

Social media contests can generate some major excitement and help to boost your engagement. Grab our guide so you can convert even the non-believers.

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