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Ah, social media contests. They were great at one point, weren’t they?

But what started off as an amazing tool for generating new followers and increasing brand exposure, has turned into a cheap shortcut for businesses. Many businesses use contests to quickly grow a social media page without any regard to the quality of the follower base accrued.

Without a doubt, social media contests have gained a pretty questionable reputation. And the growing number of social media contest scams has left users wary.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use a contest to grow your business this year. You just need to understand whether or not a contest is the right choice to meet your business goals.

Keep reading to find out more about all the different types of social media contests, their advantages and disadvantages, their mechanics, and how to run a contest that brings you new followers and customers.

Why do you want to launch a contest on social media?

When a social media marketer suggests your company should launch a social media contest, stop right there and ask, why?

Because, frankly speaking, if you can’t give a clear answer to this question and provide good reasoning, the contest in question will likely end up being a waste of your marketing budget and your SMM manager’s time.

The biggest mistake marketers make when it comes to social media contests is launching one just for the sake of doing something, all without having an end goal for it.

Now, there are several reasons you might want to run a contest:

Generate User-Generated Content (UGC)

A well-designed contest with a thoughtful prize can help you activate your audience, enticing them to create content for your brand and post it on their social media pages.

If everything goes according to plan, you can kill two birds with one stone. You get a chance for your brand to go viral and a hefty folder of high-quality social proof content to use in your editorial calendar.

If you decide to take this route, I recommend splurging on an really good gift — otherwise, you risk not getting many entries; people don’t really want to lift their fingers if they feel like the prize isn’t worth it.

Tell your target audience about the newest addition to your product range

You can make a social media contest part of your new product promotion campaign. Make the new product the prize everyone will be fighting for, and encourage contestants to pass on information about it to their friends, colleagues, and family. Even if they don’t win, the chances of them buying the new product just to give it to try will be high.

Increase the engagement rate of your social media profile

Has it been unusually quiet in the comments section? Your SMM manager’s phone no longer blows up from an endless stream of likes? People are swiping through your Story?

All of this could be because your profile is shadow banned, preventing your new posts from reaching the intended audience. In theory, the classic “like, comment, and follow” contest can fix the problem.

In reality, you need to be extra cautious not to trigger people who’ll follow you only to unfollow the second the contest is over. It can really mess up your social media reputation and only worsen the situation. 

Improve your brand awareness

Perhaps, being known as “the brand that gave away that crazy gift” isn’t the type of publicity every marketer is longing for. But it’s still something.

At the end of the day, any PR is PR, right? If your contest manages to reach the greater internet (aka the audiences outside of your regular target audience circle), you get an invaluable opportunity to introduce your brand to a larger number of people.

Garner new followers and new potential customers

Some people might follow you for the sake of trying their luck, but it doesn’t mean they won’t be mesmerized by the quality of your content and your products.

In fact, there’s a pretty high chance they’ll stay with you even after the contest is over and turn into a warm (perhaps, even a hot?) lead. To increase the likelihood of this, offer contestants that didn’t win a consolation prize in the form of a discount on their next purchase.

Increase your sales

Have you ever thought about why so many social media contests ask contestants to like 5-10 posts to enter the competition? That’s because while they’re going through those posts, they’re taking in the information laid out in those (even if it happens on the subconscious level) and get nudged towards making a purchasing decision. Et voila!

Choose me, choose me: The 6 types of social media contests

Once you know exactly the goal you want to achieve with your social media contest, you can move on to the next step — deciding on the type of social media contest that suits you best. Turns out, there are a lot of them, and all of them serve a different purpose.

It’s essential that you understand the difference in the mechanics of different types of social media contests, as well as their advantages and disadvantages. The majority of epic social media contest fails happen when the wrong type of contest is used.

1. Collaborative giveaway

You must’ve heard of these even if you never attempted to launch an online contest yourself. This type of giveaway used to be uber-popular a couple of years ago, with a lot of people debating whether they’re a scam or not.

The main idea behind a collaborative giveaway is that a person must follow everyone the sponsor follows and leave a comment under the original post to enter the contest.


Image Source

One of the most infamous cases was when the Kardashian family got involved. The Internet went nuts trying to expose the K-family and they actually managed to prove it’s a scam, kinda.

Here’s an explanation from a witness:

Besides that, there’s a lot of speculation regarding the winners of these contests. People online claim they’ve “never seen anyone actually get that bag”.

All in all, Instagram wasn’t happy with these contests getting popular and started the war on collaborative contests. That’s why we don’t really see them around anymore.

But it doesn’t mean that mass-giveaways are completely obliterated. They’re still a thing today, just in a different format.

If you don’t want to get immediately banned, you should:

  • Launch a collaborative contest with 2-3 partners, not 150 of them.
  • Don’t create a new page for the contest, it’s a red flag for Instagram.
  • Make use of the shared post functionality or “Partnership With…” feature instead, and feature all affiliates in the giveaway.

Advantages: More prizes so people are more interested in participating; easy to launch and run

Disadvantages: High cost; some followers leave immediately after the contest is over

2. A creative contest

This one will help you generate lots of UGC and have your audience talk about you to their followers online (at the end of the day, they’re getting likes and views, too)!

The idea is simple: you get your audience to take a creative photo or video for you and give them a prize in return.

But here’s the catch… As a rule of thumb, people come to social media to relax, thoughtlessly scroll down their feeds, and not think about content creation. However, if you offer them a really valuable gift, they might change their mind 😉

Here’s an example of a creative Instagram contest from VistaCreate.

Just before Christmas, the company released a new, funny Christmas template. The graphic editor’s users could edit themselves into an ugly Christmas sweater they design themselves.

VistaCreate asked their followers to tweak the template and share their versions of the ugly Christmas sweater on Instagram with the hashtag #SecretlyUglyXmas and a company tag.

Those with the most creative designs received a real ugly Christmas sweater from the brand.


Advantages: Social media users make publications about your brand; the contest goes viral; you receive plenty of UGC for future marketing campaigns

Disadvantages: The algorithm must be as clear as possible; only a small number of people are actually ready to actively produce content for a prize from a brand online

3. UGC photo contests

Another type of contest that focuses on generating your company lots of UGC is, well, a UGC photo contest. The principle is very straightforward: you ask your followers to submit a photo related to your brand, and offer a small (or big) prize in return.

Some ideas of photos that you could request from your followers include:

  • A photo of the followers using your product
  • A photo of the follower doing an activity that relates to your campaign
  • A follower using your product in a creative way

One of the most successful examples of a UGC photo contest hosted on Instagram is the joint initiative of Yeti (a cooler brand) and Traeger Grills. The two companies asked their followers to publish a photo of their barbecue setup, tag Yeti and Traeger, and use the hashtag #YETIxTraegerBBQ in the caption.

As a result, the contest garnered over 1000 unique entries that both brands have subsequently used in their marketing communications.


Advantages: Lots of UGC, relatively easy to encourage people to participate

Disadvantages: Need to come up with and invest in a good prize

4. Multi-level contest

While all the previous social media contests are, as a rule of thumb, pretty quick and short-lived, multi-level contests are more fundamental and can stretch out over much longer periods of time.

To host a contest like this, you need to break it down into several levels, stages, and move contestants up a level based on the number of points they receive.

Advantages: An increase in profile engagement as participants constantly visit the page, checking whether a new stage of the competition has been released or not

Disadvantages: You need to constantly control each level of the contest; participants don’t always stick with you till the end and leave halfway through; complex mechanics.

5. Last comment wins

A very quick and easy contest that can be launched without much preparation.

You get people to leave comments under your post and the one that remains the last for, say, 3 minutes or longer (you need to specify the exact time in the rules) wins the prize.

There are lots of variations of this game. For example, here’s Nibble & Peck’s take on the Last Comment Wins social media game. They encourage their Facebook followers to comment “duck” as many times as they like. When the restaurant comments with “goose” (this could happen at any moment), the last person to have commented ‘duck’ will win the prize.


Advantages: Quick and easy to launch; lots of contestants; the prize can be small

Disadvantages: Often attracts scammers

6. Like/share/comment to win

No matter how many memes were made about this contest type, it’s still alive and widely used.

Because all you need to do to win is… Well, like, share, and comment. No brainer!

For instance, Sunrype teamed up with a fitness brand to give away home gym supplies and healthy snacks, and had their post shared over 3000 times!


Advantages: Your publication gets distributed all over social media; your posts get noticed by the algorithm thanks to the comments contestants leave.

Disadvantages: If you want a real user and not a fake “chronic social media contestant” to repost your publication, it needs to look good, and the prize needs to be valuable.

How to run a social media contest and stay sane

Thousands of chronic social media contestants and bots in the comments section, disgruntled users, working overtime to figure out the winner, or having no entries at all… Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, this is the reality of a social media marketer that doesn’t know how to run social media contests correctly.

Luckily, it won’t be you because we got you covered. Here are top tips that will make things go your way when running a contest on social media:

Take your time to write the rules of your contest down

The thing is, on social media, you’re limited to the character limit and can’t mention all the conditions such as minimum age of participation, eligible areas, etc… However, nothing’s holding you back on the pages of your own website. Use that space to talk through all those important conditions and restrictions that will save you from bot attacks in the future. Then, link it to your social media post.

Pay close attention to the design of your contest announcement post

Make sure your contest announcement is visually appealing and trendy, especially if you’re launching a like/comment/share contest — people don’t want to inhibit their social media pages with unappealing posts.

Use a randomizer to pick the winner

You don’t want anyone to accuse you of being dishonest. Ideally, you should live stream the moment of choosing the winner.

Have the prize ready before you launch the contest

Buying or making a gift before the draw will ensure that it looks the same as it does in the contest announcement publication. Then the winner is satisfied, and the social media manager gets their nighttime sleep.

Don’t specify the time of the winner’s draw

A lot of things can happen, and you want to have room for maneuvers before contestants start speculating that your account is a scam.

Follow up on the winners that receive the prize after the contest and post about it

If you decide to do more contests in the future, this will give your brand/account credibility. 

Despite what you might’ve heard, social media contests aren’t last season. With just a little twist, they turn back into a potent tool for growing your social media page.

So how about you give your brand account a boost with all your newly acquired knowledge? It’s easier that you think when you know all the tricks!

Guest Author: Valerie Kakovkina is an experienced content marketing manager with hundreds and hundreds of published articles about marketing, social media, design, productivity, and sales.

The post Do social media contests still work for business growth in 2022? appeared first on Jeffbullas's Blog.

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