A 13-Point Guide for Creating the Ultimate Contest

This content provides a step-by-step guide on how to run a successful contest or giveaway to increase visibility and engagement.

By Dana Kilroy ・4 min read
Campaign & Contest Ideas

It’s no secret that a contest or giveaway done right can increase visibility and engagement, and even boost SEO. More important, contests can provide valuable customer information businesses can use for future marketing efforts. From contact information to zip code and other demographic details, contests are a fun way to collect the data that is most useful for you and your business. If you’ve never run a contest -- or had disappointing results from one -- this step-by-step guide will help increase your odds of success going forward.

Step 1: Know your audience

A contest or other type of giveaway is more likely to be successful if you plan it with your ideal customer in mind. Which of your social media posts get the most traction? Do your email marketing efforts get people into your store or to your website?  Consider the kind of contest or giveaway will be the most attractive to the customers you already have. Then take it a step further and think about what might bring new people through your door or to your website.

Step 2: Set some goals

Do you want to Increase brand awareness or highlight a new product? Or do you want to increase the number of followers on your various social media platforms? Do you want to boost user engagement, gather user feedback, or develop advocates for your brand? Choose one or two of your top tools and plan your campaign around them.

Step 3: Design the right kind of contest

There are four basic types of contests: sweepstakes, essay, photo and video. Video, photo, and essay contests provide lots of content for your Page, but they also require more effort to enter. Sweepstakes are easiest. If you plan to host your campaign on Facebook, familiarize yourself with Facebook’s policies and guidelines. When it comes to contests, Facebook has an extensive list of “dos and don’ts.” Save yourself a headache and study them. If you're looking to get max traffic to your website, embed your campaign instead! Learn more about embedding, here.

Step 4: Write some rules

Whether you're giving away a dinner for two or a trip to Hawaii, it's important to let anyone who is entering your contest know how you will be choosing a winner. You'll also want to make sure you're not breaking any laws that are unique to your state or region. This post includes a template that will help you write rules for your next contest.

Step 5: Choose a third-party platform to host the campaign

Using a third-party platform makes it easier to control the way your campaigns function, and to organize the data you collect.

Choose a third-party platform that has these essential features:

-- Flexibility. If it’s not customizable, the contest might not give you the results you’re after.

-- Embeddable capabilities. Many third-party platforms are designed to use on Facebook. Look for one that allows you to install the contest on your website, too.

-- Mobile capabilities! More people will access your campaign from a mobile device than will from a desktop. Make sure it's easy for them.

-- Affordability.  There are free third-party apps and those that cost thousands of dollars. Using a free or low-cost app reduces your risk  if the contest doesn’t deliver what you hope.

Step 6: Pick a relevant prize

A contest should showcase your own products and services. After all, people are coming to your Page because they are interested in learning more about what you offer. So if you own a restaurant, offer a dinner for two as your prize. If you run a hotel, offer a two-night stay. If you own an automotive repair shop, give away a set of brakes or an oil change. Giving away an iPad or other electronic device, might bring you lots of entries, but you're more likely to attract ideal customers if the prize is focused on your business.

Step 7: Make the prize worthwhile

The value of your prize should reflect the effort participants need to make when they enter. Photo-voting contests are easy; essay and video contests require more effort. The prize for a simple sweepstakes might be that dinner for two. If you're asking users to make a video that features your product, the prize should be a little more valuable.

Step 8: Keep it simple

Make the contest easy to enter. The more fields you ask users to fill out, the fewer entries you’ll receive; each additional field could reduce participation by 10 percent. Before you ask for name, birthday, marital status and the like, ask yourself if you really need the information.

Step 9: Make it visible

The contest should be easy to find on your website and your social media pages.

Step 10: Promote your contest

Promote the contest on all of your networks, in your emails and on your website.

Step 11: Advertise

Investing in Facebook or Twitter ads is a great and affordable way to increase the reach of your promotion. For other ideas, including free ones, read 46 Ways to Get the Word Out About your Campaign.

Step 12: Mine the data

Your promotion is over, the prizes have been awarded...and now you’re done, right? Not so fast. You ran the promotion so you could gather information about your customers, so spend a little bit of time making sense of what you’ve learned. Ideally you've sorted your entries into a new email list and are planning an email campaign to reach out to new leads.

Step 13: Follow up!

Make sure you follow up and let your followers know that you appreciate their engagement so they’ll be motivated to keep “talking” with you. When your contest has ended, email everyone who entered to let them know a winner was chosen, and to thank them for enterting. You might even offer them a coupon code for a discount on your products or services so everyone wins! Make sure your new leads are primed to do business with you.

About the author

By Dana Kilroy ・4 min read

Dana Sullivan Kilroy is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience delivering compelling content. Her work has appeared in national, award-winning publications and sites, including: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Fast Company, Inc.

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