How Choosing the Right Words Can Make Your Next Contest a Huge Success - 7 Tips

Learn how to write compelling copy for your social media contests with these seven tips to increase participation and engagement.

By Ana Gotter ・6 min read
Campaign & Contest Ideas

Imagine that you’re browsing Facebook, and see two contests in your Newsfeed. One reads “We’re hosting a contest! Enter here to win this shirt.” The other reads “Giveaway time! You could win a pair of our best-selling, ultra-comfortable Classic Flip-Flops. Click here to enter before Friday!” Assuming you like both products equally, which contest would you enter? I’d bet money that you’d go for the second. Most people would. Why? The words from the brand hosting the flips flops are way more compelling.That’s a big part of the reason that really good copywriters can charge such high rates.Here’s the good news: you don’t need to be a professional copywriter—and you don’t even need to hire one!—to write incredible copy that will get more people participating in your contest. All you need to do is keep these seven social media contest copywriting tips in mind to make your next contest a huge success.

1. Really Sell the Prize

Let’s be real: it’s all about the prize. The prize itself for the contest needs to be relevant and of value to your ideal customer, of course, but you also need to convince users that it’s worth taking the time to enter for. And you can do that by taking the time to let users know its value.The example in the opening paragraph shows this. Instead of saying “this shirt,” the better alternative had “pair of our best-selling, ultra-comfortable Classic Flip-Flops.” The latter sells it in several ways.

This copy could be improved by adding descriptions in front of the prizes like “Purifying Charcoal Scrub, Exfoliating Avocado Scrub, and Revitalizing Wonder Oil.” The copy mentions that the prize is a popular item, suggests “everyone else wants it, so there must be a reason, and you’ll love them!” It makes them seem more valuable. Then, it goes on to mention that they’re “ultra-comfortable,” which is a great benefit when it comes to shoes. Finally, it doesn’t just say “these shoes” it says “our Classic  Flip-Flops.” It gives the product a name, which makes it easy for people who enter to look up the item on your website and perhaps even get more excited about them.

In short, to sell the prize, remember to:

  • Name the product and include specifics. Say “iPad air 5 with retina display and 6-hour battery life” instead of just “iPad.”
  • List a few features & benefits. “It’s comfortable, so you’ll never get a blister.”
  • Use describers like “brand new/not yet released,” “most popular,” “limited edition,” and “best-selling.”

2. Emphasize the Fun

Social media should be engaging, and contests and giveaways should definitely, definitely be fun. And if your copywriting captures that fun, you can get a lot more entries and there’s more of a chance of your contest going viral.A great example of this is a social contest run by Expedia last year, their “#RoadtripGB" contest. To enter, users first had to follow Expedia on Instagram and then post a new image or video showing a summer road trip moment.

Participants had to include a caption explaining why it was the highlight of their summer, and why it mattered to them (along with #Contest and #RoadtripGB). This topic was fun, and allowed users to show off memories they were already excited to share. It got them plenty of participants as a result.

3. Create a Sense of Urgency

Even if it’s day one, you want to create a sense of urgency around your contest. Because, come on, how many times have we intended to enter a contest or sign up for something or read an article and then just plain forgot about it? I know I have. It’s why I have literally thousands of unopened saves on Facebook.

That sense of urgency is what will get users to enter the contest –right now—instead of saving it for later. This will significantly improve your overall number of participants. Use language like “only four days left!” and “enter now before it’s too late!” to create that sense of urgency. Don’t forget to scale up the reminders, and to tell users it’s their “last chance to enter!” the day the contest closes.

4. Avoid Overly Sales-y Language

Social media is all about authenticity. I'm betting you don't even like it when an actual in-the-flesh salesperson sounds like a salesperson. I know I don't! Try to avoid writing copy that sounds like it should be said by a used car salespeople, or by the people on television shopping channels.  Phrases like “you won’t believe your eyes” and “incredible value of more than $450 could be yours for free!” can rub users the wrong way. Instead, try “This prize pack, valued at $450, contains hand-picked prizes from Target, Walmart, and Publix!”

Lego lovers are almost cultish; the host of the contest could have play that up a bit. Simply put: if it sounds like an infomercial, rework the copy and try again.

5. Get the Tagline Right

The prizes for this Wear Eponymous contest seems fantastic: beauty products and a dress. And they have a decent number of shares and entries (though we'd love to tell them they're breaking a few Facebook rules by requiring people to like their page and share, plus another one, in order to enter....but that's another story). You’d be surprised how often businesses neglect the tagline of their contest and how they introduce it on social media.

Your contest’s tagline can actually determine if users decide to even read down to what your prize is. Since the tagline will likely be part of your hashtag—and hashtags need to be catchy—this is a big thing to take into consideration. Lay’s famous contest, for example, isn’t called “Pick Our New Flavor,” it’s the much catchier “Do Us a Flavor.” Being a little creative with your contest’s tagline can go a long way.

6. Pull at Heartstrings

Some contests, especially those relating to charities or nonprofits, can benefit when the copywriting really goes for the emotions. Today, social media users—and especially Millennials—love nothing more than supporting a business they believe in, and getting an emotional response from them can help you get more entries. It creates that connection that is hard to fake.

This copywriting tip works best for contests where users are asked to share a personal experience. The kickboxing gym I go to regularly uses social media copy like “Tell us how 9round has changed your life” and “What’s your why?”  Even Expedia’s earlier example, the contest that asked users to share their favorite road trip memory, creates that emotional connection that can get more entries and make users more likely to enter and, more important, to share your contest.

7. Keep the CTA Concise

You’ve got an excited and potentially emotionally engaged audience who is ready to enter right now. The last thing you need to guarantee that they do is to include a very concise call to action (CTA) that tells users to enter, and how they can. Seriously—you’d be surprised out how often the CTA is a miss.At the very end of the post describing the contest, make sure users see how they can participate in simple terms. Having numbers or bullet points helps. You could say, for example: “Here’s how to enter:

  1. Like our Instagram profile
  2. Enter at the link in our profile bio
  3. Share your drawing of a red panda with the hashtag #ContestForGP”

After you’ve listed out the instructions, remind users of the deadline to participate, and ending it with an actual CTA like “Enter Now!” is always a plus. You want to end on a note that encourages immediate action for best results.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, copywriting can make or break your contest, and it can certainly elevate it to new levels of success. It matters almost as much as the actual prize, since copywriting will determine how compelling you make the prize—and the contest overall—appear. By using these copywriting tips, you can create laser-sharp copy that can grab a users’ interest and get them participating more enthusiastically than ever before. Ana Gotter is a frequent contributor to the ShortStack blog, as well as sites like Social Media Examiner.

About the author

By Ana Gotter ・6 min read

Ana Gotter is a regular contributor to the ShortStack blog. She also writes for sites including Social Media Examiner, Business 2 Community and Adspresso. Find her at Expert Business Writer - Ana Gotter.

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