How do I Run a Twitter Contest?

Learn how to run a successful Twitter contest that engages your audience, grows followers, and helps you reach your goals.

By Ana Gotter ・6 min read
Best Practices
Campaign & Contest Ideas
ShortStack Tips & Tricks
Social Media

Every few months we hear about marketing “growth hacks” and new buzzwords, but there are a few tried-and-true tactics that stick around because they work. Twitter contests, for example.Twitter contests can get a lot of traction very quickly, and people are sometimes a little more willing to hit that retweet button than they would be to share a post on other platforms. This can work to your advantage, and help your contest get more exposure faster.In this post, you’ll learn how to run a Twitter contest that will help you engage your audience, grow followers, and get results to help you reach your goals.

Why a Twitter Contest?

Twitter contests are a simple way to capture your target audience's attention. Even today, when consumers are inundated with marketing messages all day, every day, interactive contests are still effective, as long as you're offering the right kind of prize and being strategic about promoting the contest. The four main benefits to hosting any kind of interactive marketing campaign, including a Twitter contest, are:

  • Increased engagement. Contests can inspire people to come to you rather than forcing you to chase them.
  • You can build strong email lists. Twitter contests can be an effective form of lead generation. If you convince people they're getting something in exchange for sharing their email address -- in this case, the chance to win a prize -- they're likely to share.
  • Increased exposure, aka, virality. Customers love exciting experiences so if your contest is well designed and fun, they'll want to share it, even if you don't ask.
  • Increased followers. Even though follows aren't the holy grail they once were, it's still a good idea to nudge people to follow -- the catch is that you have to be willing to share the kinds of information that will make following you worthwhile.

ShorStack's Giveaway + Twitter Follow template8 Steps to Hosting a Twitter ContestOkay, ready to learn what it takes to run a Twitter contest? Start by creating a plan and having the right tools in place long before you ever start typing in those 280 characters.After running multiple Twitter contests for clients in both B2B and B2C industries, I’ve refined the planning, creation, and execution process to just 8 simple steps.Here we go!

1. Start With Your Goal

Believe it or not, this is a step that most businesses skip. Instead, they try to replicate contests they’ve seen other businesses running, assuming it’s the way to go. The number of clients I’ve talked out of “retweet to win an iPhone” contests still surprises me.Before you start thinking about anything, you need to decide what the goal of your contest is. In other words, what do you want to achieve? Brand awareness? Social engagement? Lead generation? Email sign-ups?Once you know what your goal is, you can decide how you actually want to execute the contest. Just as important, you’ll be able to identify which metrics you want to track as your contest progresses -- this will help you evaluate its success. For brand awareness, you might monitor mentions; for lead-generation efforts, you'll want to keep an eye on the number of forms submitted.

2. Choose a Prize

Choosing the prize for your contest is the natural second step. Ideally, your prize should be something that is of direct value to your target audience, but wouldn’t attract an overwhelmingly large number of users who would never purchase from you. What’s the point, after all, of getting a ton of new leads who signed up to win a cash prize but will never actually convert as customers?

Twitter Search Contest

Some ideas for prizes can include:

  • Gift certificates from your business and complementary but non-competing businesses
  • Free products from your business and/or complementary but non-competing businesses
  • Exclusive access to a special event

3. Choose The Type of Contest

Some people like to choose the type of Twitter contest they'll run before they choose a prize, but I don't recommend it. In some cases, the prize you choose can affect what type of contest you host, and how you’ll pick a winner.The type of contest you choose to host, after all, is directly tied to how you’ll choose the winner. If your contest is a voting-based contest, then the entry with the most votes wins. If it’s a “retweet and we’ll choose a random winner,” contest, you’ll use random winner selection. And sometimes the prize can affect how you can choose a winner.

Kaloree Example

Some states have strict contest laws that need to be followed, or laws stating that high value prizes can only be awarded to certain individuals (like those of a certain age). These are all things to keep in mind.The type of contest you choose also should absolutely be based on your goals. Voting or submission-based contests can be best for lead generation and for gaining high-quality UGC that you can utilize later. Incorporating retweeting elements is good for improved reach.

4. Create Your Contest with Contest Software

There’s one enormous and immediately obvious benefit to using contest software like ShortStack: it allows you to capture lead information safely, through a secure landing page.

Twitter Hashtag + Form Giveaway Template

View and Create Your Own

This alone is enough of a reason to use contest software, but there are a few other good ones to to consider. These include:

  • Being able to verify all entrants identities, giving you the freedom of knowing you’re not going to accidentally give a fifteen year old a free overnight stay for two at your bed & breakfast (a bad idea for so many reasons).
  • The ability to take advantage of detailed analytics as your contest progresses, to see how users are engaging and where you stand in terms of reaching your goals.
  • Capabilities to have ShortStack choose or help you identify winners at random and automatically.

5. Promote Your Contest Before it's Live

You’ve got your contest planned out, and you’ve created your contest’s landing page. Now it’s time to start promoting -- and, yes, you should start promoting before the contest is live.

GP Gymnastics Example

That's right: Announce your contest before you actually post it. Encourage people to follow you on Twitter to catch all the latest updates, and cross-promote the contest on other platforms so you can send people to your Twitter, too. You can use snippets of information to tease prizes, contest requirements, and more to get users engaged before you even open the contest for entry, and it can help drive new follows and discussion.

6. Keep Users Engaged Throughout the Contest

Once you’ve started the contest, don’t just say “Ready, set, go!” and leave it alone. Continue to engage users for the duration of the contest. Share different entries, ask users what they think, respond to their comments, and post frequent reminders about the contest’s deadlines, reminders that link back to your landing page.This is one of the most important steps in the process, so don’t skip it.

VLCC Example

7. Announce Your Winner

Your contest is over! Congratulations to you and your winners! Speaking of which, it’s time to announce the winners. Tag them in a post that congratulates them and thanks all entrants, reminding users of the grand prize. At this point, it also doesn’t hurt to remind folks to follow you so they can learn about your next contest, even if you don’t have another one planned any time soon.

Twitter Search Contest Winner

8. Use Autoresponders & Retargeting to Build Relationships

Hopefully you’ve used contest software like ShortStack in order to capture lead information like email addresses. That's really the only way to get long-term results from your Twitter contest. Once you have entrants’ contact information, you can use email autoresponders and custom audience-based retargeting Facebook Ads to nurture relationships with these new leads. ShortStack now offers a suite of email marketing features, making us your true all-in-one contest tool.

Marketing Automation

Final Thoughts

Twitter contests are a great way to drive engagement and brand awareness; when run correctly, they can do those two things and more. These contests are often an exceptionally cost-effective marketing strategy that provide high ROI, even with the cost of contest software and the grand prize factored in. It’s why you see businesses of all sizes utilizing the strategy in equal measure, and seeing great results.Are you ready to host your most successful Twitter contest yet? Sign up for your free trial of ShortStack to see firsthand what we can do for you.

Try a ShortStack template to create your first contest fast and easily.

Get Started Today. No credit card required. Risk-free.

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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