New Feature: ShortStack Can Hashtag + How to Host a Hashtag Contest

Learn how to run a successful hashtag contest on Instagram and Twitter using ShortStack's new hashtag capability.

By Dana Kilroy ・3 min read
Campaign & Contest Ideas
Social Media

Have you run a hashtag contest yet? Have you used hashtags on Instagram and Twitter as a way to organize your content, or to find new people and businesses to follow? Most important: Did you know you can run hashtag contests using ShortStack?The first user to try out our new hashtag capability is Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). They launched their #CruiseSmile giveaway last weekend and as of today the contest already has 22,058 entries! Yes, the prizes at stake are amazing -- CLIA is giving away four all-expenses-paid cruises -- and they'll award one winner per week for the month of October, to celebrate "Plan a Cruise Month" (who knew such a thing existed?!).

We also happen to be giving away a hashtag contest designed by our in-house experts (and throwing in $1K in advertising to promote it -- a $4K package), so if you’ve been wanting to try a hashtag contest for Instagram or Twitter, talk to our team about how hashtags work with ShortStack.

Like with any other contest or giveaway, there are some essential steps that'll help make your hashtag contest a success. Here they are:

Step 1: Set a Goal

Before you create a hashtag contest, you need to decide what you want to achieve.Here are some broad goals you might accomplish with a hashtag contest:

  • Increased brand awareness
  • Promotion of a new product or service
  • Boosted user engagement
  • Collecting user-generated content
  • Increased sales (of course this is the top goal of most brands)

Once you’ve decided on your big-picture goals, set smaller, SMART goals -- goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Why? The more specific you are, the easier it will be to gauge whether your goals have been met.Here are just two examples of SMART goals for hashtag contests:

  • Use a hashtag contest to collect 100 pieces of user-generated content
  • Use a hashtag contest and link to a landing page where you can collect 100 new email addresses

Step 2: Create Your Offer

The “offer” you build your contest around is the focus of your efforts.  Since you're hosting a contest, give plenty of consideration to your prize.For example:

  • Be audience-specific. One of the biggest mistakes we see companies make is giving away a generic prize, like an iPad. You might get lots of entries, but the people who enter won’t necessarily be your target audience.
  • Give away several “inexpensive” prizes. The folks at CLIA are giving away four prizes, one per week, which will encourage their followers to come back again and again.
  • Our #shortstackcanhashtag giveway has three prizes. The Grand Prize is a custom-designed contest plus an advertising budget. First prize is a year's subscription to ShortStack (worth $699); Second prize is a ShortStack swag bag with t-shirts and stickers and the like (worth $100).

Step 3: Write Rules

For any contest, this step is a must do. Make sure your rules include the following:

  • “No Purchase Necessary”
  • “Purchase does not enhance chance of winning”
  • “Void where prohibited”
  • Details regarding non-monetary consideration
  • The identity of the host/promoter
  • Entry procedures with beginning/ending dates, including time and time zone
  • Eligibility requirements
  • An explanation of all methods of entry
  • A clear description of the prize(s); certain states have stricter regulations (see examples at the end of this document)
  • Date winner(s) will be chosen and notified
  • Judging criteria must be clear and sponsor should be able to show how the winner was determined based on objective criteria
  • Method of selecting a winner (to avoid any appearance of impropriety, it is recommended that sponsors avoid conducting their own drawings or determining the winners of their own contests)
  • Publicity rights regarding use of Winner’s information (Sponsor should obtain written consent from Entrant to ensure compliance with state laws)
  • Publicity rights regarding use of Participant’s information (Sponsor should obtain written consent from Entrant to ensure compliance with state laws)
  • Liability limitations
  • Odds of winning
  • Physical address, not a PO Box

We’ve written extensively about what to include in social media contest rules, and even have a template that outlines everything you need to include.

Step 4: Create a Promotion Plan

The success of your campaign depends on how you promote it. If you’re giving away a trip to Paris or VIP access to a Taylor Swift concert, word will get around and your campaign will get plenty of attention. If your prize is more modest, you’ll need to create a comprehensive promo plan.Some steps you’ll want to take include:

  1. Install a website header notification bar; we use Hello Bar
  2. Add website sidebar display ads
  3. Use popup notifications
  4. Add calls-to-action footer images on blog posts
  5. Update social media platform cover photos with details about your campaign
  6. Send an email blast to your subscribers (make sure the subject line is attention-grabbing)
  7. Write a blog post
  8. Post a link to your campaign on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, etc.
  9. Invest in advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Google Adwords, etc.
  10. Publish a press release
  11. List your offer on giveaway sites -- this blog post has a long list of options.
  12. Consider embedding your campaign on your website so that you leverage your existing website visitors (to learn more about why this is a good idea, read our latest white paper, "Beyond Facebook: Campaign Response on the Web."

If you want even more tips, including some that focus on ShortStack’s unique sharing features, check out one of our most popular resources, “46 Ways to get the Word Out About Your Campaign.”

Step 5: Test and Publish Your Campaign

Once everything is in place -- you’ve established your goals, created your offer, designed your promotion plan (and have all the images, ads and posts created or in the pipeline) -- you’re ready to launch.If you have any questions about how to use hashtags with ShortStack, email us:

About the author

By Dana Kilroy ・3 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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